President Joe Biden continues to give less-than-definitive answers about whether he'll run for president in 2024, the latest coming Monday, when he told NBC's Al Roker: "I plan on running, Al, but we're not prepared to announce it yet."
The legalistic distinction rests, at least in part, on a technical issue hanging over the formal decision: Federal Election Commission rules about declaring a political candidacy.
As Biden said himself, he doesn't see much drama in the decision. One source familiar with the matter told NBC News in a new story out Monday morning that “the decision part is over, but he resents the pressure to have to announce what he’s already decided.” And another longtime advisor said the delay also allows Biden to “preserve the option not” to run again.
Still, with the GOP field already growing by the week, and Biden's 2020 opponent, former President Donald Trump, announcing his bid late last year, Biden continues to hold off on a public campaign launch.
A politician has 15 days to file a statement of candidacy with the FEC after they become a candidate, in the eyes of the commission.
A politician is only considered to be a formal candidate (and required to file with the FEC) once they or someone with their blessing:
- Raises or spend at least $5,000 toward running for office
- Refers to themselves as a candidate for a specific office
- Starts advertising their campaign
- Tells the media they will announce their campaign on a certain date
- Raise/spend more than what’s considered reasonable to test the waters
- Move to get added to an official ballot
Some of it’s vague, and it’s all up to interpretation by an FEC that’s notoriously divided by party and regularly deadlocks on high-profile enforcement action.
But once Biden officially announces, that means he'll need to quickly spin up an official campaign organization and hire enough staff to make sure his fundraising and disclosures comply with campaign finance law, among other important trappings of a presidential campaign.
Despite these restrictions, Biden has plenty of options for politicking at the moment -- he can still take political meetings and travel related to his position as head of the Democratic Party, fundraising for the national party and other groups that he would lean heavily on if he decides to run.
And he can do what the Federal Election Commission refers to as "testing the waters," which includes polling, traveling and sounding out whether he wants to in fact run again.
But the technical rules behind declaring may be one small reason why Biden is taking his time with a formal campaign launch.