PHILADELPHIA — President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris delivered an early preview of their reelection campaign Friday night, rallying the Democratic Party faithful ahead of an expected formal 2024 announcement.
In their back-to-back speeches, Biden and Harris took a victory lap on strong economic numbers released this week, touted accomplishments from their first term and doubled-down on attacking Republicans as “extreme MAGA.” Their rare joint appearance at the DNC served as a soft launch for their reelection efforts as the pair road tested their 2024 pitch.
“Let me ask you a simple question: Are you with me?” Biden said, sparking chants of “four more years” from the crowd, waving signs blazoned with “Go Joe” and “Kamala.”
Biden’s campaign rhetoric on Friday night doesn’t necessarily mean a formal announcement is imminent, as Democrats expect an announcement in late March or April. But the DNC has already hired several communications rapid response directors who will be deployed to the four Republican early states and Florida, according to a party aide.
“We have momentum,” Harris said in her speech. “And now, let’s let the people know this is what they voted for.”
Democrats are also eager to present a united front, hoping to contrast themselves with a Republican Party that is struggling with its own intra-party drama and a divided presidential field.
Even though former President Donald Trump announced another presidential run last year, several other GOP candidates are still expected to launch their own bids. Former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley is expected to launch her presidential campaign in two weeks, while Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) will kick off a “listening tour” in South Carolina and Iowa. Former Vice President Mike Pence is also planning stops in South Carolina, an early presidential nominating state. And last weekend, the Republican National Committee closed out its own winter meeting with a contentious chair’s race.
“It makes sense for them to come here, talk to the party, as a ticket, and both of them make the case, heading into the State of the Union,” said Mo Elleithee, a DNC member, citing Tuesday’s State of the Union speech, another high-profile, message-testing vehicle.
“It’s feeling like showtime,” Elleithee added.
It’s also a marked contrast from Biden’s standing a year ago, when his legislative agenda appeared stalled, inflation continued to spike and Democrats privately worried about Biden’s 2024 prospects.
In his speech, Biden ticked through Democratic priorities accomplished during his first term, including lowering the cost of prescription drugs, investing in combating climate change and appointing the first Black woman to the Supreme Court. He also laid out a number of policy goals for a potential second term, including banning assault weapons, codifying Roe v. Wade and strengthening voter access laws — a policy wish list that’s not currently possible with a divided Congress.
“America is back,” Biden said, “and we’re leading the world again.”
Biden and Harris also veered into sharper attacks on Republicans, returning to themes that they regularly hit ahead of the 2022 midterms by tying the GOP to extremism and election denialism.
In 2022, Harris said, “we defeated ‘Big Lies’ and extremism,” but “extremist so-called leaders” are still banning books and “criminali[zing] doctors.”
“This is not your father’s Republican Party,” Biden said. “These aren’t conservatives. These are disruptive people. They intend to destroy the progress we made.”
Mark Longabaugh, a Democratic strategist who served as a senior adviser on Bernie Sanders’ 2016 bid, said the Democratic Party “feels like this worked for them in the 2022 elections,” and “I’m guessing they’ve got a certain amount of research that shows that it continues to be a salient message.”
Biden and Harris also appeared at a Democratic fundraiser Friday afternoon, where Biden told donors that Democrats have to “lay out what we’ve done, tell them what more we have to get done and how we’re going to pay for it.”
The three-day DNC gathering will culminate on Saturday with a vote to dramatically upend the presidential nominating calendar. The proposal, recommended by Biden, would elevate South Carolina to a coveted first-place position and eliminate Iowa from the early window. It would also seek to add Georgia and Michigan to the early nominating process.
The proposal has faced significant pushback from New Hampshire Democrats, who have waged a public battle against their state’s position in the lineup, which would put them three days after the South Carolina primary and on the same day as the Nevada primary.
“We’re in an impossible, no-win situation,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley at a press conference on Friday afternoon, citing the Republican-controlled legislature and GOP Gov. Chris Sununu’s opposition to repealing or changing the state’s century-old law that requires them to be the first-in-the-nation primary.
“It seems odd we’d be punished for something that’s completely out of our control,” he said.
They also stressed that by forcing New Hampshire out of compliance with its own state law, it would “give Republicans an opportunity to out-organize us” and “create a perfect storm to hurt Biden and Democrats all the way down” the ticket, Buckley said.
But the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, the group charged with recommending the new line up early states, delayed any talk of sanctions against New Hampshire by granting them an extension until June 3 to comply with the DNC’s requirements. Georgia, another state controlled by a Republican governor and legislature, was also granted an extension.