Democratic presidential hopeful former US Vice President Joe Biden gestures as he speaks during the fourth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by The New York Times and CNN at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio on October 15, 2019. (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

“He won’t be running for re-election”: Biden advisers claim Joe would only serve one term

"He’s going to be 82 years old in four years, and he won’t be running for re-election,” one adviser told Politico

Igor Derysh
December 11, 2019 7:38PM (UTC)

Top advisers to Joe Biden told Politico’s Ryan Lizza that the former vice president only plans to serve one term should the Democrat be elected president in 2020.

They claim that Biden has resisted making a public pledge to only serve a single term but has signaled to aides that he would likely not seek a second term as president. Aides said it was “virtually inconceivable” that Biden would run again in 2024, Lizza reported.


“If Biden is elected, he’s going to be 82 years old in four years, and he won’t be running for re-election,” a top adviser told the outlet.

The unnamed adviser told Lizza that a public announcement could help the former vice president “mollify younger voters.” By signaling that he would only seek one term, Biden could posit himself as the candidate most likely to defeat President Donald Trump while choosing a younger running mate and diverse Cabinet to “usher into power the party’s new faces.”

“This makes Biden a good transition figure,” the adviser said. “I’d love to have an election this year for the next generation of leaders, but if I have to wait four years [in order to] to get rid of Trump, I'm willing to do it.”


Another top Biden adviser confirmed that the former vice president is planning to pick a running mate who he can pass the torch to, he is not making any promises.

“He’s going into this thinking, ‘I want to find a running mate I can turn things over to after four years, but if that’s not possible or doesn’t happen, then I’ll run for re-election.’ But he’s not going to publicly make a one term pledge,” the adviser told Lizza.

Another top adviser said Biden already ruled out making a one-term pledge before jumping into the race.


“He said it was a non-starter,” the adviser told Lizza.

Biden has publicly said that he would not make such a pledge but told The Associated Press in October that he would also not commit to running for a second term.

“I feel good and all I can say is: Watch me. You’ll see,” Biden said. “It doesn’t mean I would run a second term. I’m not going to make that judgment at this moment.”


Another political strategist who spoke to Lizza said that Biden would not be likely to win re-election as an 81-year-old and added that the former vice president sees the 2020 election simply as a chance to revert to the status quo after four chaotic years under Trump. The strategist expressed hope that Biden would publicly state that he would not seek re-election.

“Biden wouldn’t be running if it were President Jeb Bush or President Marco Rubio. He’s running, because it’s an exigent circumstance — Donald Trump,” the strategist said. “The next president will have to have oppositional virtues to the last president. We have a presidency that is defined by abject selfishness, self-regard and self-interest. So a one-term pledge would be viewed as an act of selflessness, putting the country ahead of any ambition.”

While the idea is still being debated in Biden’s inner circle, some Democrats expressed dismay at the prospect of their candidate kneecapping himself before even taking office.


“That’s a weak play,” former Hillary Clinton campaign chief John Podesta told Politico. “I think who his vice president is will be very important, because people will be thinking about that. But I don’t think I would make a one-term pledge. You’ve disempowered yourself as president, and I don’t think it helps you as a candidate. It accentuates your weakness. It doesn’t fix it.”

Biden’s campaign denied that Biden’s advisers are discussing limiting him to a single term, even though several of them spoke to Lizza.

“Lots of chatter out there on this so just want to be crystal clear: This is not a conversation our campaign is having and not something VP Biden is thinking about,” tweeted deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield.


Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., told reporters that Biden has assured him that he would “serve two terms if necessary.”

The report drew severe criticism from outside observers.

"This will lead to a remarkably ineffective Presidency," tweeted Brian Arbour, a political science professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. "This should be disqualifying."

“I think it is insanity to even hint at this, even if it’s true,” added New York Magazine columnist Josh Barro. “Telling your co-partisans they’ll have to run in four years without the benefit of incumbency is supposed to help you?”


“Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all were unable to pass the presidential baton to their own party. A nearly impossible thing to pull off in this polarized era. Democrats MUST pick a nominee who can commit to 2 terms,” wrote Democratic activist Adam Best. “Choosing to put a lame-duck president into the White House is an open invitation for Mitch McConnell to pull a Merrick Garland on your entire agenda.”

Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is a staff writer at Salon. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

Tips/Email: Twitter: @IgorDerysh

MORE FROM Igor Derysh

Fearless journalism
in your inbox every day

Sign up for our free newsletter

• • •