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Dean Phillips Challenges President Biden for the Democratic Nomination

Mathew Biadun | Staff Writer


Gaelen Morse/Getty Images

Representative Dean Phillips announced his bid for the Democratic nomination last week, entering a race void of serious competition to President Biden. The three-term Congressman from Minnesota had been calling for opposition to Joe Biden. The failure for any serious competition to emerge has caused him, per his own words, to throw his own hat into the ring.


Recent polling data has shifted the president’s odds in the next election against him. 82% of Democratic-leaning voters said they wanted anyone besides Joe Biden to run in 2024, according to a recent CNN survey. However, no other specific candidate polled above 3% in that survey. Although voters seem uninterested in another term for the incumbent president, there is a similar lack of passion for any other challenger.


Dean Phillips himself had trouble finding opposition to the President. According to his own words, he did not initially want to run himself, but felt he had to after any other major competition failed to emerge. President Biden has had a few challengers to his nomination. Self-help author Marrianne Williamson announced her candidacy in March; however, her candidacy has been seen as little more than an attention grab, and she has failed to gain any real support. Robert Kennedy Jr’s bid, officially announced in April, had been the only real challenge to President Biden’s nomination. The heir of a famous Democratic dynasty and touting an anti-vaccine platform, he had lagged behind the President for months in the polls, until dropping out early in October, instead pursuing an independent campaign for the 2024 election.


The failure of this competition, according to Phillips, “compels me to serve my country because it appears that President Biden is going to lose the next election.” Dean Phillips has supported Biden’s agenda, voting in favor of his policies 100% of the time. However, the President’s poor polling figures, and especially his age, inspired Phillips to run.


Dean Phillips originally won his Congressional seat in 2018, flipping Minnesota’s Third Congressional District, which had elected Republicans for nearly sixty years before his victory. Before his political career, he was a businessman, working for his family’s successful liquor business and opening several smaller enterprises. In Congress, Phillips belongs to the moderate faction of the Democrats, part of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus.


Despite the President’s low polling numbers, Phillips faces an up-hill battle. No president who pursued renomination for a second term has failed to gain it since President Arthur lost it in 1884. However, he was never elected President, only ascending to the office when President Garfield was assassinated. No elected President has lost renomination since Franklin Pierce in 1856.


Despite the historical failures of past intra-party contenders, Dean Phillips has several factors in his favor. He is only 54 years old, close to three decades younger than the President, who would start a second term in 2024 at eighty-six years old. His initial campaign also showed a prominent emphasis on inviting new and younger voters, with “Everyone’s Invited!” as the campaign’s slogan. He has set himself apart from the President by putting an emphasis on immigration, and proposing a reduction in funds given to Ukraine and Israel, preferring to spend it on ‘domestic issues’. He also has put special emphasis on trying to win New Hampshire’s primary.


New Hampshire was once the de facto first state in the Democratic Primary. However, the national Democratic Party chose to give that position to South Carolina instead, frustrating many in New Hampshire, who insisted they be the first. This refusal to follow the national nominating calendar led to President Biden refusing to file for the primary ballot in the state; a move which many labeled as a sign of the President’s confidence in a predetermined victory. An early victory in the state for Phillips, who filed to spend 50,000$ there already, could give him a publicity bump at the start of the contest. However, it could also lead to frustration and a lack of support in South Carolina. The state’s Democratic Party Chair Christale Spain said in a statement that, quote; “...so far, Dean Phillips is failing it [South Carolina].”

This strategy may or may not pay off. Whether or not Dean Phillips’ campaign will be successful, or end like Kennedy’s attempt, is yet to be seen. There still remains about four months until primary season begins. However, the challenge has definitively become a wrench in President Biden’s campaign machine, which had previously lauded the party’s unity around him, and now has to swat off another contender.


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