Joe Biden Faces Surprise New Dem Challenger

[David Lienemann, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons]

Joe Biden is facing a new primary challenger. Several reports have relayed Democratic anxiety about Biden’s age and potential for reelection, but Minnesota congressman Dean Phillips intends to do something about it. He’s focused on an early primary state that Biden has, for all intents and purposes, abandoned. 

The Democratic primary in the Granite State may be a little more heated than anticipated. 

The Minnesota Democrat called New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley on Thursday to introduce himself. The lawmaker confirmed the call in a text message to POLITICO.

“I called Chairman Buckley yesterday to introduce myself as I contemplate entering the Democratic primary,” he said. “It was a very friendly conversation.”

Phillips said he has also reached out to potential staffers in the state.

The Minnesota Democrat has regularly called for Biden to face a 2024 primary challenger, criticizing the president for not “pass[ing] the torch” to the next generation of Democratic leaders. Phillips withdrew from House Democratic leadership earlier this month, amid concern that his flirtation with a primary bid was causing a distraction. He has met with Democratic donors over the summer about a potential run.

“He’s doing the things you would do if you’re running — or if you’ve not officially decided and you’re trying to check what the reception would be,” said a New Hampshire Democrat operative, granted anonymity to discuss the issue candidly.

A multimillionaire who can fund a challenge to a sitting president, Phillips never held elected office before winning his House seat in 2018. The congressman, writes Forbes, “has long been outspoken about his concerns about the 80-year-old Biden running for reelection due to age, becoming the first congressional Democrat in July to suggest Biden shouldn’t run again, and pleading last month for Biden to “pass the torch.”

The 54-year-old Phillips, who stepped down from the House’s Democratic Policy and Communications committee earlier this month due to his opposition to Biden’s reelection, would instantly become the most prominent Democrat running against Biden, joining a light crowd led by self-help author Marianne Williamson, media figurehead Cenk Uygur (Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said this week he’d run as an independent rather than Democrat).”

Biden continues to be one of the lowest rated presidents in history, and it appears that his best chance at reelection comes only if he can refight the 2020 election rather than focus on the future. 

Reuters reported, “U.S. President Joe Biden’s popularity was near the lowest level of his presidency this month as Americans’ concerns over immigration rose to their highest level since 2019, before he took office, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed.

The three-day opinion poll, which ended on Sunday, showed 40% of respondents approved of Biden’s performance as president, down marginally from 42% a month earlier. The poll had a margin of error of about three percentage points.

While the economy is the perennial top concern among U.S. voters, in October the share of poll respondents who rated “immigration” the No. 1 problem rose to 14% from 8% in September.

That was the highest measure of concern about immigration since December 2019, when 15% of respondents cited it as their top concern.

A larger share – 19% – said the economy was the top concern, down from 23% in September. By comparison, 11% cited crime and 7% cited the environment.”

The run by Phillips is not being welcomed by everyone back home. “Ron Harris, a Democratic National Committee member, announced Friday that he’s mounting a challenge for Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips’ seat in Minnesota, as Phillips has emerged a vocal critic of President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign.

“I’m running for Congress in MN-03 to ensure that my community has strong, effective Democratic representation in Washington,” Harris announced in a press release kicking off his campaign.

His announcement comes as Phillips has called for Biden to face a 2024 primary challenger, noting the share of Americans who have concerns about whether Biden, 80, is up for the job,” according to NBC News.

Phillips has resigned from his leadership in the Democratic caucus in the House, saying that his “convictions relative to the 2024 presidential race are incongruent with the majority of my caucus, and I felt it appropriate to step aside from elected leadership to avoid unnecessary distractions during a critical time for our country.”

New Hampshire makes sense as the place to challenge Biden. He has attacked the Granite State’s position as the first primary in the country, instead moving South Carolina up on the calendar because it helps his reelection challenges. 

Although he tops Trump in head-to-head polling, the president is not particularly popular there. CNN noted, “Among New Hampshire residents as a whole, Biden’s job approval ratings remain underwater – 46% approve, while 54% disapprove – although that’s slightly stronger than his average approval rating nationally, which stands at 40% in the latest CNN Poll of Polls. Four in 10 say he’s had the right priorities during his administration, with 57% saying he hasn’t paid enough attention to the country’s most important problems.

Many express concerns about Biden’s physical and mental health in the poll. Just shy of half (46%) say that Biden is currently definitely or probably mentally and physically capable of fulfilling his duties as president, with 52% saying they don’t believe he is. Looking ahead, confidence in Biden’s abilities declines as just 35% think Biden would definitely or probably be capable of fulfilling his duties for another full term.

Yet Biden still holds the advantage in hypothetical general matchups against top Republicans, and his chief rival, Trump, is even more unpopular than Biden in the state. Among New Hampshire’s potential 2024 general electorate – those who say they intend to vote in November 2024 – Biden’s unfavorability rating stands at 52%, while Trump’s tops that at 63%.”

Phillips will have until later this month to officially file a challenge against the president. 

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