(WASHINGTON) — As hundreds of Democrats gather in Philadelphia this weekend for their annual winter meeting, the party is primed to create a smooth on-ramp for Biden to gear up for his reelection campaign, which a source says is expected to launch within months.
The main business of the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) winter meeting will go down at a Saturday session where the full body will finally green light a reconfigured — and somewhat controversial — primary calendar boosted by the White House that cuts the famed Iowa causes and all but guarantees the loss of the typically first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary as part of the official early window.
Many Democrats see the proposed changes — adding Georgia and Michigan to the lineup while tapping South Carolina to kick-off the entire schedule — as hyper-advantageous to Biden, who owes much of his 2020 campaign reinvigoration to key voting blocs in those states after early setbacks in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Supporters of the calendar shuffle also say it will allow a more diverse group of Democratic voters, including Black people in the South, to have a larger and earlier role in selecting primary candidates.
But others, like Sen. Bernie Sanders’ senior adviser Faiz Shakir, critiqued the newly proposed calendar as a “fatal mistake” because, he wrote in a December New York Times op-ed, South Carolina “is not trending in any way toward the Democratic Party.”
This week, the DNC is set to resolve the matter, with the Biden-backed calendar likely to get unanimous support at the same time the party is officially declaring their support for his likely reelection campaign.
The president has repeatedly said he intends to run in 2024 but that he hasn’t definitively decided.
One DNC member familiar with discussions around timing, who like others in this story was granted anonymity to speak candidly, said his reelection announcement would occur within a few months. (The White House declined to comment.)
Outgoing White House chief of staff Ron Klain told Biden on Wednesday, at a transition ceremony, that he “look[s] forward to being on your side when you run for president in 2024.”
And while Republicans recently saw internal fissures over their leadership on public display in the elections for Republican National Committee chair and House speaker, several DNC members tell ABC they are preparing to stand firm, despite Biden’s middling approval numbers and the Democratic base’s stated preference for another standard-bearer in the next cycle.
One member called their strategy “controlled unity” as Biden is scheduled to appear at the winter meeting on Friday along with Vice President Kamala Harris. On Thursday morning, a resolution was unanimously passed supporting Biden running for reelection.
While the president is expected to stop short of making any formal announcement in his remarks to the group on Friday, DNC members believe the newly configured primary speaks for itself.
If approved, the line-up would begin with South Carolina on Feb. 3, 2024, followed by Nevada and New Hampshire hosting their contests concurrently on Feb. 6, then Georgia on Feb. 13 and ending with Michigan on Feb. 27.
“Look, if you start to read the tea leaves here, you’ll see that the president is running. The first and most obvious signal of that is the calendar,” said one DNC member.
“The top line is Biden’s going to come there, he’s going to make it clear that he and Harris are running [in 2024], that’s going to soak up the interest level on Friday,” another DNC member said, predicting that the entire committee will then “rubber stamp” the new nominating calendar which was previously agreed upon by the Rules and Bylaws Committee.
“This is not a calendar for an open primary. This is a calendar for reelect,” a third DNC member said. “I do think this will be the calendar for ’24. I do not think it will be the calendar for 2028.
Biden’s presumptive bid will result in an almost certain nomination, which makes some Democrats indifferent about the timing of his announcement.
The third DNC member noted that Biden faces “no pressure” to announce a 2024 campaign as no other establishment Democrat is planning to oppose him.
Other DNC members predicted that Donald Trump’s fairly low-key campaign kickoff so far could be contributing to Biden taking his time, having said last year that he would confer with his family over the winter holidays.
“I have heard from no one within the DNC or other power brokers within the Democratic Party any reservation about Joe Biden,” one of the DNC members said.
Another of the members who spoke with ABC News theorized the timeline for Biden’s announcement has more to do with the future of his presidential agenda with a divided Congress and related factors that might influence his candidacy — like the recent discovery of classified documents retained while at of office at an old office in Washington, D.C., and at his Wilmington, Delaware, home — than any threat of a primary challenger.
This member said that the narrative and media attention will change around Biden when he is “encumbered” by running a campaign at the same time that he is running the federal government.
“There’s no perceived opposition on the Democratic side. So why not just continue to do events, and you get all the free media and are spending money to do it?” one of the DNC members said.
However, one potential challenger to Biden from the left has made herself known: author and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson. In the last few weeks, she’s teased possible trips to the early nominating states of New Hampshire and South Carolina to explore the option of running.
But many DNC members brushed that aside, given Williamson is without party backing, comparable funds and comparable support from the party’s base.
“My expectation is that after President Biden announces that there won’t be any substantive, well-funded, well-known people running against him,” South Carolina DNC member Carol Fowler said.
One of the DNC members said that attempting to primary Biden would only serve to weaken the party’s ultimate chance to keep the White House.
“You undermine him in the campaign. You don’t make him stronger,” this member said.
New Hampshire DNC member Ray Buckley, however, cited the chance of a Williamson campaign as an example for Democratic leaders of an “insurgent candidate” who could optimize the state’s anger at losing its nominating slot, suggesting the angst over the calendar shakeup had electoral ramifications.
The new nominating calendar will “create an opening for an insurgent candidate — serious or not — who can garner media attention and capitalize on Granite Stater’s anger about being passed over by [Biden’s] campaign,” Buckley wrote in a letter published last week.
“Some of her supporters have made that very clear, that that is something that they are heavily thinking about,” Buckley said in an interview with ABC News.
New Hampshire Democrats will use their time at the DNC winter meeting to engage in conversations with members of the Rules and Bylaws Committee and the White House about the “predicament” they’ve found themselves in: where their secretary of state will not breach state law, which mandates New Hampshire be the first in the nation to hold a primary election.
Opposition from New Hampshire — along with hesitation in Georgia about working to change its laws to accommodate a new calendar — forced a DNC committee to vote last week on an extension for the two states so that they might meet the requirements of their spots in the restructured early state schedule.
But Buckley maintains that New Hampshire Democrats do not have the power to break the law instituted by state leaders, even if they are punished by the DNC and are at risk of losing delegates.
“We want to make sure that we are successful: that we carry the state for the Biden-Harris ticket and that we pick up the governor’s race so we gain it, we hold onto our congressional seats and gain the majorities in the legislature,” Buckley said. “That’s what our focus is.”
He said they’ll continue to fight for their spot at the front of the primary line with little expectation that the DNC at large will vote for anything other than the new early nominating calendar.
ABC News’ Justin Gomez contributed to this report.
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