April 14, 2021

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There’s zero chance Joe Biden will run in 2024. Why didn’t he dodge the question?

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In the White House press office they must have wondered when President Joe Biden would “get the question.” It came last Thursday from Nancy Cordes of CBS News: “Have you decided whether you are going to run for reelection in 2024?” 

Biden could have sidestepped it by saying, “We’re still in our first 100 days with a lot of work to do. I’ll worry about a second term when the time comes.” 

Instead, he opted for a seemingly decisive and confident approach. “The answer is yes,” he said. “My plan is to run for reelection. That’s my expectation.” 

For Biden and his party, the question was a Morton’s fork — one in which all possible answers are undesirable. Declare you’re not running and you become a lame duck almost immediately after taking office, while also placing intense scrutiny on your vice president (and possible successor) Kamala Harris. However, say you do expect to run again and you fire up critics who claim that at 78, you’re already too old, while frustrating Democrats who believed you when you described yourself as a “bridge” president. 

Na ga da— not going to do it

Since this is an opinion column, let me be clear about mine. There is no chance, zero, that Joe Biden will seek to become the nation’s first octogenarian presidential candidate. As Dana Carvey’s George H.W. Bush would put it: “Na ga da — not going to do it.” 

“Look, I view myself as a bridge, not as anything else,” Biden said just over a year ago. “There’s an entire generation of leaders you saw stand behind me. They are the future of this country.” Many Biden supporters took that as tacit assurance there would be no second term. 

Underscoring the single-term assumption was reporting like this from Ryan Lizza in Politico early in the campaign: “According to four people who regularly talk to Biden, all of whom asked for anonymity to discuss internal campaign matters, it is virtually inconceivable that he will run for reelection in 2024.” 

President Joe Biden on March 25, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

So, what’s changed? Nothing, I’d submit, except Biden’s determination to appear fit and strong as he tackles myriad problems — from COVID to immigration to the economy. But reporters will spend the next four years dwelling on Biden’s reelection plans. Moments after Cordes asked the question, CNN’s Kaitlan Collins returned to it, asking Biden would he really run again? And would Harris remain on the ticket? And does Biden expect Donald Trump to be the GOP nominee? 

Finally, Biden said “Oh, come on,” and tried to change the subject. 

Mastio & Lawrence:Joe Biden’s first press conference answers at least one question

Like many Americans, I’m sick of the nonstop campaign. The day after Biden’s news conference, the first bit of actual campaigning by a presumed Republican hopeful took place in Iowa, as former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to about 100 people at a restaurant in Urbandale. Pompeo isn’t officially a candidate, but he sure looked like one on his two-day swing across Iowa.

When Trump won four years ago, he filed for reelection with the Federal Election Commission on Jan. 20, 2017, the day of his inauguration. If that isn’t an endless campaign I don’t know what is. 

The art of deflection is underrated

Despite Biden’s statement that he “expects” to seek reelection, his age has already created enormous pressure on Kamala Harris. No vice president has entered office with so much speculation that she would be the frontrunner for her party’s presidential nomination in the next cycle. 

Giving Harris the impossible task of fixing immigration problems is not likely to boost her stock. The issue was arguably the worst part of the Obama-Biden record and things only got worse during Trump’s term. Now, it’s a raging crisis. 

Immigration challenge:Biden is facing a difficult border problem, but Republicans are undermining him

If Biden really cares about giving Democrats the longest possible run in the White House, he should find a way to signal he’s only serving one term. Never in the nation’s history has a president served two full terms and then had his vice president serve two terms as president. 

Biden could have deflected the second-term question last week by saying he had more important things to worry about. Instead, he gave an unbelievable answer, provoking critics and comedians. Michael Che took a shot on “Saturday Night Live” saying: “President Biden was asked if he plans to run for reelection in 2024, which is probably the nicest way to ask him if he plans on being alive in three years.”

Peter Funt is a writer and host of “Candid Camera.” He’s at work on a book about TV portrayals of sitting presidents titled “Playing POTUS.” 

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