As far back as March, it was reported that former vice president Joe Biden had been considering, in his inner circle, a strategy to formally announce his intention to only seek a single term in office if he wins. The issue, of course, has to do with his age, which would put him at 78 by inauguration day in 2021, and 82 by the time the 2024 election rolled around. Now, there is a new story out in which numerous Biden advisers are dropping hints, with some outright stating it as a fact, that the former vice president would not be launching a reelection campaign in 2024 if he wins next year.
Why not raise the issue before now? Some advisers saw it as a gimmick which basically providing reasons not to vote for Biden. On the other hand, the writing seems to be pretty cut in stone at this point:
According to four people who regularly talk to Biden, all of whom asked for anonymity to discuss internal campaign matters, it is virtually inconceivable that he will run for re-election in 2024, when he would be the first octogenarian president.
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“If Biden is elected,” a prominent adviser to the campaign said, “he’s going to be 82 years old in four years and he won’t be running for reelection.”
The adviser argued that public acknowledgment of that reality could help Biden assuage younger voters, especially on the left, who are unexcited by his candidacy and fear that his nomination would serve as an eight-year roadblock to the next generation of Democrats.
By signaling that he will serve just one term and choosing a running mate and Cabinet that is young and diverse, Biden could offer himself to the Democratic primary electorate as the candidate best suited to defeat Trump as well as the candidate who can usher into power the party’s fresh faces.
“This makes Biden a good transition figure,” the adviser said. “I’d love to have an election this year for the next generation of leaders, but if I have to wait four years [in order to] to get rid of Trump, I’m willing to do it.”
The line of reasoning is pretty clear. Many younger voters and progressive voters aren’t fancy on Joe Biden when compared to new and fresh faces in the Democratic Party. On the other hand, though, they want to defeat President Trump. What better way than to use Biden as a placeholder for a more progressive candidate in the future.
It was also speculated that Biden could choose a rising star like Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate. Reports said that Biden met with Abrams earlier this year, but she wasn’t entirely sold on the idea at the time, still keeping her options open for a possible Senate run or a presidential run of her own.
It just so happens, however, that Abrams said this week she’s open to being a vice presidential pick while speaking on the Cape UP podcast:
But the biggest moment came when I asked Abrams whether she would consider being the vice presidential nominee. “Yes,” she said simply and then articulated why after acknowledging the “very weird position” of talking about such ambition publicly.
“I’m a black woman who’s in a conversation about possibly being second in command to the leader of the free world and I will not diminish my ambition or the ambition of any other women of color by saying that’s not something I’d be willing to do,” Abrams said to raucous applause.
Biden also mentioned Abrams’ name a couple of weeks ago when speaking in Iowa so clearly there’s a reason he’s keeping her in the mix.
Back to the Biden one-term pledge and how it would affect the race. As we wrote back in March, for Biden to consider publicly stating he would only serve one term would be a way of signaling to voters that maybe they shouldn’t waste their time with someone who can’t lead the party for two terms in the White House. Would Democratic primary voters really want to be put in the position of swapping candidates in 2024 and risk having some sort of primary challenge in what should be a year of unity with an incumbent nominee?
The debate remains within Biden’s campaign over the issue of pledging to serve a single term. One strategist framed the issue as a referendum on President Trump:
A political strategist who has recently talked to one of Biden’s closest advisers made the argument for serving one term this way: “Is 81 years old too old to be president? Yes. Is an eighty-one year-old president standing for reelection likely to be successful? He is not. And is it the right thing to do for the country? No. Biden wouldn’t be running if it were President Jeb Bush or President Marco Rubio. He’s running because it’s an exigent circumstance — Donald Trump. The next president will have to have oppositional virtues to the last president. We have a presidency that is defined by abject selfishness, self-regard and self-interest. So a one-term pledge would be viewed as an act of selflessness, putting the country ahead of any ambition.”
In other words, Biden is only in the race to win back the White House for Democrats and then walk out the back door in 2024 and hand the reigns over to someone else. Basically, 2020 for Biden is a plea to Democrats who seriously dislike the current President and would vote for “anyone but Trump” just to get him out of office.
At some point, the issue will come to a head, perhaps on the debate stage if Biden is asked about serving a single term. There’s almost no upside in a public pledge to out yourself as a lame-duck President before you’ve even won the White House. Biden will likely stick with open-ended answers about how he “feels great” and can’t see that far in the future.
With this report circulating around, the Biden campaign saw fit to respond to Politico by denying that there is an ongoing discussion within the campaign over the question:
Lots of chatter out there on this so just want to be crystal clear: this is not a conversation our campaign is having and not something VP Biden is thinking about. https://t.co/mXNEnX6GrU
— Kate Bedingfield (@KBeds) December 11, 2019
Clearly the Biden camp knows as well as anyone else that talking about term-limiting yourself as a candidate is not the right kind of message voters want to hear.