On Sunday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was asked whether she plans to support President Joe Biden for reelection, something the White House has said he intends to pursue. But the New York congresswoman wasn’t quite ready to commit. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” she told CNN. “I think if the president has a vision, then that’s something certainly we’re all willing to entertain and examine when the time comes,” she added, “but right now, we need to focus on winning a majority instead of a presidential election,” referring to the upcoming midterm elections, in which Republicans are expected to regain control over the House and potentially the Senate. The prospect of retaining a congressional majority, however dim, provided a useful out for Ocasio-Cortez when confronted with a separate concerning prospect looming over the party: another Biden presidential run.
Such anxieties ran across the front page of the New York Times Sunday, in a headline that read, “Biden in 2024? Many in Party Whisper, ‘No.’” The Times report, based on interviews with “dozens of frustrated Democratic officials, members of Congress and voters,” kicked up concerns about the 79-year-old president’s political viability that have only grown louder amid Biden’s ongoing legislative struggles, record-low approval ratings, and messaging woes. “The presidency is a monstrously taxing job and the stark reality is the president would be closer to 90 than 80 at the end of a second term, and that would be a major issue,” Obama political guru David Axelrod told the Times, adding that Biden “doesn’t get the credit he deserves for” achievements such as “steering the country through the worst of the pandemic” and “pulling the NATO alliance together against Russian aggression” in part due to “performative” reasons. “He looks his age and isn’t as agile in front of a camera as he once was, and this has fed a narrative about competence that isn’t rooted in reality.”
As my colleague Chris Smith wrote in late March, “a behind-the-scenes Democratic conversation is becoming increasingly active and anxious: If Biden does not run, whether for political or personal reasons, what then?” Such chatter isn’t going away, with a recent New York piece raising the question, “There’s a backup plan, right?”
Multiple crises are further imperiling Biden’s political future. “To say our country was on the right track would flagrantly depart from reality,” Democratic National Committee member Steve Simeonidis told the Times, adding that Biden “should announce his intent not to seek re-election in ’24 right after the midterms.” Inflation is at its highest level in four decades and Americans across the country are feeling the pain of record gas prices. And the president’s ability to deliver on key parts of his agenda has been hampered by congressional gridlock. Meanwhile, GOP-controlled state legislatures are ramming through legislation limiting voting and reproductive rights, as the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“Democrats are like, ‘What the hell is going on?’” Jasmine Crockett, a Texas state representative, told the Times. “Our country is completely falling apart. And so I think we’re lacking in the excitement.” Compounding the enthusiasm problem is the fact that it’s unclear who, if not Biden, could take on a Republican challenger in 2024. That’s especially true if the Republican nominee is someone like Florida governor Ron DeSantis, rather than former President Donald Trump. Former Bernie Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir told the Times that he thinks Biden could beat Trump again. But, Shakir warned, “If it’s DeSantis or somebody, I think that would be a different kind of a challenge.”
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