(NEW YORK) — Minnesota Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips said Sunday he was undecided on whether he’d challenge President Joe Biden for their party’s nomination, though he defended his push for others to do so in an appearance on CBS’ Face the Nation.
“I have not decided yet,” Phillips said of a potential 2024 bid, which would likely mark an uphill battle given Phillips’ relative lack of recognition on the national stage and Biden’s institutional support among Democrats.
Phillips said on CBS that he is calling for a rigorous primary contest in 2024 because he argues it’s what Democrats want, citing last week’s New York Times/Siena College poll that found more Democrats (50%) felt the party should nominate someone other than Biden compared to those who backed the president (45%).
“Democrats are telling me that they want — not a coronation, but they want a competition,” Phillips said.
“If we don’t heed that call, shame on us,” Phillips added. “The consequences, I believe, are going to be disastrous. So my call is to those who are well-positioned, well-prepared, of good character and competency — they know who they are — to jump in because Democrats in the country need competition. It makes everything better.”
Phillips, when pressed on whether he’d challenge Biden himself, as he has been reported to be pushed to do, said he was not currently “well-positioned” to run.
“People who are should jump in because we need to meet the moment,” he said.
The Biden campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Ronald Klain, Biden’s former White House chief of staff, defended the president on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter.
“It’s not a coronation, it’s a coalition of Democrats coming together to reflect @JoeBiden to #FinishTheJob on the economy, climate change, equity, abortion rights, and more,” Klain wrote.
Phillips has said before that he wasn’t inclined to support Biden’s nomination for president in 2024.
Phillips did heap praise on the president on Sunday and maintained that his push for challengers is not about Biden, specifically.
“I love the man. He is competent, he is honorable, his integrity, I believe, is unvarnished. He has led this country through extraordinarily difficult times,” Phillips said.
“This is not about him,” he added. “This is about listening to people.”
Biden, who is the oldest person ever elected president and would be 86 at the end of a second term, acknowledged on the day he announced his bid for reelection that he considered his age when deciding to run again.
“They’re going to see a race and they’re going to judge whether or not I have it or don’t have it,” he said in April, referring to the public. “I respect them taking a hard look at it.”
At the time, he said, “I took a hard look at it before I decided to run, and I feel good. I feel excited about the prospects, and I think we’re on the verge of really turning the corner in a way we haven’t in a long time.”
Biden currently faces long shot primary challenges from speaker and author Marianne Williamson and activist and attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Though Phillips said Sunday that wants a strong challenger to Biden, he said he is opposed to third-party candidates who could possibly serve as a spoiler by attracting Democratic-leaning votes in a general election against former President Donald Trump.
Phillips also weighed in on Vice President Kamala Harris as a future White House contender.
“I think she’s absolutely qualified. In fact, I think she’s misportrayed,” he said, later adding that “the job of the vice president is not an easy one.”
But he said he does not see her as an heir apparent if Biden were no longer leading the Democratic ticket.
“We have 12 [notable] Republicans as options for Republican primary voters,” Phillips said. “Right now, we only have three on the Democratic side. I believe in competition. We’re the Democratic Party. Democracy means the freedom to make choices, and we don’t have many of them.”
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