During a press conference in Brussels last month, he told reporters he’d be “very fortunate” to run against his rival in the 2020 election, former President Trump.
The source also said that Biden, despite his faltering approval ratings, remains the most likely Democratic candidate to defeat Trump. This was a key part of Biden’s salesmanship to voters as he sought support for this 2020 bid — and a big reason primary voters rallied to him in South Carolina and “Super Tuesday” states where he sealed his status as the Democratic frontrunner.
“I believe he thinks he’s the only one who can beat Trump. I don’t think he thinks there’s anyone in the Democratic party who can beat Trump and that’s the biggest factor,” the source familiar with the Obama-Biden talks said.
Biden and Obama had lunch together earlier this month, but it is unclear exactly when the two discussed 2024.
The White House did not provide comment on the conversations between Biden and Obama. A Biden adviser pointed to the president’s public comments that he intends to run again.
Beyond the rough political winds and poor approval ratings, it is Biden’s age that has fueled questions about his future.
Biden, 79, was the oldest president to take office at 78 and would be 82 at the start of his second term, should he successfully seek one.
A CNBC survey released last week found that only 38 percent of Americans approve of the job that Biden is doing as president, while 53 percent disapprove. On the economy specifically, Biden gets lower marks, with 35 percent approving of his job handling the economy and 60 percent disapproving.
A FiveThirtyEight average of recent polls puts Biden’s approval rating at just under 42 percent.
Still, the environment could look different by the start of next year. The White House and outside economists expect inflation to begin to ease. More Americans are getting back to their normal lives during the pandemic. That could put Biden on better footing heading into the 2024 campaign season.
“He can recover,” said Basil Smikle, a Democratic strategist and director of Hunter College’s public policy program. “A lot will depend on the outcome of the midterms. If Democrats don’t fare very well, he’ll be going into 2024 from a position of weakness, if you will.”
Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, noted that a handful of modern presidents have recovered from challenging times to successfully seek reelection, including former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Obama.
Obama, Perry noted, had a difficult first two years in office with the recession, a slow recovery and turmoil surrounding the legislative battle over the Affordable Care Act.
Others like former Presidents Carter, who also grappled with staggering inflation, and Trump were unable to come back from low points to win a second term.
“There’s good news and there’s bad news for Biden,” Perry said.
Biden has said publicly on multiple occasions that he plans to seek reelection, but he has been clear that those plans could be disrupted by “fate.”
“I’m a great respecter of fate,” Biden said during an interview with ABC’s David Muir in December. “Fate has intervened in my life many, many times. If I’m in the health I am in now, if I’m in good health, then in fact I would run again.”
Asked if he would do so even if it meant a rematch with Trump, Biden smiled: “You’re trying to tempt me now.”
“Sure. Why would I not run against Donald Trump if he were the nominee,” he answered. “That would increase the prospect of running.”
More recently during a press conference, Biden also affirmed that Vice President Harris would be his running mate.
John Anzalone, Biden’s 2020 pollster, suggested during a recent Politico interview that Biden is the only candidate who can go up against Trump and win if he runs again.
“You go head-to-head and Joe Biden’s always ahead of him. Not by a lot — one or two points. People don’t want the chaos,” Anzalone told the publication. “Even at his lowest approval rating, he still beats Donald Trump.”
Still, allies say they’re concerned about Biden’s current standing.
Unite the Country, a super PAC formed by longtime Biden loyalists, has recently been running television ads in key states such as Pennsylvania and Arizona to help boost the president’s numbers ahead of the midterm elections.
And some have expressed worries about the sparse field of Democrats who can run if Biden doesn’t.
“Biden is the best choice, but there’s a concern that the Democrats don’t have a strong bench,” said Smikle, who added that there are still broader worries about Biden’s standing with younger voters and dampened enthusiasm.
Smikle also argued that the Democrats aren’t doing enough to groom Harris to be the next standard-bearer of the party after Biden leaves office.
“Is she being used to push out Democrats’ messaging effectively in key areas? A lot of Democrats don’t see it but would welcome it,” he said.
The source familiar with the talks between Biden and Obama said, meanwhile, that many Democrats are skeptical of Harris’s chances of winning in 2024. “People think she has no shot, which has to keep him as the guy.”
Harris said during an NBC interview at the start of the year that she wasn’t interested in “high-class gossip” about 2024 and previously said she and Biden hadn’t talked about the next presidential election, choosing instead to focus on the issues at hand.
One longtime Biden ally said the president has been clear about his intentions all along.
“If you want to know what he’s thinking, he’ll probably just tell you,” the source said. “He doesn’t hide the ball well. Every indication I have is that he’s planning on running again. “