Why Joe Biden hasn’t announced he is running again—yet
JOE BIDEN is being coy. On April 10th, at the White House Easter Egg Roll, the president told an interviewer that he planned to host at least three or four more of the annual events. Pressed, he said he intended to run for a second term as president. A few days later, fresh from a four-day trip to Ireland, he vowed to formally announce relatively soon. Now it seems he could announce next week. Donald Trump declared his candidacy for the Republican nomination in November; several others in his party have followed suit. Why has Mr Biden hesitated to kick start his own campaign? In America, there is an important difference between teasing a presidential campaign and launching it. Only once a candidate has formally declared can they start officially raising money. Political action committees can fundraise on behalf of potential candidates before that point, but there are limits on the amount they can receive. There is no substitute for the money a campaign raises on its own, says Michael Toner, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, which regulates election finances. To hire staff, prepare for debates and the like, a campaign needs to tap its own coffers. Once a campaign begins to collect funds, it is obliged to disclose them. Before election year, hauls must be reported quarterly (come 2024 candidates will be required to report them monthly). Such deadlines can affect a candidates decision about when to announce. Publishing a measly two weeks-worth of fundraising when competitors have been at it for three months might give the impression that their campaign lacks momentum. But so far Mr Bidens signalling seems to have dampened any serious primary challenges. (Two Democratic candidates have entered the race but they are not considered viable contenders: Robert Kennedy junior pedals anti-vaccine guff and conspiracy theories; Marianne Williamson is a self-help guru.) That means Mr Biden does not need to worry about fundraising comparisons. But at the same time he has no need to enter the fray early and it will be easy for [the president] to build up a war chest even starting in August or September, says Mr Tonerall of the money he raises can go towards the general election. Republican candidates, on the other hand, have a crowded field to clear. Their first primary debate is set for August 2023, and to qualify, they will probably have to show they have hit fundraising or polling targets. Given Mr Trump, the front-runner, is grappling with one indictment and potentially faces others, their contest is getting messy. Mr Biden may not want to draw attention away from his rivals difficulties with his own announcementor make himself, rather than Ron DeSantis, a probable Republican challenger, the target of Mr Trumps ire. The president has another advantage: like all incumbents, he can campaign unofficially from the White House, and fly around the country on Air Force One. His state-of-the-union address in February was widely seen as a pitch to undecided voters, reminding them of all he had accomplished in his first term. Over the course of a three-week Investing in America tour this spring, he and his officials spoke in nearly 30 states and territories, plugging the infrastructure and jobs his policies have created. A personal reason may also partly explain the presidents hesitation. Mr Biden has a habit of drawing out big decisions; aides have described the Socratic journey he makes before taking action. He dragged out his decision to run in 2020, announcing in late April 2019, and by the time he started his campaign in 2008, he had been signalling his intention for months. Mr Biden is 80 years old, something which worries Americans: in a poll from March, conducted by SSRS for CNN, two-thirds said he lacked the stamina and sharpness to serve effectively. In an obvious way, time is not on Mr Bidens side. But in an era where American politics is frequently charged, even menacing, the presidents political superpower is an ability to keep things relatively boring. Republican voters seem to be rallying around the 76-year-old Mr Trump. Mr Biden has done his best to avoid tussling with the turbulent Mr Trump, but before long he must enter the fray.