By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A few Democrats in Congress have begun to voice what many have considered privately: Whether President Joe Biden, the oldest person to ever occupy the Oval Office, should choose retirement over reelection in 2024.
With his approval rating of 38% — and below 50% since May — Biden, 79, has been damaged by inflation and his voters fear he won’t be able to meet the presidency’s demands by 2025. In November, the White House said Biden plans to be back in business by 2024.
A few Democratic US representatives from Minnesota have clearly articulated the message.
“The country would be well served by a new generation of compelling, well-prepared, dynamic Democrats to act,” Democratic Representative Dean Phillips said in an interview with TSWT radio in Minneapolis last week.
Phillips praised Biden’s decency and service, but added that it’s time for a generational change.
Democratic Representative Angie Craig, who unlike Phillips faces a tough re-election on Nov. 8, said Tuesday she is “in line and aligned” with Phillips, according to the Minnesota Post.
According to some analysts, she may have been trying to position herself better with independent voters.
But recent polls have found similar views among Democratic voters. A New York Times/Siena College poll in July found that 64% of Democrats would like a new candidate by 2024, and a TSWT poll last week found that an additional 75% of Democrats hold that view.
Party activists normally gather around their president, especially if he indicates that he is seeking a second term. And they can do that if former President Donald Trump, 76, decides to run again in 2024, a possibility he is flirting with publicly.
“The hunger for a new generation of leadership is visible. But the hunger to defeat Trump will always be more important. Biden is still the only name on the list of Republicans or Democrats who have done it,” noted Matt McAlvanah, a former Obama. administration and senate leader.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll in July showed that a third of Republican voters believe Trump should not run for president again. Polls show 43-year-old Florida governor Ron DeSantis is gaining traction with Republican voters.
White House officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.
NO ‘READY ALTERNATIVE’
An aide to a veteran House Democrat said on Wednesday that Biden’s COVID-19 diagnosis last month sparked a conversation between half a dozen Democratic aides from various political backgrounds about Biden’s future.
It wasn’t clear whether they reflected the feelings of their bosses, but the aide noted that there was a general consensus that it would be “foolish” to dump Biden, given his strong win over Trump in 2020.
“It’s not like we have a ready-made alternative,” the assistant added.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other prominent Democratic lawmakers have expressed support for a Biden run in 2024.
Others keep their options open.
During a debate Tuesday night between three Democrats competing for one seat in the New York House, former Representative Carolyn Maloney said she did not believe Biden was running for reelection when asked if she would support his candidacy. A day later, she declared her support.
Her main opponent, Representative Jerrold Nadler, said such questions are best asked after the Nov. 8 midterm elections, when Republicans prefer to win back the majority in at least one chamber of Congress.
The chatter comes as Biden points to a track record of legislative achievement. He signed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill in November, less than a year after his presidency, a stark contrast to Trump who spent four years talking about infrastructure but never winning legislation.
Last month, Biden signed the first major federal gun safety law in three decades.
Now Democrats in Congress are pushing for a record investment in climate change mitigation and a program to lower the cost of prescription drugs for the elderly, while at the same time persuading corporations and the wealthy to meet their tax obligations.
Ben LaBolt, a Democratic strategist and former spokesperson for former President Barack Obama, said Democratic lawmakers should focus on those victories.
“It’s an odd time for that kind of chatter when the government is on the cusp of some record-breaking performance on many of the key issues facing the American people,” LaBolt said.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan, additional reporting by Jeff Mason; editing by Scott Malone and Josie Kao)