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Semafor LogoMorgan Chalfant
Morgan Chalfant
politics

Joe Biden takes his victory lap

Morgan is a Political and National Security Reporter for Semafor, joining us from The Hill. Sign up for the daily Principals newsletter to get our insider’s guide to American power.

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Title iconThe News
U.S. President Joe Biden smiles as he answers a question during a news conference held after the 2022 U.S. midterm elections in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 9, 2022.
REUTERS/Tom Brenner

THE WHITE HOUSE — President Biden addressed a crowd of reporters from the White House with a pep in his step on Wednesday evening, gloating that the press and political prognosticators had sized up the midterms all wrong.

The final results have not been tallied — and control of Congress is still up in the air — but the message from the White House was clear confidence.

“While the press and the pundits were predicting a giant red wave, it didn’t happen,” Biden said. “I felt we were going to do fine.”

It was a victory lap for the president as the results, while continuing to roll in, showed Republicans on track to, at best, narrowly gain control of the House of Representatives. Given historical trends and searing inflation, Democrats had been bracing for major losses that didn’t pan out.

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White House aides were ebullient throughout the day on Wednesday, seeing the results as proof that Biden’s policies and message reaped rewards, despite two years of non-stop armchair quarterbacking in the media.

At his press conference, a chipper Biden said it is his intention to mount a reelection bid in 2024, acknowledging that “fate” could play a role in his decision, and said he’d like to decide by early next year.

He scoffed when a reporter mentioned that former President Trump’s political movement is still strong. “Oh yeah?” Biden said, laughing. And he joked that he’d like to see Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis face off in a Republican primary.

Some White House allies say that the midterm results should make it more likely that the president runs in 2024.

“I expect more Democrats to not only coalesce around him but urge him to run,” said Jim Kessler, executive vice president for policy at the centrist democratic think tank Third Way.

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But others say he’s always intended to run for a second term and that the election results have little bearing on his decision when compared to consultations with his family.

“Joe Biden is going to gauge his potential future on decisions with his family, on the accomplishments he has and the things he still feels like he could get done,” former Democratic  Sen. Doug Jones told Semafor in an interview Tuesday evening. “Age is obviously a factor in that.”

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There’s little doubt that Tuesday’s results were good news for the White House and they could bolster Biden’s case to seek a second term.

Notably, there haven’t been many Democrats calling for new blood in the White House in the wake of the midterms – something that had been a recurring feature of the election cycle. (The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin penned an op-ed in advance of the election on Tuesday that argued Biden should “bow out.”)

But Biden has choppy waters ahead if Republicans win the House, the Senate or both. He’ll face an onslaught of investigations and will struggle to get legislation across the finish line in the second half of his first term.

“Regardless of what the final tally of these elections show ... I am prepared to work with my Republican colleagues,” Biden said on Wednesday.

Title iconRoom for Disagreement

Matthew Continetti argues in the Washington Free Beacon that Trump had more to do with the election results than Biden, whose poll numbers he notes remain deflated.

“The national GOP needs to recognize Biden’s irrelevance, settle on an economic message and agenda that wins public support, take lessons in how to talk about the right to life, and reconnect with independents, suburban voters, and moderates,” Continetti writes.

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