Biden’s aides are quietly mounting a 2024 campaign as they await a final decision on his political future.

Biden’s aides are quietly mounting a 2024 campaign as they await a final decision on his political future.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s top advisers have been quietly building a 2024 campaign effort, with discussions escalating over who can manage the operation, potential themes and structure, according to nine people familiar with the plan.

The current plan is for a Biden reelection effort to rely heavily on Democratic National Committee resources and have only a small campaign team, a cost-saving setup that is modeled after former President Bill Clinton’s reelection bid and dramatically differs from that of former President Barack Obama, these people said.

Biden and his top advisers are also using the home stretch for November’s midterm elections to test potential 2024 themes, said people familiar with the discussions, such as taking on wealthy special interests and classifying his achievements in office as “promises made.” , promises kept”.

“The contrast implicit in ‘promises kept’ is clear and sharp,” said Senator Chris Coons, D., Del., a key Biden ally. “Former President Trump talked about fixing American infrastructure so often that it became a joke at nightly shows. In fact, President Biden managed to pass a strong, bipartisan infrastructure investment bill.

Behind-the-scenes planning for 2024 goes beyond Biden’s verbal assurances that he intends to run again, as some in his own party question whether he will or should.

At the same time, people familiar with the discussions said the process is the quintessential Biden as it is painstakingly deliberative and key components remain unclear, leaving some Democrats still unconvinced he will eventually run. The dynamics of the DNC campaign, in particular, suggest an action approach to a Biden 2024 candidacy, in that it sets up a political operation that can instantly mobilize if he runs or can be transferred to a different candidate if he drops out.

“He’s running and we’re building the infrastructure for him to run and win,” said Cedric Richmond, a senior Biden adviser who moved from the White House to the DNC earlier this year. “Right now, it’s all an upfront investment in 2024, while we’re helping out in 2022.”

Some key campaign decisions on strategy and personnel are on hold ahead of the midterm elections, and polls show that Democrats have a better chance of retaining the House and Senate than they did just a few months ago. If the party retains control of Congress, the president’s priority will be on his legislative agenda, and Biden would likely want his top advisers to stay in office longer to help carry out the plans, people familiar with the campaign’s discussions said. But, they said, if the Republicans win one or both chambers, it would likely set off a quicker pivot for a Biden re-election campaign.

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They said discussions over a 2024 campaign manager are focused on ensuring that moving a member of Biden’s small inner circle to the post does not leave a critical void in the White House, which will need to face an onslaught of Republican-led investigations. or pushing forward a legislative agenda yet to be defined, depending on the outcome of the midterm elections.

If Biden decides on someone already serving in the West Wing, the likely time for a White House official to leave would be around February, they said, and discussions are ongoing over who it could be, with several of Biden’s allies under consideration. . Jen O’Malley Dillon, who led Biden’s 2020 election campaign and now serves as White House deputy chief of staff, is expected to play a major role in the 2024 re-election, people familiar with the discussions said.

Preparations for 2024 remain centralized among Biden’s core group of senior advisers, including Ron Klain, Steve Ricchetti, Anita Dunn, Mike Donilon and O’Malley Dillon — all currently serving in the White House.

President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden speaks during a Democratic National Committee rally in Rockville, Maryland, Aug.Drew Angerer/Getty Images Archive

Biden was encouraged by recent legislative successes, which aides believe helped quell rumors of a possible primary challenge and maneuvers by other Democrats to position themselves to intervene if he doesn’t run. At the beginning of the summer, the president was frustrated with his plummeting poll numbers and felt as if he couldn’t rest amid mounting crises. But now, people close to him say he is much more optimistic. A new Associated Press/NORC poll released Thursday found that 45% of Americans approve of Biden’s performance at work, up from 36% in July.

Biden himself, while involved in planning for 2024 and receiving weekly poll updates, is not expected to give a formal green light to run a re-election campaign until after the holidays, people familiar with the discussions said. First lady Jill Biden told NBC News this week that no formal “family meeting” on the matter has been scheduled on the calendar yet, but she echoed the emerging argument of “promises made, promises kept” to seek another term.

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“Look at what Joe has done,” the First Lady said. “He stayed true to what he said he would do. And so I think he just needs to keep going.”

The president has started testing the potential “promises kept” theme in recent weeks and showing it on social media. In recent public appearances, he has examined a list of legislation he has signed and on Tuesday a video posted on his Twitter account followed the same theme, noting, “President Biden made promises to the American people and kept them.”

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a liberal Democrat from New York, said the topic was reminiscent of former President Donald Trump’s re-election argument “promises made, promises kept.” “All sorts of Trumpian ideals are fun,” she said with a laugh. “But I think what we can do is talk honestly about what has been delivered and talk about what we most want to achieve.”

trusting the party

Rather than focusing on his own political operation as Obama did, Biden, as president, guided advisers to ensure the DNC made investments early on in building infrastructure for the midterm elections. Biden’s advisers saw an opportunity considering how many 2022 battlegrounds for the Senate and governor are the same states likely to decide the 2024 election.

Relying on the DNC for most of its operation in 2024 would save the Biden campaign money, as the committee already has several hundred staff, an established war room, and a communications team that could be refined to focus on Biden’s re-election. said people familiar with the planning. The DNC is also not subject to the strict fundraising limits of a presidential campaign – a single donor can give the party committee up to $875,000 a year, compared to the $2,900 ceiling for a candidate contribution, from according to a Democratic official. And the DNC can transfer unlimited amounts to States Parties for coordinated battlefield campaigns.

As of now, more than 250 full-time paid DNC employees have been deployed to eight key states, the majority to Pennsylvania, which put Biden with more than 270 electoral votes he needed to win in 2020. The party’s apparatus would allow Biden’s campaign to forgo trying to build his own separate campaign infrastructure in each state.

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The dynamic would also give Biden flexibility in the timing of an announcement, because most of the work to build a campaign apparatus would already have been done by the DNC.

But while a DNC-centric campaign might seem like a natural fit for Biden, relying on the committee comes with risks. The DNC has been plagued by dysfunction in recent years and, as NBC News reported earlier this year, tensions between committee chairman Jamie Harrison and the White House have left the former feeling isolated in office and considering an early departure.

“I’ve been at it for 40 years and I don’t know if I’ve heard anything good about the DNC,” said Joe Lockhart, Clinton’s former press secretary at the White House. “People are always complaining about it.”

Using the DNC to complement a smaller campaign team is essentially the model Clinton used when he ran for re-election in 1996. Obama, however, had a large 2012 Chicago campaign operation that he coordinated, but did not rely on, the DNC.

“Biden is more comfortable dealing with the DNC than Obama is,” said Alan Kessler, a former Philadelphia-area Democratic fundraiser. “Biden’s approach is the more traditional approach.”

Much more than Obama, Biden is a creature of the Democratic Party. Obama came to power on the strength of a small donor movement that was inspired by his historic candidacy and personal history. After he took office in 2009, Obama created an outside group called Organizing for America, which sought to build coalitions in support of his legislative agenda — effectively avoiding the DNC. Biden showed much more willingness to rely on the existing party infrastructure.

One person familiar with the 2024 plan described the idea of ​​the official Biden campaign team as a “skeletal team”. That team could work in Delaware or Philadelphia, home of Biden’s 2020 campaign, or potentially in the same building as the DNC in Washington, that person said.

Biden’s aides say no final decision on the campaign team has been made, and it shouldn’t be made until after the midterm elections.

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