President Biden plans to take some time over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays to decide whether to run for re-election and surround himself with family as he assesses his political future while giving himself a deadline of early next year to officially announce.
Biden, who just turned 80, remains in the minds of many Democrats the party’s best chance to retain the White House in 2024. Yet he is weighing his next steps at a time when several contemporaries in the party have stepped down from top roles to make room for a new generation of leaders.
For Biden, it’s that Democrats are coming off a stronger-than-expected midterm result that will surely weigh heavily on the decision, along with the potential for a rematch against former President Trump. And while the White House has insisted for months that Biden plans to run again, the president has left the door open to making a final decision after discussing it with family over the holidays.
“He plans to run. He said himself … that he wants to have a private conversation with his family,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday.
“I’m certainly not going to outline what that conversation might look like or potentially be like,” she added. “It’s clearly the president’s prerogative to have that conversation with his family, to make that decision.”
An announcement by Biden early in 2023 would align with new and younger faces taking on positions in Democratic leadership. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), 82, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), 83, said this month they would not seek leadership positions again, paving the way for younger Democrats to steer the party’s efforts in a new house minority.
Allan Lichtman, distinguished professor of history at American University, said Pelosi and Hoyer stepping aside when the House flipped this month will not prevent Biden from running for another term.
“They’re no longer in charge of the House. This was the perfect moment for them to step aside. I don’t think there’s any correlation between Hoyer and Pelosi stepping back in decision-making for Biden,” he said. “Presidents have almost always sought re-election regardless of their age.”
For Democrats, Lichtman said, “The last thing you want is for Biden to step down and have an open seat.”
Since 1920, there have been eight open presidential seats, and only once has the party controlling the White House won—in 1988, when then-Vice President George HW Bush was elected to replace President Reagan after Reagan’s second term.
“Democrats don’t want an open seat and don’t want a partisan battle for the nomination,” Lichtman said.
The favorite in the race to become the next Democratic leader in the House is Rep. Hakeem Jeffries. At 52, the New York lawmaker is significantly younger than the current leadership, though political observers don’t think working with him would be a problem for the president.
Jeffries was a prominent campaign surrogate for Biden in the 2020 election, and Biden typically takes a mentoring role with younger Democrats and works well with them, as he did with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, some pointed out.
Still, Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton, said younger Democratic leaders will heighten conversations about Biden’s age.
“That means his age will be amplified, the contrast with younger Democrats more pronounced, all of which will fuel conversations about what he should do in 2024,” Zelizer said. “That said, he can use the moment to position himself as a voice of experience, wisdom and reason — someone with the best chops to handle re-election and the challenges of another term.”
While critics say Biden’s age is increasingly important, the president’s supporters consider attacks against him based on his age to be unfair.
Democrats strongly favor Biden running for re-election and don’t see a good alternative for him, even given his age. And that sentiment was reinforced by the Democrats’ performance in the midterms.
Biden also still has plenty of prominent contemporaries in politics.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who will remain in his role, is the same age as Biden at 80. And Trump, who launched another bid for the White House this month, is 76.
While many say Trump’s campaign won’t play a big factor in Biden’s decision to run again, Timothy Naftali, a presidential historian at New York University, argued that part of the reason Biden might want to run for another term is to take on Trump again.
“Does the country still need him to prevent another Trump presidency? I think that’s why Joe Biden ran was to stop Trump, and I suppose if you ask President Biden, besides [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, what are the big concerns he has for our republic, it will be the return of Donald Trump,” he said.
Without Trump running, Biden could be forced to step aside, he added. And he noted that Biden has achieved significant results in just one term, particularly through his work uniting global allies during the war in Ukraine.
“If Trump is no longer a major political player in 2024 and Europe is still united in defense of Ukrainian surveillance — and perhaps even if the war is over in 2024 — then Joe Biden will have accomplished some great things,” Naftali said.
However, American University’s Lichtman argued that Biden’s results, in addition to Democrats holding on to control of the Senate, make Biden even more appealing to run for another term.
“Certainly, the appeal of the announcement from Joe Biden is enhanced by the Democrats’ better-than-expected performance,” he said. “Joe Biden hasn’t gotten nearly as much credit as he should for his administration.”
Amie Parnes contributed to this report.