WASHINGTON, D.C. — 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.”
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, the warning signs in the Biden coalition are clear.
Just 41% of black adults want the Democratic president to run again, and only 55% said they are likely to support him in the general election if he is the nominee. Among Latinos, only 27% want Biden to run again in 2024 and 43% said they would definitely or probably support him.
Meanwhile, just 14% of independents — adults who don’t lean toward either party, who represent a small percentage of the American electorate — want Biden to run again. And only 24% said they’d support him in the general election if he is the Democratic nominee.
Allies said one key reason why the president selected Julie Chavez Rodriguez as his campaign manager was her ability to maintain close ties with a wide swath of the Democratic coalition during her time as White House director of intergovernmental affairs.
“This is not a time to be complacent,” Biden said in his announcement video as he vowed to fight for freedom and warned of MAGA extremists and others who support banning abortion and books.
Meanwhile, Lieberman said he would likely soon begin interviewing potential candidates for No Label’s third-party alternative to Biden and the eventual Republican nominee.
Already, No Labels has secured a spot on the presidential ballot in four states, including swing states Arizona and Colorado. Lieberman noted that the group would not field a candidate if polling suggested the so-called unity ticket does not have a viable path to the presidency.
“If No Labels does not run a bipartisan unity ticket, and the two candidates are Trump and Biden, to me, it’s an easy choice,” Lieberman said. “I will vote for Biden.”