Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) on Aug. 3 walked back earlier comments she had made about President Joe Biden, but suggested that she still thinks he won’t run again in 2024.
“I don’t believe he’s running for reelection,” Maloney, who leads the House Oversight Committee, said during an Aug. 2 primary debate.
The next morning, she walked back her comment’s implied criticism of Biden during an appearance on CNN, but refused to recant on her suggestion that the president will not seek reelection.
“Mr. President, I apologize,” Maloney said.
“I want you to run,” she insisted. “I happen to think you won’t be running, but when you run—or if you run—I will be there 100 percent.”
“You have deserved it,” Maloney added. “You are a great president and thank you for everything you’ve done for my state and all the states and all the cities in America.”
Traditionally, presidents have not announced their intention to seek reelection until after the midterms.
But Biden has indicated repeatedly that he intends to run again, to the chagrin of a growing number of Democrat voters and lawmakers alike, who increasingly see Biden as more of a liability than an asset.
Other Democrats Also Ambiguous, Critical on Biden Reelection Bid
Though Biden has made his intention to seek reelection clear, Maloney is not the only Democrat who has been on the fence about whether Biden will, in fact, be the Democrats’ standard-bearer in the next presidential election.
During the same primary debate on Aug. 2, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), when asked whether Biden should seek reelection, replied that it is “too early to say,” and suggested that Democrats should discuss it following the midterms.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), one of the most moderate Democrats in Congress, has also refused to commit his support for a reelection bid by Biden.
When asked by CNN anchor Jake Tapper on July 31 whether Biden deserves a second term, Manchin refused to give a direct answer, saying “I’m not getting involved in any election right now—2022, 2024, I’m not speculating on it.”
He asserted his further support and collaboration with the Biden administration for the sake of the people of West Virginia and the nation.
“President Biden is my president right now, and I’m going to work with him and his administration to the best of my ability to help the people in my state of West Virginia and this country. And we have agreements,” Manchin said.
The West Virginia Democrat then shifted his focus to inflation, the matter he said is currently upsetting people the most.
“This is about today’s inflation rates killing people. We have got to get the inflation rate down,” he said.
To that end, Manchin emphasized an “energy policy that works for America.”
In comments to Tapper, he further stated, “We are not going to raise taxes, but people should be paying their fair share, especially the largest corporations in America that have a billion dollars of value or greater. Can’t they pay at least 15 percent so that we can move forward and be the leader of the world and the superpower that we are?”
Manchin and the White House have broken already on several occasions during the 117th Congress. In December 2021, Manchin put an end to months of intra-party negotiations when he said that he would not support Biden’s $1.75 trillion Build Back Better spending package.
In this context, it is not surprising that Manchin is on the fence about Biden, but the refusal to commit his support does suggest that moderates in the party, as well as progressives, may be hoping for a new standard bearer for 2024.
On July 28, Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) went a step further, declaring that he would not support any bid by Biden for reelection.
When asked by local radio, the congressman for Minnesota’s third district said that Biden would be an octogenarian by 2024 and that he hopes “other Democrats step up.”
“To answer your question directly, which I know is quite rare … No, I don’t,” Phillips told WCCO Radio.
“I think the country would be well served by a new generation of compelling, well-prepared, dynamic Democrats to step up,” Phillips said. “And with that, I hope we see a resurgence of the principled center-right Republican Party reform.”
At the same time, Democrat voters seem to share lawmakers’ skepticism toward Biden.
In a New York Times/Siena College poll that painted a sour picture for Biden’s prospects, 64 percent of Democrat respondents said they would prefer a new candidate in 2024.
As Democrats prepare to move into a midterm season expected to see major GOP gains, however, most Democrat lawmakers have been mum about their attitudes toward the president.
Republicans have tried to center focus on what they consider key failures during Biden’s tenure so far: the controversial withdrawal from Afghanistan, skyrocketing consumer prices, major reductions in U.S. oil production, and the specter of an oncoming recession.
Currently, Democrats hold the House by a slim thread. In 2020, they kept the majority, but after a series of retirements the party is down to only a four-seat advantage in the lower chamber.
In the Senate as well, Democrats hold the thinnest possible majority: 50 seats plus the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris.
At the same time, there have been rumblings among Democrats and left-wing commentators about replacing Biden. If Democrats lose big in the November midterms, these calls may only grow, potentially placing Biden in a tough position if he continues in his hopes to seek reelection.
Despite Biden’s claims that he is the strongest candidate to take on Donald Trump in a rematch, some Democrats see in Biden a concerning resemblance to President Jimmy Carter, whose single term in office was similarly at the center of inflation and foreign policy controversies.
In 1980, Carter managed to fight off primary challenger Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy only to lose big to President Ronald Reagan—a stinging defeat that Democrats are not anxious to repeat.
However, thus far, no Democrats have stepped forward to challenge Biden, and it remains unclear what effect the midterm elections will have on his oft-repeated intention to run again.
Hannah Ng and Caden Pearson contributed to this report.