March 5, 2024
President Joe Biden said the quiet part out loud during a closed-door fundraiser.

President Joe Biden said the quiet part out loud during a closed-door fundraiser.

Had former President Donald Trump not launched a comeback bid for the White House, Biden may have stepped aside in favor of the next generation of Democratic leadership.


While Biden and his aides have tried to clarify his Tuesday admission, his comment is unlikely to motivate Democrats and independent voters to cast a ballot for him in 2024 when they are already unenthusiastic about four more years of Biden.

Biden has a “habit of saying the obvious things out loud,” according to Democratic strategist Stefan Hankin, a reference to Biden’s tendency to be more candid during private fundraisers than in public.

“I don’t think this is a question of where his heart is but what or who he sees as having the best chance to beat Trump,” Hankin told the Washington Examiner. “I tend to agree that Biden is one of the better candidates to run against Trump.”

“If Trump had decided not to run, I feel that Biden would have announced it is time to pass the torch to the next generation,” he said.

Many Democrats like Hankin are downplaying Biden’s comment. They contend Biden has made similar statements about Trump since he announced his 2020 campaign. They also assert he reiterated those remarks when he launched his 2024 bid this year with an updated message that included Jan. 6 and Trump’s appointment of Supreme Court justices who overturned the abortion precedent Roe v. Wade.

“Joe Biden ran in 2020 to stop Donald Trump. He did,” Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh said. “Joe Biden is running again in 2024 to stop Donald Trump again. It’s that simple.”

Karen Finney, another Democratic strategist, cited Biden’s first campaign ad in 2019 about “the danger Trump was and still is to America’s democracy” as proof of the point.

“Frankly, Trump is proving to be an even greater threat than we knew in 2019 given the violence we saw as part of his efforts to overthrow the 2020 election and just last night saying he’d rule as a dictator on Day One,” she said.

Despite attempts by Fox News host Sean Hannity to help Trump, the former president conceded during a televised town hall Tuesday night he would be a “dictator” on “Day One” of a new administration, though he did use a strict borderimmigration policy and “drill, drill, drill” energy programs as examples.

Biden’s average job approval-disapproval is a net negative 16 percentage points, 40%-56%, according to RealClearPolitics, close to where former President Jimmy Carter was before he lost his reelection campaign and amid concerns about the economy. Head-to-head polling between Biden and Trump additionally has Trump ahead by an average of 2 points, 45% to 47%, a close rematch exacerbated by anxiety regarding Biden’s age. At 81, Biden is the country’s oldest president.

Following his comment to donors in Boston Tuesday, Biden was asked at the White House Wednesday if there is another Democrat who could beat Trump next year.

“Probably 50 of them,” he said, joking. “I’m not the only one who could defeat him, but I will defeat him.”

But while Biden is adamant he can dispatch Trump for a second time in 2024, other Democrats, such as primary challenger Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN), described Biden’s insistence as “downright delusional.”

“Says the candidate with lower approval figures and losing to Trump in every poll of consequence,” he wrote on social media.

Pollster David Paleologos agreed with Phillips, arguing Biden is “ignoring the polling data” and that having your rationale for campaigning being “to prevent someone else from winning shows a genuine lack of interest and a reluctance to lay out a vision of progressive policies to improve life over the next four years.”

“No two elections exactly replicate, and in 2020, voters wanted a calmer alternative to Trump who would work with the other major party,” the Suffolk University Political Research Center director said. “This year, Biden’s ‘boogeyman’ message about another Trump presidency doesn’t appear to be resonating or connecting with voters at this point because voters have lived through and survived both presidencies.”

While Biden announced presidential campaigns in 1988 and 2008 and has repeated how he promised his late son Beau he would contest the White House, Costas Panagopoulos, Northeastern University political science chairman and professor, concurred with Democrats that Joe Biden “may never have stepped forward if it were not for Trump in the first place.” Biden does routinely refer to the 2017 deadly white supremacist rally and counterprotests in Charlottesville, Virginia, as another reason he ran.

“If Trump, for whatever reason, falters or steps aside, I expect Biden will bow out, not because his heart is not in being president but because his priority is to ensure Trump never ascends to the presidency again,” he said. “I also believe Biden would step aside if he ever comes to believe he is not the best hope to keep Trump out.”

But the White House disputed that Wednesday, with press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre saying Biden’s decision related to 2024 was “final.”

Biden explained his own comment after he returned to the White House late Tuesday, telling reporters gathered on the South Lawn for his arrival that he would have likely sought reelection regardless of Trump.

“Would you be running for president if Trump wasn’t running?” one reporter asked.

“I expect so, but look, he is running, and I have to run,” Biden said.


“Would you drop out if Trump drops out?” another reporter asked.

“No, not now,” he replied.

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