No President in the post-war era has not sought re-election*. No President as old as Joe Biden has ever been elected (by a margin of several years). In 2024 one of these records will be broken, and there’s value in betting on which.
Last week Joe Biden gave his first solo press conference of his tenure, and was asked whether he’ll run again. He says that “My plan is to run for re-election. That’s my expectation,” which shouldn’t be a surprise. And yet everywhere from The Mail to The Telegraph to the Richmond & Twickenham Times ran it as their headline from the event.
The betting markets reflect this. Biden is available at up to 5/2 (Skybet) to be renominated in 2024, longer than most incumbents would be to be re-elected. He shouldn’t be.
The case against Biden running is clear. He’ll be in his 80s by 2024 and, despite his apparent health and energy, rumours that he will choose to be a one term President persist. The fact that Biden clearly wants a legacy as a unifying figure fuels this, with some saying that voluntarily walking away from power is a more natural fit for him.
I disagree. While Biden’s age certainly makes standing down a possibility, he is subject to the same pressures of any President. It isn’t a coincidence that every one since Cal Coolidge has sought a second term, there are endless factors which incentivise it. Here are a few of them:
- You have goals frustrated in your first term which you tell yourself you could get done with one more push;
- You have goals you didn’t even get to in your first term which you’ve spent decades dreaming of enacting;
- You achieved some goals and this reinforced in your mind that you are the right person to run the country;
- You know that standing down will make the last 18 months of your first term an internal power struggle to replace you, preventing you from getting things done;
- You fought so hard to get elected once, and the path to re-election is temptingly so much easier;
- You beat the other side once and think you could do it again, protecting the country from them (bonus points if the person you beat also runs again, which is looking possible in 2024);
- You’d never forgive yourself if you could have won again but your replacement loses, thus handing the White House to the other side.
The psychology of people who run for President is not normal, enormous self-belief is a basic requirement. Biden might decide he’d rather be a grandee than fight for the White House again, but he’s been seeking this job since the 1980s. His desire to hold it should not be underestimated.
If he does run again, there seems very little prospect of him facing a serious primary challenge. He’s pretty popular within the party and his Vice President has every reason to show loyalty (i.e. Harris is more than young enough to wait for 2028).
All records are broken eventually: Precedent is not prophecy. But Biden shows no signs of lacking enthusiasm for the job and every reason to seek a second term. He should be comfortably odds on for renomination, betting at 2/1 or longer (even waiting 3 years for your profit) is outrageous value. I’m on.
*LBJ dropped out during the primaries, but had he been likely to win renomination he clearly wouldn’t have.
Pip Moss posts on Political Betting as Quincel. He has bets on Biden to be renominated and others on him being re-elected. You can follow him on Twitter at @PipsFunFacts