By Steve Holland and Trevor Hunnicutt
KNOCK, Ireland (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden said on Friday he has decided to run for a second term and would formally announce his re-election campaign “relatively soon.”
“We’ll announce it relatively soon. But the trip here just reinforced my sense of optimism about what can be done,” Biden told reporters at the tail-end of an emotional trip to Ireland. “I told you my plan is to run again.”
Biden has long said he intended to run for re-election but the lack of a formal announcement has sometimes given jitters to supporters unsure if the 80-year-old Democrat, one of the oldest world leaders, would really commit to another four-year term.
Yet behind the scenes, close aides and allies have already begun putting the steps in place to stand up a campaign infrastructure and fundraising apparatus ahead of a 2024 bid that could be a re-run of the 2020 match-up with Republican ex-president Donald Trump, who has already launched his campaign.
Biden’s expected pitch is to “finish the job” after a first term that included several legislative wins, including billions of dollars in federal funds to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and for new infrastructure.
But Biden’s age makes his re-election bid a historic and risky gamble for the Democratic Party, which faces a tough election map to hold the Senate in 2024 and is the minority in the House of Representatives now. Biden’s approval ratings are stuck in the low 40s; he would be 86 by the end of a prospective second term, nine years older than the average U.S. male life expectancy.
Doctors declared Biden, who does not drink alcohol and exercises five times a week, “fit for duty” after an examination in February. The White House says his record shows that he is mentally sharp enough for the rigors of the job.
(Reporting by Steve Holland in Knock, Ireland, and Trevor Hunnicutt in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)