By - Reuters
By Trevor Hunnicutt
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden is running again, he and White House officials insist, he's just not ready to announce it yet.
The expected date for Biden, 80, to make his 2024 presidential plans official has slipped from just after the State of the Union address in February to March, to potentially May or even later, according to aides and advisers.
Biden trails recent Democratic incumbent presidents on the issue: Barack Obama announced he would run for a second term in 2012 on April 4, 2011, and Bill Clinton's 1996 re-election announcement was April 14, 1995. Jimmy Carter, however, waited until Dec. 4, 1979, to announce his 1980 re-election run.
Republican Donald Trump said on June 18, 2019, that he would run for a second term in 2020, while George W. Bush made his 2004 plans public on May 16, 2003.
The lack of a formal announcement has given jitters to supporters unsure if the Democrat president, one of the oldest world leaders, would or should commit to another four-year term. He would be 86 at the end of a prospective second term.
Several factors have been in play, allies said, including picking a campaign team and locking down fundraising plans for financing what may be the most expensive campaign in history.
In recent weeks, Biden has laid out the likely themes of a re-election bid in political speeches, secured a doctor's note that he is "fit for duty," told Democrats to re-order the party's primary calendar in a manner favoring his nomination and picked Chicago as the city where he would ostensibly formally become the nominee next year. Biden is yet to face a serious challenge for his party's nomination.
"We'll announce it relatively soon. But the trip here just reinforced my sense of optimism about what can be done," Biden told reporters at the tail-end of an emotional trip to Ireland last week. "I told you my plan is to run again."
FOCUSED ON BRIDGES, NOT TRUMP
Biden started the month by kicking off a multi-week, nearly 30-state "Investing in America" tour where the president and top administration officials highlighted infrastructure, chips and inflation act money that is starting to flow into states.
It is part of broader push to send Biden administration officials from coast-to-coast talking about the over $1 trillion in federal money Biden and Democrats put through Congress to fund roads, bridges and high-tech jobs.
This week, Biden plans remarks on childcare and environmental justice, along with a visit to a labor union training facility in Maryland to talk about the economy.
While not technically campaign events, they offer a platform for the president to promote likely campaign themes on the need to lower childcare costs, seek racial justice and build an economy that benefits the working class.
Once Biden is officially running for president, his campaign will be asked daily for responses on hot-button issues as well as the latest salvos and foreign policy observations from top Republican candidate Donald Trump, and to respond to Trump's long list of legal woes. Until then, the Biden White House seems ready to stick with a policy of near-silence on Trump.
CAMPAIGN STAFF, FUNDRAISING
Biden has still not decided who will run his campaign, and as of last month was considering at least three people to serve as his campaign manager.
Donors who financed his last campaign are standing by, planning a series of events featuring Biden that will take place right around the time he announces, raising millions of dollars to give his campaign a strong start, according to people familiar with the plans.
A formal announcement and filing with the Federal Election Commission would officially open the doors to donations to Biden's campaign committee, but also put new ethics and spending scrutiny on Biden's activities as president.
Incumbent presidents need to reimburse the U.S. government for travel and other expenses related to their campaign.
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Heather Timmons, editing by Deepa Babington)