WASHINGTON — Speaking from Brussels while meeting with European leaders about Russia’s war with Ukraine, President Biden indicated he would relish a rematch with Donald Trump in the next presidential election.
“I'd be very fortunate to have the same man running against me,” Biden said during a press conference at which he was asked about whether he would seek reelection in 2024.
As has frequently been the case since he took office, Biden did not mention Trump by name, though he said — as he did in the video announcing his run in 2019 — that it was the then president’s equivocal response to 2017’s white nationalist riot in Charlottesville, Va., that spurred him to seek the White House for the third time.
“I had no intention of running for president again ... until I saw those folks coming out of the fields in Virginia carrying torches and carrying Nazi banners,” Biden told the German reporter who asked him about his reelection plans.
“Nothing is worth, no election is worth, my not doing exactly what I think is the right thing,” Biden said. “Not a joke. I’m too long in the tooth to fool with this any longer.”
Biden, 79, has previously said he would run for reelection, but a slight majority of Americans do not actually believe that he will do so. And although he has received praise for marshaling international support for Ukraine, successive coronavirus waves, economic woes and Republican opposition have continued to frustrate his presidency.
Earlier this week, his approval hit a new low of 40%.
Biden was largely discredited during the Democratic primary in 2020, only to come from behind to defeat rivals who were both much younger (South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg) and more in touch with the party’s spirited progressive base (Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders).
It was Rep. James Clyburn’s endorsement that helped Biden win the South Carolina primary and, subsequently, the nomination. To court African American voters, Biden promised to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court. He made good on that promise last month; hearings for the nominee, federal Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, were concluding as Biden departed Washington for Europe.
His remarks from Brussels hinted at an unwillingness to accept lame-duck status, much as his detractors may want him to do so. “My focus of any election is on making sure that we retain the House and the United States Senate,” Biden said, “so that I have the room to continue to do the things that I’ve been able to do, in terms of growing the economy and dealing in a rational way with American foreign policy and leading the world — be the leader of the free world.”
Democrats could lose both chambers of Congress in this fall’s midterm elections. What that will mean to prospective presidential candidates — including the sitting president — remains unclear. And though Trump has hinted at wanting to run again, some Republicans are desperate to avoid anointing him the party’s standard bearer in 2024.
The crisis in Ukraine has highlighted Biden’s experience relative to that of potential Republican contenders, some of whom have spent the past several months waging culture wars. One of those recently manifested itself in Washington, in the form of a truckers’ convoy opposing coronavirus vaccine mandates.
As the president spoke from Brussels, a lone vehicle honked loudly outside the White House before driving away.
Never an especially eager culture warrior, Biden has embraced the role of international peacemaker. A veteran of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he also had a formidable diplomatic portfolio while serving as vice president for Barack Obama.
“I’ve been dealing with foreign policy for longer than anybody’s involved in this process right now,” Biden said from Brussels, where he and other leaders listened to an address from Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky earlier in the day. “I don’t think you’ll find any European leader who thinks that I am not up to the job.”
Biden’s remarks carried added resonance because they were delivered from Brussels, the European Union headquarters and, in many ways, a representative of the postwar order that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to disrupt.
As he has frequently done in speeches from Washington, Biden invoked the rise of authoritarianism as a transnational development, asking the German and British reporters arrayed before him to imagine their respective nations suffering an attack similar to the one launched by pro-Trump rioters on Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol.
“Imagine if we sat and watched the doors of the Bundestag broken down and police officers killed, and hundreds of people storming in,” he said. “Or imagine if we saw that happening in the British Parliament, or whatever. How would we feel?”