WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut Democrat-turned-Independent long known for his centrist views, voted for Joe Biden in 2020. But as Biden's reelection campaign begins, Lieberman is preparing to recruit a third-party candidate capable of defeating the Democratic president.
“Centrists and moderates feel that he's governed more from the left than they hoped,” Lieberman, a leader of the group, No Labels, said of Biden in an interview. “He hasn't been able to be the unifier that he promised to be.”
Biden's political challenges are not confined to voters in the middle. In the days since he formally launched his 2024 campaign, key members of the sprawling political coalition that lifted him over former President Donald Trump in 2020 are far from excited about the prospect of four more years. That underscores the test confronting Biden as he aims to motivate the coalition of African Americans, Latinos, young people, suburban voters and independents to show up for him again.
John Paul Mejia, the 20-year-old spokesman for the progressive Sunrise Movement, says Biden has simply not done enough to ensure the young voters who rallied behind him in 2020 would do so again.
“Young people are starving for more,” Mejia said, pointing to Biden's recent decision to approve two controversial fossil fuel projects in Alaska. “Biden has to demonstrate the extent to which he’s willing to be a fighter. We've seen this sort of two-step on the promises he made to young people.”
Biden has also struggled to fulfill key promises to Black voters, perhaps the most loyal group in his political base. While he tapped Ketanji Brown Jackson to become the first Black woman on the Supreme Court, he has been unable to follow through on pledges to protect voting rights against a wave of Republican-backed restrictions or enact policing reform to help stop violence against people of color at the hands of law enforcement.
“There's work to be done,” said Rep. Jasmine Crockett, D-Texas, a 42-year-old African American former civil rights attorney who joined Congress in January. “I'm not going to sugar coat it.”
Crockett recalled the palpable excitement among the Black community for Barack Obama's reelection. With Biden, there's “a number of people who are concerned and scared” largely because of his age, while others are “indifferent and waiting," despite what she described as Biden's overall strong record of achievement.
Nearly 18 months before Election Day 2024, however, it's unclear how much this lack of enthusiasm will weigh on Biden's reelection prospects. For all the concern, no high-profile Democratic primary challengers have emerged, and none are expected to. To date, only progressive author Marianne Williamson and anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. are mounting symbolic challenges to Biden, who has the official support of the Democratic National Committee.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Biden's chief rival in the 2020 primary, told The Associated Press just hours after Biden announced that he was endorsing the president and encouraged other progressive leaders to do so as well.
“I intend to do everything I can to see that he is reelected,” Sanders said in an interview.
Instead of excitement for the 80-year-old president's reelection, leaders from key factions in Biden's coalition report a serious sense of duty — and fear of the alternative. Trump is currently considered the favorite to claim the Republican presidential nomination, although he's facing opposition from a half dozen rivals.
“It would be a mistake to underestimate Trump or whoever the Republican candidate might be,” Sanders said. “There's a lot of discontent in this country. There's a lot of anger in this country.”
Indeed, 74% of U.S. adults believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, according to an AP-NORC poll conducted a week before Biden’s announcement.