Barack Obama has reportedly warned Joe Biden about how strong a challenge Donald Trump will be in their second election battle in 2024, should Trump win the Republican nomination next year as expected.
Polling now shows Trump and Biden closely matched for a second presidential contest.
At a private White House lunch with Biden in June, Obama also “promised to do all he could to help the president get re-elected”, the Washington Post reported. Citing two sources familiar with the meeting, the Post said Biden welcomed the offer of help from the man under whom he was vice-president between 2009 and 2017.
Biden, the newspaper said, “is eager to lock down promises of help from top Democrats, among whom Obama is easily the biggest star, for what is likely to be a hard-fought re-election race”.
He is expected also to face election subversion charges in Georgia but his grip on the Republican primary has only tightened with each legal reverse. In Republican polling, Trump enjoys leads of more than 30 points over his nearest rival, the hard-right governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis.
In 2020, Biden beat Trump by more than 7m ballots and conclusively in the electoral college, a result Trump refused to accept, stoking chaos culminating in the deadly US Capitol attack.
Biden and Obama’s relationship has been the subject of widespread reporting and speculation, not least over whether Obama thought Biden should mount a third run for the Democratic nomination in 2020.
As a US senator from Delaware, Biden crashed and burned in the primaries of 1988 and 2008, the latter won by Obama, 19 years Biden’s junior. The two men then formed an effective partnership through eight years in power.
In 2020, as Biden sought to become the oldest ever president via a campaign based on the need to save “the soul of the nation” from Trump, Obama withheld his memoirs, potentially awkward for his vice-president, until the race was run. But he also long withheld his endorsement.
After Biden overcame a rocky start to surge to the nomination, in large part with the support of African American voters, Obama helped drive home his success.
Tensions have reportedly remained. For one striking example, the authors Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns described, in their book This Will Not Pass, how Biden, now 80, told one adviser: “I am confident that Barack is not happy with the coverage of this administration as more transformative than his.”
Among major challenges, Biden has faced the Covid pandemic, strong economic headwinds, a US body politic under attack from Trump’s extremist Republican party, and the need to marshal global support for Ukraine in its war with Russia. Despite widely acknowledged successes, his popularity ratings remain stubbornly low.
Eric Schultz, an Obama adviser, did not comment to the Post about the June lunch.
“We place a huge emphasis on finding creative ways to reach new audiences, especially tools that can be directly tied to voter mobilization or volunteer activations,” Schultz told the paper. “We are deliberate in picking our moments because our objective is to move the needle.”
A Biden campaign spokesperson, TJ Ducklo, said: “President Biden is grateful for [Obama’s] unwavering support, and looks forward to once again campaigning side-by-side … to win in 2024 and finish the job for the American people.”