President Joe Biden made a startling admission Tuesday night, telling a small gaggle of reporters that he “has to run” and raising questions about who or what powerful forces are commanding the aging leader of the free world to seek a second term.
Shielding his eyes against the windstorm of Air Force One, Biden listened intently to repeated questions from a female reporter about whether he would be running for president if former President Donald Trump wasn’t in the race.
“I expect so, but look, he is running, and I just – I have to run,” he said. Asked if he would drop out if Trump does so too, Biden quickly replied, “No. Not now.”
Perhaps it’s too late for the Democratic incumbent to step aside as his last remark suggests, given the great lengths his party has gone to push potential successors like Gavin Newsom back onto the sidelines as they give President Biden a clear runway to reelection. But his repeated tripping, verbal vexations, and moments of lost confusion have come to bear weight on his polling numbers among Americans who feel he is too old for a second term.
Indeed, one of those moments played out shortly after he was questioned about running. Asked by another reporter about any progress being made to secure the release of American hostages held by Hamas, the president answered vaguely, “I don’t know where it’s gonna go.”
Inside the White House, allies to the president are framing his reelection campaign as based on tangible achievements around reducing inflation, creating jobs, and implementing a sweeping new environmental agenda. However, the victory laps are interrupted by repeated questions about Biden’s vigor and age.
During an appearance on CNN, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was boxed into ludicrously claiming that the White House press corps “can’t keep up” with Biden’s busy jaunts across the globe, eliciting jeers from the host. Vice President Kamala Harris, asked about the possibility of filling the void should the president lose the will or interest to run again, answered a little too candidly.
“Joe Biden is very much alive and running for reelection,” Harris said.