Behind the scenes

Why isn't Biden officially announcing his candidacy?

The difference between announcing you're running, and announcing that you'll announce that you're running

Speaking with the press during the official White House Easter Egg Roll on Monday, President Biden offered what is to date his strongest public affirmation that he will indeed run for a second term in office in 2024. Asked by Today host Al Roker whether he'd be participating in the annual presidential tradition "after 2024," Biden first joked that he'd be holding "at least three or four more Easter egg rolls, maybe five," before confirming more concretely to the NBC broadcaster that "I'm planning on running, Al."

"But," Biden cautioned, "we're not prepared to announce it yet." 

Biden's admission came amidst much speculation over the president's future plans. Dogged by sagging support for a re-election bid and broader questions about his stature as the oldest president in American history, a 2024 Biden campaign could ultimately end up resembling his 2020 run against Donald Trump, who currently sits confidently atop a lethargic field of GOP candidates

Since Biden has now essentially declared his 2024 run, the question now becomes: why hasn't he actually announced anything? What exactly is preventing him from officially launching his next race, and what's the difference between saying you're in, and actually announcing a campaign? 

What is he waiting for? 

In part, Biden's delay stems from circumstances largely out of his control — and, depending on who you ask, to his benefit, as well. "No major Democratic challenger is emerging; his now-indicted predecessor is consuming the political spotlight; and a major clash with congressional Republicans over spending is looming," explained NBC's Mike Memoli, Peter Nicholas, Carol E. Lee and Monica Alba this week. In other words, with no pressure from his own party, and his presumptive top challenger forced into a defensive crouch from unrelated issues, Biden can focus on his immediate role as commander-in-chief without the need to stake his candidacy this early in the election cycle, thereby refocusing Republican attacks.

What's more, as one source who spoke with NBC confirmed, "the decision part is over, but he resents the pressure to have to announce what he's already decided." 

Speaking with CNN before Biden made his Monday non-announcement, a Democratic insider added that Biden is "not ambivalent about serving a second term, but he's in no rush to be a candidate again."

"What's the upside?" the insider continued.

Ultimately, there is a sense that the longer Biden can focus on his job in the White House, the better positioned he'll be for 2024. 

"He's not going to win re-election or lose re-election based on what happens in his campaign," Democratic strategist Brad Bannon told The Denver Post. "He's going to win it based on his performance as president and the performance of his opponent, whoever it is."

What changes when he makes it official? 

As Biden himself has noted, there's a difference between being a candidate in spirit, and one in name. "Once I make that judgment [to officially launch my campaign] whole series of regulations kick in and I have to be – I treat myself as a candidate from that moment on," the president explained during an interview with MSNBC's Jonathan Capehart late last year. 

Among those regulations and challenges are rules around staffing a campaign, which would likely mean pulling some current administration officials out of the White House. According to CNN, there are other practical issues that haven't been settled yet, including where the campaign's official headquarters and the next Democratic National Convention will be situated. 

Ultimately, the timing of his pending announcement could come down to a question of money. As an officially declared candidate, Biden would be forced to publicly disclose his fundraising hauls each quarter. As Axios reported earlier this month, "the first fundraising quarter for 2023 has passed, and the second fundraising quarter runs April 1 to June 30." The plan, then, would be to potentially wait until the start of the next quarter on July 1st in order to show "strong initial fundraising numbers, to avoid news reports about a lack of enthusiasm or vulnerability."

For the time being, then, Biden seems perfectly content to have it both ways — signaling in few uncertain terms that he will be the Democratic nominee in 2024, while making sure in the short term to take all the time he needs before actually locking himself into the constraints that come with official candidacy. 

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