It once looked like an outside bet, but US President Joe Biden’s bid for a second term is being treated as a given among grassroots Democrats plotting the course to the next election at their winter get-together.
The octogenarian leader, who was due to deliver the headlining address on Friday at the Democratic National Committee’s convention, is something of a rock star for activists eager to hear him speak at a plush hotel in historic Philadelphia.
“All of you have to be his… evangelist in the next two years,” Ken Martin, the leader of the Minnesota Democratic Party, told a panel discussion ahead of Biden’s speech, expected later in the afternoon.
“There has been no president that has done more in the past two years,” he added, pointing to the once-in-a-generation package Biden signed into law to rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure, and his efforts to boost unionized labor.
Firing up campaigners who had traveled from America’s four corners to strategize for the 2024 campaign, he told the audience: “We’ve got to get out there… sell that to the American people.”
– Age-old question –
It might be Republicans that have the elephant as their official symbol, but there is a giant pachyderm in the room whenever Democrats discuss Biden in 2024.
The 46th president was born closer to the end of Abraham Lincoln’s tenure than to the start of his own.
Already the oldest president in US history, he would be 86 when the time comes to hand over the Oval Office keys, assuming he wins reelection and stays healthy.
Many of his critics think that’s just too old, especially since the former senator and vice president promised in 2020 to make his presidency a “bridge” to a younger generation.
“I hear that from time to time but I don’t hear it as much as you might think,” says Martin, downplaying what could be an easy talking point for Biden’s Republican opponent in the race for the White House.
Like Martin, many Democrats are casting aside concerns over Biden’s advanced years to rally to his side ahead of what is expected to be an imminent declaration that he will vie for another four years.
Even members of the party’s progressive wing, who were initially suspicious of the president’s social and climate agenda, have fallen into line.
“I wouldn’t discriminate against somebody because they’re a certain age if they’re advancing an agenda that works,” Pennsylvania state representative Malcolm Kenyatta, nearly 50 years the president’s junior, told AFP.
– Republican Party’s ‘last breaths’ –
In Philadelphia, the historic cradle of US democracy, opposition to Biden’s putative candidacy came largely from outside the tent.
In Friday’s icy wind, a truck displaying a blunt but pointed slogan — “Don’t run, Joe” — took laps around the convention hall.
“He’s a really weak candidate going into 2024,” said Sam Rosenthal, the dissident behind the stunt, whose group is not affiliated to the Democratic Party.