Biden ‘totally running’ for second term as president, MSNBC interviewer says

Jonathan Capehart, who interviewed US president for TV network, says he is sure Biden is preparing to run again

Joe Biden is “totally running” for a second term, the MSNBC host Jonathan Capehart has said, just days after interviewing the US president.

The oldest president ever inaugurated, Biden will turn 80 on 20 November.

He told Capehart: “I can’t even say the age I’m going to be. I can’t even get it out of my mouth. You think I’m joking. I’m not joking.”

Speculation about Biden’s age and ambition has become a constant in US politics. Some Democrats have avoided saying he should run again or committing to supporting him if he does. Republicans – members of a party dominated by Donald Trump, a decidedly erratic 76 – regularly claim Biden is too old.

Regular Biden gaffes, this week including calling Rishi Sunak, the new British prime minister, “Rashi Sanook”, have reinforced such impressions in some quarters.

Writing for the Washington Post, Capehart said he was sure Biden was ready to run.

Capehart said: “After my interview … I got the same question over and over again: How is he? Each time, it was asked in that skittish way one speaks when inquiring about someone they fear is in decline.

“Folks, listen to me. Biden is just fine. More than fine. In fact … I came away with two overwhelming impressions: Biden is totally going to run for reelection in 2024. And he doesn’t just like being president; he loves the job of president.”

Capehart said Biden initially “gave his standard answer about not making a formal declaration” about 2024 “because of the legal implications of such an announcement” – but then gave two “nonverbal cues”.

The first came when Capehart asked if Jill Biden, the first lady, supported another run.

“Biden looked at me as if to say, ‘Brother, you know I’m not going there,’ which I took as my hint to end the interview. But when I started my goodbye, I saw another nonverbal cue – one that signaled he wanted to say more but wasn’t sure he should … I motioned for the president to tell me more.

“‘My wife thinks that I, that we’re, that we’re doing something very important, and I shouldn’t walk away from it,’ Biden told me. Formal declaration or not, the man is totally running.”

Capehart cited an NBC report in which a Jill Biden staffer said the family would support a 2024 campaign. Capehart added that Biden’s “sense of duty” had “only grown” since his son Beau died in 2015.

Biden told Capehart: “There’s only one reason … to be in public life: Can you make life better for other people? And there’s no place that you have a better opportunity to do that than as president of the United States.

“I have more substantive experience on the issues facing the country, both in foreign policy and in domestic policy, than any president ever, just because I have been around so long doing this.”

Capehart wrote: “Sure, Biden is getting old. But the almost-octogenarian I interviewed was fit and eager to take on the decisions that land on a president’s desk. So, stop asking if Biden is OK. He very much is.”

Capehart also said Democrats should stop discussing potential successors, the “kind of loose talk [that] will ramp up after the midterms if Democrats get shellacked”.

Instead, he said, the party should “circle the wagons around the Democrat who already has the job. Not as a firing squad, as they are wont to do, but as a sturdy wall of support. He’s going to need it.”


Martin Pengelly in New York

The GuardianTramp

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