By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips declared his candidacy for the presidency on Thursday, setting the stage for an unexpected Democratic primary challenge against incumbent President Joe Biden.
Acknowledging Biden’s contributions to the nation, Phillips said it was essential to focus on the future. “I think President Biden has done a spectacular job for our country, but it’s not about the past. This is an election about the future. I will not sit still, I will not be quiet in the face of numbers that are so clearly saying that we’re going to be facing an emergency next November,” Phillips stated in an interview with CBS News.
Phillips said he would formally announce his campaign in Concord on Friday, where he will officially file to run in New Hampshire’s Democratic primary.
Having recently relinquished his House Democratic leadership role amidst internal party tensions over his push for a Biden alternative, the three-term congressman contends that Biden’s age and low approval ratings render him a weak contender in a general election. However, Phillips’ entrance into the race coincides with Democrats’ efforts to rally around Biden, thwart independent spoiler candidates, and present the administration’s achievements to voters. CNN reported that Biden’s allies view the discussion surrounding Phillips’ candidacy as a diversion that would only underscore the president’s vulnerabilities.
To communicate his intentions, Phillips reportedly sought to contact Biden in August, but the president was unavailable, CNN said. Instead, Phillips conversed with White House chief of staff Jeff Zients, who “heard him out,” the network reported, adding that Zients affirmed that the “president is the right person to win in 2024 and finish the job.”
Phillips said he reached out to Biden “as a courtesy to advise him of my intentions, which at that time were to call for a new generation of candidates to compete for the nomination.” He characterized his conversation with Zients as “brief but friendly.”
Phillips’ candidacy is already causing logistical challenges for the party. Biden will not be filing to appear on the New Hampshire Democratic primary ballot due to the state’s noncompliance with the national party’s revised nominating calendar, which demoted its first-in-the-nation primary status to second. Instead, Democrats will launch a write-in campaign for the president.
According to data from AdImpact, Phillips has already secured $50,000 in advertising time in the state this week.
Once known as a mild-mannered moderate, Phillips played a pivotal role, along with dozens of others, in propelling Democrats to victory in the House in 2018. Heir to a Minnesota liquor business and the grandson of the late advice columnist “Dear Abby” (Abigail Van Buren), Phillips’ initial campaign focused on safeguarding the Affordable Care Act and rectifying government dysfunction.
However, over the past year, he has emerged as the most prominent figure in his party to advocate against Biden seeking re-election, asserting that the party requires a new generation of leaders to come forward.