His announcement was met with applause from top Georgia Democrats, underscoring Biden’s enduring support among party leaders and activists even as polls show him with middling approval ratings. DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond called Biden “Trump kryptonite.”
“He’s someone who can energize both liberal and moderate voters — particularly moderate Republicans,” said Thurmond, a former state labor commissioner. “The Democratic base is solidly behind him, no question. He’s our best option to prevent a Trump second term.”
Despite misgivings about his strategy and concerns about his age from a significant number of Democrats, Biden has so far defied predictions that he’d face a tough primary challenger, essentially clearing the field of intraparty rivals.
The party’s better-than-expected performance in last year’s midterms reinforced Biden’s standing, as have far-reaching legislative packages approved with the help of Georgia U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, whose victories cemented the party’s control of the Senate.
Party strategists also believe Trump’s latest White House bid helped crystallize the importance of the 2024 election to many Democrats who see Biden as the party’s best hope of retaining power in what could be a historic sequel of the last presidential campaign.
“He was never my first choice in 2020, but with that said, the man has done what he said he would,” said Pete Fuller, chair of the Jackson County Democrats. “He won against Trumpism and won Georgia. He has presided over a very progressive agenda, especially over the first year that has defied odds.”
Fuller added: “If he feels able to serve another term, I trust him to do so.”
A clear path
A clear path to Biden’s second nomination wasn’t a given just a few months ago. Party insiders grumbled about potential candidacies from a host of younger Democrats, including Vice President Kamala Harris, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Instead, the only Democratic challengers to the 80-year-old president are fringe contenders. Marianne Williamson, a far-left activist who mounted a failed bid in 2020, is running again. And Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has rolled out a campaign based on skepticism of vaccines.
Still, Biden has only tepid support in public polls. An NBC News poll released this weekend found roughly half of Democratic voters say Biden shouldn’t seek a second term, with many citing his age as a main factor. Other national polls reflect a similar dynamic.
His campaign relies on convincing Americans that his accomplishments in office outweigh persistent concerns about his age. Amid fears about electing a president who would be 86 at the end of his second term, Biden has often admonished critics to “watch me.”
Biden must rebuild a coalition of young supporters, Black voters, moderate suburbanites and disillusioned Republicans who helped him flip Georgia and Arizona while also recapturing the “blue wall” of states in the Upper Midwest that helped propel Trump’s 2016 win.
His challenges in Georgia are stark. Only about one-third of likely Georgia voters approve of Biden’s handling of the job, according to the most recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll. Roughly 1 in 5 Democrats disapprove. Even some supporters have indicated they are open to competition.
“President Biden has been doing a good job during his tenure, however, I believe that one of the major pillars of our democracy is that of freedom of choice,” said Cathi Frederiksen, Democratic chair of Georgia’s 12th Congressional District. “Having a field of Democrats to choose from in a primary ensures that the word of the people is heard.”
An age-old issue
Biden faces a different political landscape in Georgia than he did three years ago, when he became the first Democratic presidential contender to capture the state since 1992.
Trump’s lies about voting fraud and his attempt to overturn the election triggered a Fulton County investigation that looms over his 2024 campaign. His efforts to oust Gov. Brian Kemp and other Georgia Republicans backfired, helping them unify GOP support and win new terms in office.
And Trump’s handpicked candidate for the U.S. Senate, former football star Herschel Walker, was the sole Republican statewide contender in Georgia to lose last year. It helped prove there’s a small but durable bloc of swing voters in the state who can decide an election.
Still, Trump leads polls of likely GOP primary voters even as Kemp and other Republicans plead with conservatives to back an alternative. A University of Georgia poll showed him with a roughly 20-point lead over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, often viewed as the most viable Trump alternative.
Biden has already made clear Georgia will be a priority, despite denying Atlanta’s bid for the Democratic National Convention. He has pushed for Georgia to move earlier in the 2024 primary calendar, and he joined Warnock on the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church in January.
His launch video included several references to Georgia, including a shot of the Atlanta mural honoring the late civil rights icon John Lewis. And he tapped Quentin Fulks, a native of the Middle Georgia town of Ellaville who was Warnock’s campaign manager, to serve as one of his top strategists.
Biden is expected to center his campaign on the public health and climate change measures that top Republicans say enabled a gusher of federal spending that contributed to inflation. Democrats counter that Biden’s agenda will be one of their most important selling points to voters.
In an interview, Ossoff linked the surge of new clean energy projects in Georgia to “the last two years of legislative achievements” engineered by Biden and a Democratic-controlled Congress.
“Georgia has benefited tremendously from these manufacturing incentives and from the infrastructure law,” Ossoff said, “and that gives the president a lot of good news to talk about when he comes to Georgia.”
Kemp, by contrast, said Republicans will make the case that voters “can’t stand four more years” of high inflation and economic turbulence.
“I’m looking forward to having an alternative to what’s not been a good solution for our country,” the governor said.
Biden also plans to appeal to a broader set of voters who oppose Republican-led abortion restrictions, firearms expansions and culture wars issues. But his strongest argument, Thurmond said, might be a potential rematch against Trump that could unify the party like no other force.
“Who can argue that Trump won’t win the GOP nomination? No one. And Biden has a victory over Trump under his belt. He’s created a moderate agenda on many issues and he can appeal to the base. You can’t really argue with that,” Thurmond said.
“The only issue is his age,” Thurmond added. “But as long as he can get the job done, it doesn’t matter how old he is. And he’s getting the job done.”