It seems I have lost a bet.
In the Rose Garden yesterday afternoon President Joe Biden replied with just one word – “yes” – when I asked him if he would run again.
Many months ago my colleague and I bet on whether or not he’d go for a second term.
My (flawed) logic – that he would not – was based simply on his age.
My assumption was that his wife, First Lady Jill Biden, would counsel him that he’d achieved enough in his first term and that it was time to take a back seat; let someone else complete his work.
After all, he would be 82 at the time of re-election and nearer 90 at the end of the second term.
I have already been accused of ageism for raising this point, but it’s legitimate to discuss the issue, surely?
The American people have already spoken. The latest polling, from our US partner network NBC this past weekend, suggests only one in four Americans believe Biden should run again.
Biden has aged and he’s less fluent
I’ve compared speeches he gave just a couple of years ago with those he’s given more recently.
He has aged. He is less fluent. This isn’t a jibe. It’s an observation and there is no suggestion of health issues. He passes the regular White House medicals.
But what about the unmatched intensity of the American election cycle? It’s tested candidates half his age. Is he really ready to do that all over again?
The President said before Christmas that he would consult with family before deciding if he would run again.
So my naive instinct was based on human nature: that his family would tell him: ‘Pop, dad, Joe, you’ve had a good run… support a good successor and stand aside’.
My colleague’s judgement – that he would run – was, of course, based much more on the cold logic of politics.
This is a man who has lived and breathed politics all his life – he has always wanted to be president.
In his mid-seventies he managed that top office. He’s done one term. He’s hardly likely to want to throw the towel in now.
Who wants to be a one-term president?
His age gives him unmatched political experience. His supporters argue that he has achieved a lot in one term. He’s secured impressive domestic legislative achievements. He’s led the free world against Russian aggression. There’s much more yet to do; there are policy pledges to fulfil.
He has been eyeing competition
“Finish the job…” will be the campaign slogan.
He’s obviously been eyeing the competition too. While it’s true that American politics is hard to predict, it looks likely that Donald Trump will be the Republican candidate.
Biden beat Trump last time around. So, he and the Democrats naturally assume he can do it again.
Remember too that so much has emerged about (the now indicted) Donald Trump since the last election. Could Trump’s support base really have increased since 2020? Surely not, Team Biden is assuming.
What about other Democratic Party candidates? There must be some?!
Well – not really. The other two main contenders last time around – Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris – were strategically wrapped into Team Biden during this first term. Neither has shone either.
There are a few in the wings who see themselves as post-Biden candidates – like California’s Governor Gavin Newsom – but none prepared to stand in his way now – fearful maybe of being blamed for a Trump ’24 victory?
And so, Biden 2024 seems as good as certain.
The world will reflect on the fact that the best America can offer for 2024 is a likely re-run of the 2020 offering. And I’ve lost a bet.