Tuesday, February 7, 2023
Feb. 7, 2023

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At Nantucket retreat, Biden family weighs run for second term

President has repeatedly said he intends to run in 2024, citing only his family or a surprise development as possible deterrents

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President Joe Biden and his family are tackling a weighty question during their Thanksgiving holiday retreat to the chilly quiet of Nantucket: whether he’ll seek a second term in 2024.

A final decision won’t be made on the Massachusetts island, where the Bidens are staying at a home owned by Carlyle Group co-founder and Bloomberg contributor David Rubenstein while enjoying beach walks, local restaurants and shopping. But the president and his closest relatives will discuss a potential reelection bid there and during the Christmas holidays, current and former aides say.

The president and first lady Jill Biden arrived Tuesday at Nantucket, where they have regularly spent Thanksgiving dating back to before Biden was vice president. A few close family members accompanied them, including Biden’s daughter Ashley and his son Hunter, who is expected to be a target of House Republican investigations in the next two years.

Biden has the wind at his back, after his Democratic Party enjoyed a historically successful midterm election. His aides widely expect him to run again, and his team is moving forward as if a final announcement is a formality. But the president has said his family will have an outsized say in the decision, which isn’t expected until next year.

“If his heart is in it, they are there for him. It is highly unlikely they will not support him,” said Michael LaRosa, a former aide to Jill Biden. “He’s running. And I don’t know who else but him should be running. He’s proven himself to be not just an effective campaigner, but an effective executive.”

‘A family decision’

Biden downplayed the stakes of the trip, ignoring shouted questions about 2024 on Friday and when asked again on Saturday how the discussions were going.

“We’re not having any. We’re celebrating,” he said to reporters as he, Jill Biden and family shopped on Nantucket’s Main Street.

Even so, Biden has repeatedly said he intends to run and has cited only his family or a surprise development, such as a health crisis, as deterrents. The holiday getaway gives him the chance to weigh that decision outside of Washington.

“My intention is that I run again. But I’m a great respecter of fate. And this is, ultimately, a family decision,” Biden said this month, adding that a decision could come “early next year.”

The Bidens are a fixture on Nantucket. The area skews Democratic, as does New England, where the party swept U.S. House and Senate midterm races. But there are GOP pockets on the island: Republican Senate candidates Herschel Walker, JD Vance and Mehmet Oz all raised money there.

But the smattering of protesters and Trump supporters who often harry Biden on his travels elsewhere in the country are absent in Nantucket. Cheers and encouragement greeted his every move; people lined up at restaurants for a chance to dine near him and huddled over their phones to compare photos after he passed by. The local pharmacy sells Joe Biden action figures.

Jill Biden, shopping on her own Friday morning, drew a crowd of onlookers outside each shop she popped into. “We love you!” one woman shouted.

After lunch, as the president and first lady walked a few blocks through town and posed for a photo with one shopkeeper, bystanders shouted, “We love you, Mr. President!” and “No red wave, no red wave” — a reference to Republicans’ fizzled expectations of broad midterm gains.

But even among a friendly audience, Biden’s age is an issue. The president turned 80 on Nov. 20, making him the first octogenarian to occupy the White House. An admirer shouted, “Happy birthday” to him as he was shopping.

He would turn 82 the month of the 2024 election and would be 86 at the end of a second term.

Many Democrats want their party to embrace younger leaders, polls have shown.

“His age is a little bit of a concern,” Wendy Beardsley, 67, otherwise a Biden supporter, said Friday in Nantucket as Jill Biden shopped down the street. She noted the president’s occasional stumbles in public remarks.

“Sometimes, I don’t watch it because he makes me nervous that he’ll mess up,” she said.

But she said the president has accomplished a lot and she’s generally happy with him compared to alternatives — especially former President Donald Trump, who has already announced a third run for the White House. She would “most definitely” back Biden over Trump, she said.

The White House declined to comment for this story. One aide said Biden was underestimated in 2020 and that questions about his age were overblown then and now.

Ugly campaign

Jill Biden, his children and his grandchildren are all crucial sounding boards for Biden, who often recounts discussions with them before deciding on his 2020 run.

“They started off and said, ‘Pop, you got to run,’” Biden recalled during a campaign stop on Nov. 1. “The reason I was reluctant to run: I knew how ugly it was going to be.”

The president said his grandson showed him a crude meme smearing Biden as a sexual predator — acknowledging that it would be ugly for the family regardless of whether he ran.

“That’s when I decided to run — when they asked me to do it,” he recalled. “They knew what was coming; it wasn’t going to be a shock to them.”

Storm clouds loom again for Biden’s family. House Republicans are planning a raft of investigations next year, including into Hunter Biden’s business ties, which they allege could compromise the president.

Biden has largely shrugged off the threat. “The American people will look at all of that for what it is. It’s just almost comedy,” he said earlier this month.

The investigations, though, will likely bring the family’s dealings and matters such as Hunter Biden’s battles with addiction back in the public spotlight. Biden wants to make sure his family is up for another run because the process will be more bruising than in 2020, one former aide said.

The first lady holds the most sway in Biden’s decision, aides say.

The president has signaled that she’s on board, telling MSNBC last month that Jill Biden believes “we’re doing something very important, and I shouldn’t walk away from it.”

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