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Image: President Joe Biden arrives to deliver his first State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol on March 1, 2022.
President Joe Biden arrives to deliver his first State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol on March 1, 2022.Saul Loeb / Pool via AFP - Getty Images file

Biden won't announce his re-election plans before State of the Union speech

Advisers to the president say documents probe won't influence a final decision, expected to be announced as early as next month.

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President Joe Biden’s aides say a detailed timeline for announcing a re-election bid has not been finalized, but they have agreed on at least one benchmark: He won’t launch a 2024 campaign before delivering his State of the Union Address next month, according to two sources familiar with the discussions. 

“We want him to be a president at State of the Union, not a candidate,” one of the sources said. 

There had been discussion among Biden aides of an earlier announcement, but the idea faded as they still await the president’s final decision. And now Biden advisers insist the new special counsel probe won’t impact any of his 2024 plans.

“The president is honoring his promise to respect the independence of the Department of Justice and divorce it from politics,” deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said in a statement.

Advisers scoffed not just at the idea that the classified documents probe would drive the president’s decision-making process; they also insist it won’t be a key issue for voters in November 2024. Instead, the White House hopes to shift focus back to its battles with congressional Republicans on policy issues, such as measures restricting abortion access and a national sales tax proposal, where they see a political advantage.  

Biden’s own health, and that of the first lady, Dr. Jill Biden, who recently underwent surgery to treat skin cancer, is one final unspoken variable that could impact the timeline. The White House has promised that Biden would undergo a second full physical evaluation as president soon, with a detailed readout to follow from his physician.

The team plotting Biden’s next political moves has long been eyeing this year’s State of the Union address, scheduled for Feb. 7, as a key moment around which his 2024 decision could be revealed. But despite months of planning, Biden aides still have not even settled on a specific rollout plan, the sources familiar with the discussions said.

The pressure on the president to give a final, definitive answer about his intentions on the kind of accelerated timeline aides had once floated was greatly reduced by Democrats’ better-than-expected showing in the midterm elections.

One of the president’s closest aides noted that that a campaign launch is not a one-day event, but potentially a weeks-long series of events. So aides want to make sure announcement window is as clear of political minefields as possible.

An unsettled announcement timeline is hardly new to Bidenworld veterans. Then-Vice President Biden waited until late October 2015 — after the first Democratic primary debate -- to announce he would not run in the 2016 race. In 2019, he waited until nearly May to enter the crowded Democratic field. 

“I’ll believe he’s running or not running when I see him say so on television,” one of the president’s closest aides joked.