President Biden is heading to Minnesota on Wednesday to fundraise for his 2024 campaign just days after Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips (D) launched a long-shot primary bid to unseat Biden in the White House.
Biden will be in Northfield, Minn., part of Rep. Angie Craig’s (D) district and right next door to Phillips’s district. He plans to give remarks to tout his economic agenda, dubbed “Bidenomics,” with a focus on rural Americans having the opportunity to stay and work in their hometowns.
While the focus of the trip will be on policy, Phillips’s nascent primary campaign will loom over the visit, during which Biden is also expected to host a fundraiser not far from the congressman’s backyard.
Katie Grant Drew, a Democratic communications strategist and principal at Monument Advocacy, said the trip is a chance for Biden to show he’s in a strong position going into the primary, despite Phillips’s bid.
“President Biden’s trip to Minnesota demonstrates the importance not just of that state, but of the entire Midwest region to his reelection effort,” she said. “Coming in light of Dean Phillips’s announcement, this visit will be an opportunity for Biden to showcase his connection to voters in the state and buttress arguments that he is strongly positioned to once again build a winning coalition.”
Biden’s visit was in the works well before Phillips made his campaign announcement, officials said. The president will speak about federal investments in rural communities, including in broadband connection and infrastructure.
But he will also attend a campaign fundraiser in Minneapolis. At least some of the donors in attendance are expected to have contributed to Phillips’s congressional campaigns in the past, as first reported by The Washington Post.
“Minnesota is an important state that the president wanted to go and visit, obviously going to rural America — the president is the president for everyone,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said when asked why Biden chose Minnesota for a visit. “He’ll lay out why he’s there, why it’s important for him to be in that particular community tomorrow. But look, the president loves Minnesota.”
Phillips, a three-term congressman, launched his campaign Friday in New Hampshire, filing to appear on the ballot there next February. He announced his bid with an emphasis on primaries in the Granite State, South Carolina and Michigan.
Phillips and Marianne Williamson are the only foreseeable candidates challenging Biden for the Democratic Party’s 2024 nomination.
Phillips’s challenge has little to do with policy differences — White House aides have noted that the congressman has aligned with Biden almost 100 percent of the time on legislation. Instead, Phillips has specifically framed his campaign around the idea that it’s time for Biden to step aside for a younger generation of leadership — a concept long known to agitate Democrats.
The White House and Biden campaign have mostly responded with a yawn and a shrug.
The campaign has focused on its own efforts to mobilize a winning coalition heading into 2024, and it has yet to comment directly on Phillips as a candidate. Campaign officials have noted the lack of enthusiasm among elected Democrats and major donors, as well.
The White House, ever careful to avoid weighing in directly on the 2024 race, has not explicitly spoken about Phillips’s bid, but Jean-Pierre on Tuesday noted Phillips has voted in line with Biden’s agenda “almost 100 percent of the time the last two years.”
Phillips has praised Biden for his record as president and personally acknowledged that his bid is a long shot. Meanwhile, Democrats have raised concerns over whether his bid could add further uncertainty to the race. Senate Democrats, however, have brushed aside Phillips’s primary challenge, with some questioning why he jumped into the race.
When asked about the timing of Biden’s trip with Phillips’s bid, Sean Richardson, a former senior staffer in the Minnesota delegation, said, “To be totally honest, I didn’t even connect the two until you mentioned it.”
“I don’t think folks are terribly concerned about it,” said Richardson, a Democratic lobbyist at Tiber Creek Group. “I’m not one who believes President Biden needs a primary challenge to show his vitality and his vigor and show these types of things that some are questioning. Dean Phillips has voted with the president like, 100 percent of the time. This seems like to me someone who wants to build a national organization and [someone] building ID for the future, not for right now.”
Still, Phillips’s focus on New Hampshire puts Biden in a potentially difficult spot. The president will not appear on the ballot in the Granite State after his campaign missed the filing deadline, a move that followed a Biden-backed reshuffling of the Democratic primary calendar.
A group calling itself “Write-in Biden” launched an organized effort last week encouraging Democrats to write the president’s name on their New Hampshire ballot in next year’s primary.
But strategists argued a strong Phillips showing in New Hampshire would be largely symbolic in a state where the president’s campaign isn’t really competing.
“He’s banking on a pretend upset in New Hampshire where the President is not competing and not on the ballot,” said Jim Kessler, a co-founder of the centrist think tank Third Way. “Then the race begins in earnest in South Carolina, where Rep. Phillips is a total stranger to African American voters, who play an outsized role in Democratic presidential primaries.
“Joe Biden should focus on the country, his foreign policy challenges and on defeating Donald Trump,” Kessler added. “Let the Phillips candidacy run out of gas on its own accord.”