Democratic congressman continues to be a thorn in Biden’s side over 2024 primary

Joe Biden continues to face prominent calls to step aside from voices in his own party, as the 80-year-old president vows that he will win reelection in 2024.

In a normal election year, any incumbent president would coast to victory in their party’s nominating contests, and next year is likely to be no exception. But Mr Biden is facing more criticism than most as many Democrats openly fret whether the oldest-ever president to be sworn into office will be able to be an effective standard-bearer for his party next year.

One of those Democrats sounding the alarm bells is Rep Dean Phillips, a congressman from Minnesota who has been the only elected member of his party in the House or Senate to openly call for Mr Biden to face a serious primary challenge. As of now, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is not planning to host debates for the 2024 primary season, meaning that the president will never face any of his challengers onstage.

Mr Phillips pointed out, in a Sunday interview with Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press, that while Mr Biden is generally leading nationally against opponents like Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, he trails those same candidates or ties them statistically in some polling of key swing states, such as Arizona and Michigan.

The “majority” of Americans, he said, want Mr Biden to “pass the torch” and let other Democrats have a real competition for the 2024 primary — even as he attempted to back away from the idea that he himself would mount a bid. The congressman suggested that the candidate to take on Republicans next year should be a governor from the midwest or the Rust Belt, nodding as Mr Todd named Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer and his own home state’s Tim Walz. He also named JB Pritzker, governor of Illinois.

“Some people have asked me that I not use their names, because of this institutional fear that it might impact you down the road,” he noted. “[But] this is the time to meet the moment.”

The mention of Mr Pritzker as a potential candidate by Mr Phillips is significant, given that the governor has been spotted in early primary states and is viewed by many Democrats and political analysts alike as a politician with both national aspirations and the credibility to mount a real bid. The billionaire governor has won many fans in the party with his record in the state and has the financial means to bankroll a national bid, which would put him at an immediate advantage over possible rivals.

One figure that Mr Phillips is notably not putting his support behind is Senator Joe Manchin, the conservative West Virginia Democrat who is rumoured to be considering exiting the Democratic Party entirely, following the footsteps (or coattails) of Sen Kyrsten Sinema. Mr Manchin is also known to be considering launching an independent bid for the presidency should he make the jump to leave the party, and would likely do so with the backing of No Labels, a group of rabblerousing centrists that have been threatening to support a third-party challenger for months.

Mr Biden’s polling woes in key swing states have worried some Democrats who see a repeat of 2016 on the horizon; for months, Hillary Clinton led Donald Trump in national polling only to be undone in key swing states where her campaign had spent little to no effort to be competitive.

Numerous surveys of the 2024 field have indicated that a slight majority of Democrats want Mr Biden to step aside and open up the field for younger competitors. But those same polls also indicate that he holds a massive lead over the only Democrats who have announced bids so far, author Marianne Williamson and Robert F Kennedy, known for his activism against medical authorities.

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