A year makes a difference after all.
President Joe Biden begins 2023 politically stronger than 12 months ago, bolstered by his party’s surprise midterms success, a robust set of legislative accomplishments and the resilience of the alliance he rallied to support Ukraine after Russia’s invasion. Indeed, as he vacations on St. Croix, the biggest decision he faces is whether to seek reelection to the office he holds.
Biden has not yet fully committed to another term, according to three people with knowledge of the deliberations but not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations. On his island vacation, Biden continued his running conversation with family and a select few friends and allies about a reelection bid.
There are challenges still on the horizon, from an economy threatening to slow down, to the war in Europe, to an incoming Republican House majority threatening gridlock and investigations. But those in the president’s circle believe there is a strong and growing likelihood that he will run again and that an announcement could potentially come earlier than had been expected, possibly as soon as mid-February, around the expected date of the State of the Union, according to those people.
That potentially accelerated time is owed, in part, to a sense inside the White House and among Biden allies, that the new year dawns on a note of revival, one marked by an unlikely comeback that has reassured fellow Democrats.
Revamping the primary calendar to put Biden-friendly South Carolina first was another sign of intention to run again. First Lady Jill Biden has signaled that she is onboard with another bid, even as some close Biden worry about the toll of a campaign on the 80-year-old president. Advisors privately acknowledge that Biden benefitted in 2020 by being spared the full rigors of a campaign due to the pandemic and some close to him harbor anxieties as to how he will handle a punishing, full-blown itinerary this time around.
Though some Democrats still express worry about Biden’s age, their public doubts were largely silenced by the party’s strong November showing, in which Democrats grew their Senate lead and prevented a red wave in the House. There are still worries, chief among them, per White House aides, is the economy.
Though inflation has somewhat cooled, it remains high in most sectors and there are fears that gas prices could rise again next year. Moreover, there is a quiet concern in the West Wing that the nation’s economy will slow for at least the first quarter of 2023, according to administration officials, even if the United States manages to technically avoid a recession.
Europe, meanwhile, seems poised for a possibly significant setback, having been battered by inflation and an energy crisis exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. That could cause residual effects in the U.S. as could a lingering Covid crisis in China, which has sparked worries in Washington about supply line challenges as well as the possible birth of a new virus variant that could spread throughout the globe.