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Democrats split on Biden one-term pledge despite souring economy and polls

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Democrats are becoming increasingly vocal in discouraging President Joe Biden from seeking reelection in 2024, but there is disagreement about whether his making a one-term pledge could help the party before the elections this November.

Yet while Biden notched a number of legislative wins this week, polls continue to indicate the Democratic base is amenable to another nominee in two years.

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Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) this week became the first member of Congress to go on the record and contend that Biden should not run again in 2024.

“No,” Phillips told a Minnesota radio station. “The country would be well served by a new generation of compelling, well-prepared, dynamic Democrats who step up.”

“It’s time for a generational change,” he added. “Most of my colleagues agree with that.”

National attention to Phillips’s interview coincided with a Friday poll that found a majority of voters would prefer that both Biden and former President Donald Trump not run in 2024. Specifically, 30% of Democrats held that opinion roughly 100 days before the midterm cycle, according to the NewsNation-Decision Desk HQ survey.

Days earlier, a CNN-SSRS poll found that 75% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters want the party to nominate another standard-bearer. Two weeks prior, a New York Times-Siena College survey reported a similar finding of 64% of Democrats.

Former Newsday publisher and New York City Mayor John Lindsay chief of staff Steven Isenberg asserted in a Washington Post opinion piece this week that Biden making a one-term pledge before November could boost the party’s prospects in competitive House and Senate races. Biden did promise to be a “bridge” to future Democratic leaders before the Michigan 2020 primary and his securing the party’s nod later that year.

However, Democratic strategist Stefan Hankin disagrees.

“What voters are sitting on the sidelines being like, ‘Well, I’m not going to vote in 2022 because I don’t like Biden,’ but then would vote because Biden said he was going to only be a one-term president?” the Lincoln Park Strategies founder and president told the Washington Examiner.

Hankin did concede that although, at least according to him, there should be “a very clear choice of what’s on the ballot” these midterm elections and in 2024, “the American public is not viewing this as that stark of a choice.” He partly attributed that to White House and broader Democratic messaging.

“That aside, look, Biden does not represent any kind of change or move to that ‘bridge’ that he was talking about,” Hankin said, reiterating the need for “a younger, fresh face at the top of the ticket versus just a boring old white dude.”

Fellow Democratic strategist Mike Nellis also thought a one-term pledge would “do nothing to change” November. Authentic’s CEO described it as “a classic trap that Democrats fall into all the time.”

“People care about issues that matter to them — inflation, abortion access, gun violence,” Nellis said. “Winning the midterms requires clear messaging and plans to address those issues and more.”

That has not stopped lawmakers and candidates being needled on whether Biden should announce a reelection campaign, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

“If he runs, I’ll support him,” Schumer said this week, not quite responding to a question regarding whether Biden would launch a second bid.

And former South Carolina GOP Rep. Joe Cunningham, now the Palmetto State’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee, repeated his position concerning Biden after proposing to expand his state’s 72-year-old judicial age restrictions to politicians. Biden turns 80 in November.

“Biden shouldn’t run for another term,” Cunningham said. “He should step aside and allow for a new generation of leadership.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has been adamant that Biden and his aides are “not worried” about the polls and that the president “has been clear that he intends to run” in 2024.

“We are so far away from that time, from getting close to thinking about that,” she told reporters Wednesday. “What I can say is we’re going to continue to do the work.”

On Thursday, she said: “He intends to run in 2024. Until then, he is going to do the business of the American people — as he has been doing for the past 18 months.”

And then, on Friday, she added: “We are very focused as well on the Inflation Reduction Act, as I just went through and explained. We saw the CHIPS [and Science] Act passed, which is going to cut costs for families, going to strengthen supply chains, strengthen our national security, invest in manufacturing. Those are the things that we’re going to continue to focus on and much more.”

Speculation related to Biden and 2024 is underpinned by the president’s poor average 38% and 39% approval ratings, according to FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics, respectively. Democrats hope the passage of Biden’s semiconductor bill and Schumer’s deal with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) for a climate, energy, and healthcare party-only reconciliation measure will bolster his and their popularity.

Yet Republicans are not letting Democrats distance themselves from Biden too easily. The Republican National Committee, for example, has underscored that Democrats “can’t erase Joe Biden and how often they vote with him.”

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“Points for creativity, but voters know congressional Democrats are tied at the hip with Joe Biden’s failed agenda of higher prices, historic inflation, and falling wages,” RNC spokesman Will O’Grady said.