Updated Apr 25, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Biden's never-Trump campaign for '24

Photo: Screenshot/Biden announcement video

President Biden's re-election launch video opens with grainy footage of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, with Biden warning that "MAGA extremists" want to take away American's basic freedoms — and then promising to protect them.

Why it matters: Biden's friends think he might've retired if he thought Vice President Harris could beat former President Trump. But Biden sees Trump as a lethal threat to America — the reason to run and the issue to build his campaign around.

State of play: That dynamic will lead Biden, 80, to seize every opportunity to maximize his presidential stature and dwell on his differences with Trump — using what he calls "MAGA Republicans" on Capitol Hill as a handy proxy.

  • “When I ran for president four years ago, I said we are in a battle for the soul of America – and we still are," Biden says in the video announcing his reelection.
  • "The question we are facing is whether in the years ahead we have more freedom or less freedom, more rights or fewer.”

The big picture: Running for the White House from the White House, Biden will remind voters of his legislative accomplishments, including billions of dollars for infrastructure, clean energy and semiconductors.

  • At his command are all the tools of the modern presidency: The Rose Garden for sunny announcements, Air Force One for both domestic political trips and international statesmanship — and a press and digital team that can broadcast on multiple frequencies to multiple audiences.

Between the lines: Tuesday was a case study in how the White House can marry Biden’s campaign message with his official duties.

  • After his morning announcement video, Biden addressed North America’s Building Trades Unions' legislative conference — a chance to highlight his legislative accomplishments and record of job creation, including nearly 800,000 manufacturing jobs.
  • "Our economic plan is working," Biden said. "We now have to finish the job and there's more to do. And you're leading the way — shovels in the ground, cranes in the air, factories opening and all those jobs being created."
  • He took direct aim at House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and his plans to repeal Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act. "Republicans want to get rid of it," Biden said. "The new Speaker of the House thinks it's not necessary."
  • "The fact is that this law on prescriptions drugs saves the government $168 billion dollars," Biden added.
  • In the evening, Biden was scheduled to welcome South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol at the White House for a symbolic visit that will culminate in a state dinner Wednesday night.

What we're hearing: For most of the spring and summer, McCarthy will be Biden's foil — as a showdown over Republicans' demands for budget cuts before raising the debt ceiling grips Washington and Wall Street.

  • As the Republican primary race heats up, Biden will shift his attention to the leader of that pack. He expects it'll be Donald Trump. The video also includes a photo of Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis embracing on the House floor.

Zoom out: Biden officials are clear-eyed that a rematch against Trump will be a close contest, but they have a playbook that worked in 2020.

  • Longtime Biden advisers, however, know there's little margin for error. That means avoiding any mishaps by a candidate who'll be 81 for most of 2024. Trump will be 78 on Election Day.

Zoom in: A presidential campaign takes an extraordinary amount of time and effort to build. Compared to recent predecessors, Biden is getting a slightly later start.

  • Julie Chávez Rodríguez, previously the director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, will serve as campaign manager, and Quentin Fulks, who ran Sen. Raphael Warnock's (D-Ga.) campaign, will be the deputy campaign manager.
  • Biden also announced his campaign co-chairs: Rep. Lisa Blunt-Rochester (D-Del.), Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C), Sen Chris Coons (D-Del.), Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), Jeffrey Katzenberg, the CEO of DreamWorks Animation, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.).

The bottom line: Biden's presidency has long been predicated on keeping Trump from returning to the White House.

  • That case will become more explicit now that Biden's re-election bid is official.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with comments from Biden's address to NABTU.

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