President Joe Biden’s advisers are moving quickly to finalize staffing and operational details of his reelection campaign ahead of what’s widely expected to be a bruising 19-month effort to convince the public of his accomplishments and his ability to serve well into his eighties.
Biden returned to the White House late Sunday from a weekend at Camp David designed to serve as an intensive runthrough of campaign and personnel planning, including matters still requiring his final approval, people familiar with the matter said.
But even as officials made final edits to an announcement video likely to be released Tuesday, marking four years since Biden declared himself a candidate in the 2020 presidential election, the challenges of the upcoming contest were coming into sharper view.
An NBC News poll released Sunday found just 26% of Americans think Biden should run for a second term as president, while 70% say he should not. Among Democrats, 51% say Biden should not run for a second term. That mirrors the findings of other recent polls showing tepid support for a Biden reelection bid, including an AP-NORC poll released Friday and CNN polling released earlier this month.
In the NBC poll, nearly half of those who oppose a Biden run say that his age is a major reason for that view.
Advisers are confident those numbers will mean little in the long run. Republicans – and former President Donald Trump’s candidacy in particular – have “a pretty good track record of bringing our people back home – and out to vote,” one senior Democratic official close to the White House said.
Biden’s advisers also believe his age represents decades of experience, which they say has driven legislative wins delivering tangible economic dividends across the country.
“He is a steady hand, when you look at what’s out there right now with Donald Trump and what we’re hearing again. People don’t want that chaos back again,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, when asked by CNN’s Dana Bash about Biden’s age on “State of the Union.”
Still, at 80, Biden’s age is certain to act as a central issue in the coming campaign, a fact even many of his Democratic allies privately acknowledge.
A sped-up timeline
News that Biden had decided to launch his reelection campaign this week came as a surprise to a slew of Democratic officials who had been led to believe in recent weeks that Biden was more likely to wait until the summer to announce his bid.
For weeks, Biden advisers and others close to the White House had insisted the president felt no pressure to announce this spring and was keen to allow an increasingly contentious Republican primary to play out without being in the mix as an official candidate.
But other factors also weighed on Biden’s advisers. A messy debt ceiling fight, anticipated this summer, would not be the ideal time to announce a reelection campaign. The president will travel abroad next month for summits in Japan and Australia, and he plans to travel overseas again in July for a NATO summit in Lithuania, squeezing the calendar.
And high-dollar fundraising tends to be slower during the summer months, which could affect Democratic officials’ desire to deliver a strong first quarter haul for the reelection campaign.
Advisers continued to caution that last-minute changes were possible. And while Biden has finished taping a video declaring his candidacy and outlining his argument for a second term, according to people familiar with the matter, aides warned the timing of its release could shift.
As planning for the reelection launch came into public view in recent days, the number of candidates for campaign manager rapidly narrowed from more than a half-dozen to one name.
Biden is poised to name Julie Chavez Rodriguez, a senior White House adviser, to oversee the campaign, two senior Democratic advisers told CNN on Sunday. The choice of campaign chief was among the many outstanding decisions Biden and his team were making as they prepare for the potentially imminent announcement.
Rodriguez, a senior adviser to the president and director of the White House’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, has seen her star rise in Biden’s White House.
Biden elevated Rodriguez to the role of senior adviser last summer, adding her to the small circle of his senior-most aides.
While Rodriguez will formally manage the campaign, the effort will also be largely guided from the West Wing, where top aides Anita Dunn, Jen O’Malley Dillon, Mike Donilon and Steve Ricchetti will also play central roles.
Rodriguez, the granddaughter of labor icon Cesar Chavez, has been a longtime Democratic adviser who is close to Biden.
CBS News was first to report the expected decision.
Biden will name Quentin Fulks, who ran Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock’s successful 2022 race, as his deputy campaign manager, according to two people briefed on the matter.
Biden’s final weekend before the expected announcement served as a window into the balancing act to come as he and his top national security officials navigated the complexity of a potentially perilous evacuation of government personnel from the US embassy in war-ravaged Sudan.
Biden has maintained privately that his primary focus is on carrying the duties of the job he was elected to do in 2020.
He gave the order on Saturday to deploy roughly 100 US special operations troops to secure and complete the evacuation of US personnel in Sudan. The operation was successful and no US military and diplomatic personnel were harmed in the roughly hour-long process.
It served as a real-time demonstration of how the next 19 months may unfold for the incumbent running for the White House, where there are no shortage of crises that can turn a message or campaign on its head seemingly overnight.
It also provided a window into another Biden reality, people familiar with the matter said. He will have the ultimate say in the direction of things, even if that say takes longer than some in the party would prefer. That drove some on Biden’s team to warn allies that the Tuesday announcement wasn’t locked in until Biden gave the green light.
The video had been filmed, they noted, and close advisers had accelerated their communications with party officials and donors in the lead up to the announcement. But Biden wasn’t pleased by leaks – and still had much to mull over and discuss about the shape of his nascent campaign over the course of the weekend.
This story has been updated with additional reporting.