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How a 2024 presidential campaign for Biden will differ from 2020's

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

On April 25, 2019, Joe Biden made a long-awaited announcement.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Everything that has made America America is at stake. That's why today I'm announcing my candidacy for president of the United States.

BLOCK: Now the president is widely expected to mark the four-year anniversary of that moment with a repeat announcement tomorrow officially declaring his run for reelection in 2024. Some of the challenges for his campaign may feel familiar, but there is no denying how different this will be from 2020. Evan Osnos covered that 2020 run extensively for his book "Joe Biden: The Life, The Run, And What Matters Now." He's also a staff writer for The New Yorker, and he joins us now. Welcome.

EVAN OSNOS: Thanks, Melissa.

BLOCK: When you think about this upcoming presumed campaign by Joe Biden, what do you expect the main case will be that he will be making for a second term?

OSNOS: Well, I think you should expect him, as presidents do in a moment like this, to tout some of the things that they've done well. You're going to hear him, I expect, talk about unemployment, which is at a very low level, some of the lowest in decades. And, of course, they've had legislative wins, things like combating climate change or reducing drug prices. But I think you're also going to hear one big message, which is about what he describes as finishing the job, which is sort of a code for saying, look; we have passed some bills. But we have a very polarized political atmosphere, and they could be rolled back.

BLOCK: Which is interesting because four years ago, Joe Biden said he would be a transition candidate. What did he mean by that?

OSNOS: Yeah, I think a lot of people took that to mean he was signaling that he would only run for one term.

BLOCK: Right.

OSNOS: I think if you actually talk to him and his advisers about it at the time, what they said was that we would open this administration up to a more diverse roster of talent in terms of race, in terms of gender. And if you look at the numbers, that is what they've done. It is more diverse than the last two administrations if you look at the judges that they have proposed. That does not address the issue that a lot of people are concerned about, and that is his age. And what he has said to people is, watch me, and decide for yourself. And I think people will be watching and making a judgment about whether they think he has the vigor and the energy for this.

BLOCK: And important to note that this will be a very different campaign than in 2020, which was in the COVID years. This will be much more on the ground, a lot more travel, a lot more face-to-face interactions.

OSNOS: Yeah, that was really a campaign like we've never had before. I mean, he did a lot of it from the back porch, from the basement. That was easier on him in some respects. You can control things more easily. Obviously you can retake your videos. But it also deprived him of one of the things that has made him a successful politician, which is retail politics. I mean, he is known in the business for having this inexhaustible appetite for the handshake, for talking to people one on one. And I think what you should expect is that they're going to use the apparatus of the presidency to get him out into the world in visible ways but controllable ways so that it's not quite as grueling as a full-fledged campaign.

BLOCK: When you think about a potential matchup between President Biden and the former president, Donald Trump, what do you think the Biden camp would need to focus on if that does come to pass?

OSNOS: Well, I can tell you what a lot of Americans will say to that, which is, ugh (ph). I think people felt like the 2020 campaign was pretty grueling, and they wanted to see some new faces. But there is an inescapable reality that Donald Trump, as of today, is the leading Republican frontrunner, and Joe Biden is the only person who has ever beaten him in an election. And then in effect - and his administration will tell you as much - they felt like they beat him again in 2022 in the midterms. So I think that one of the challenges for him is going to be signaling to Democrats, look; I know that you're ready for a new generation. But first we have to get past what has become this persistent and inescapable fact of our political lives, and that is Donald Trump.

BLOCK: And in terms of issues that you think President Biden will be centering in his campaign - I'm thinking about, obviously, the economy, abortion, gun violence - how do those play into his strategy, do you think?

OSNOS: In the midterm elections in 2022, there was a really interesting lesson learned, which is that even though a lot of the pundits and the public were saying they should be talking about the economy, talking about inflation, that in fact, Americans were concerned about real threats to democracy and about the threat to abortion rights. I think fundamentally you're going to hear him make the case that what the Republican Party has become at the moment is more extreme than Americans are comfortable with, even conventional Republican voters. And I think running beneath this announcement by Joe Biden is him saying to people, let's remember just what it was like under a Trump presidency.

BLOCK: That's Evan Osnos. He is staff writer at The New Yorker and author of the 2020 book "Joe Biden: The Life, The Run, And What Matters Now." Evan, thanks so much.

OSNOS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As special correspondent and guest host of NPR's news programs, Melissa Block brings her signature combination of warmth and incisive reporting. Her work over the decades has earned her journalism's highest honors, and has made her one of NPR's most familiar and beloved voices.
Ashley Brown is a senior editor for All Things Considered.
Kai McNamee