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The Biden campaign comes out of hibernation

The flurry of activity is likely to calm the nerves of at least some Democrats as Biden begins to show the urgency that they felt was lacking when he first announced he was running for reelection in April. But it almost certainly won’t appease others in the party who are concerned that Biden is still not moving at the clip needed to take on former President Donald Trump or, perhaps, a younger, more formidable Republican opponent.

“We see the cadence of activity ramping up significantly. There are two big things that I think make this important. One is it gets the president out there even more actively making a political as well as a policy case on a day-to-day basis,” said Robert Gibbs, who served as press secretary to former President Barack Obama. “Secondly, it takes a while to build a campaign. It takes a while to raise the money that they’re going to need, to get everybody in fighting shape and to kind of get in the rhythm of that.”

With 17 months to go until the election, and no serious primary contender challenging Biden, the biggest priority for the reelection campaign is raising money. Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and first lady Jill Biden are fanning out across the country over the next two weeks to headline fundraisers.

The president will travel to Atherton and Kentfield, Calif.; Chevy Chase, Md.; and Chicago for big-money events, according to invitations obtained by POLITICO. Govs. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) and JB Pritzker (D-Ill.) are among the boldfaced names who will be featured at those receptions.


The first lady will take off to Minneapolis and Nashville, Tenn. to collect checks, while Harris will be in New York City, Dallas and Potomac, Md., for fundraisers. The most expensive tickets for the events are going for $100,000, with perks that include platinum tables, photo lines and a VIP prereception.

The events in the final weeks of June are all timed around the end of the fundraising quarter, when Biden and other presidential candidates will be required to disclose how much money they raised. It is especially important that Biden posts a big number to stave off concerns within the party that there is a lack of excitement for him among voters and donors. Seventy percent of Americans — and 51 percent of Democrats — said Biden should not run for reelection in the days preceding his announcement, according to an April poll by NBC.

A faster pace by the campaign could also help tamp down some questions about Biden’s age. The president, who is now 80, would be 86 at the end of his second term if he were reelected. He has tried to deflect the persistent commentary about being too old through a touch of humor.

But a full-on campaign by Biden still likely won’t begin for months, people close to the effort said. Biden himself had, at times, signaled a desire to wait until the fall to launch the reelection effort, yet relented when aides stressed the need to begin fundraising. Additional major campaign rallies may not start until late this year or early next, following the example of other presidents’ Rose Garden reelection strategies.

While bringing in funds is the most urgent task at hand, the Biden campaign has also begun staffing up their communications team. Biden has tapped Michael Tyler, a Democratic National Committee and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) alum, to be his communications director. TJ Ducklo, who previously worked as a Biden White House aide before departing under a cloud of controversy, will be the campaign’s senior communications adviser. Rob Flaherty, Biden’s director of digital strategy, is also leaving the White House and expected to join the reelection effort.


Biden’s allies have unveiled endorsements in recent days as well, with the AFL-CIO officially backing Biden this week — earlier than it has ever voted to endorse a candidate in a presidential election, the group said. At the same time, four of the biggest environmental groups in the country threw their weight behind Biden on Wednesday.

“They’re showing momentum behind the president and his campaign. I think they’re showing that he’s going to go out and make a powerful case for his own candidacy. And that he’s got a lot of support from key constituency groups,” said Ron Klain, Biden’s former chief of staff. “They’re all signs of strength.”

Ray Zaccaro, AFL-CIO’s director of public affairs, said the group’s endorsement unlocks “a mobilization force unlike any other,” emphasizing that union members will now be able to start knocking on doors and advertising to boost Biden. He disputed the idea that an enthusiasm gap exists among voters for Biden.

“I will tell you that that is simply not true when it comes to labor,” said Zaccaro. “Labor is incredibly enthusiastic about what this president has done.”

Biden will cap off the week with a rally with union members in the president’s familiar stomping grounds of Philadelphia. The president will give a speech focused on his economic accomplishments, highlighting jobs created during his tenure, the country’s low unemployment rate and a manufacturing “boom,” according to a Biden aide.


“The values of the labor movement — our values — are written in his heart,” said Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Along with the political events, Biden spent the last week running a kind of shadow campaign from the White House, according to four people familiar with the strategy but not authorized to discuss internal deliberations. Biden highlighted longtime Democratic priorities such as stricter gun laws, while also touting popular, easy-to-digest campaign appetizers like an effort to combat junk fees.

His team believes that those events showcased the type of successful formula that Democrats can and will use going forward: A heads-down approach that contrasts with a Republican Party rife with internal frictions. This week far-right Republicans fought against their own party leadership on the House floor, and the GOP’s leading 2024 candidate was inside a federal courthouse being arraigned for allegedly mishandling some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets.

“They’re going to have a carnival of chaos. We’re going to have serious, thoughtful, adult, grown-up leadership that is touching the issues that people actually care about,” said Pennsylvania Democratic state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, a member of Biden’s national advisory board.

Or, as one senior Democrat close to the White House put it: “The more people are talking about Trump and less about us, the better off we are.”


Holly Otterbein and Jonathan Lemire

Published: 2023-06-17 12:00:00


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