If there was one message that summed up how President Biden was feeling on the heels of Tuesday’s midterms, it came in the form of a tweet.
“I ain’t dead and I’m not gonna die,” Biden said in an old video from 2020 shared again on Wednesday afternoon by White House digital director Rob Flaherty.
It was an attitude reflected among Democrats, who were feeling hopeful with the results that had come in: Biden had a good night. In fact, it was much better than expected.
“I honestly thought we’d all be writing the obituary today on President Biden and our party,” one top party strategist acknowledged. “And while we’re still a long way from the finish line, I think we’re all feeling good about Biden and where things stand.”
Asked if Biden had a good night, Democratic strategist Eddie Vale put it this way: “Like-driving-in-a-Corvette-with-aviators-on-while-eating-ice cream good.”
Biden himself seemed vindicated when he took to the podium at the White House and addressed the election results, calling Tuesday a good day for Democrats.
“While the press and the pundits were predicting a giant red wave, it didn’t happen,” he said, adding, “I felt we were going to do fine.”
It was a much different scenario 24 hours earlier. Privately, hours before the polls closed on Tuesday, the finger pointing had already begun, with Biden taking most of the hits. Strategists and donors accused the White House of not having a solid economic message to sell to voters and focusing too much — or not enough — on issues like abortion. They worried voters would take out their frustration with inflation and high gas prices on Biden.
And they predicted Biden, with approval ratings hovering around 40 percent, would suffer losses the way former President Obama did in 2010. At the time, Democrats experienced what Obama dubbed a “shellacking” after losing 63 seats, flipping the House to Republicans. Former President Trump also experienced the House flipping to Democrats in the 2018 midterms.
But Democrats were feeling energized on Wednesday.
“Biden should feel emboldened by last night,” said Democratic strategist Christy Setzer. “The country is with him. They decisively rejected election deniers running for statewide office, and voted to keep Dems in power.
“Just as importantly, Donald Trump had a terrible night,” Setzer added. “At this point, there should be no question that Biden’s the 2024 nominee and the person likeliest to be president in 2025.”
Republicans went into Election Day optimistic that they could pick up 25 seats or more in the House and came up far short of that. With results still rolling in and control of the Senate uncertain, Democrats are thrilled that they exceeded expectations.
“The Republicans are having coffee and crow for breakfast,” said former Rep. Chris Carney (D-Pa.), a Biden ally.
More than anything, the results gave Biden the energy he needed as he signals he’s going to launch a reelection bid.
At the press conference on Wednesday, the president said he still intends to run for reelection in 2024 but will take some time to discuss it with first lady Jill Biden and his family. He said he would probably reach a decision by early next year.
Trump’s expected announcement that he is running for president in 2024 won’t alter his timeline, he told reporters.
“I don’t feel any hurry one way or another … no matter what my predecessor does,” Biden said.
Tuesday night’s results so far are partly considered to be a referendum on Trump, and while many of the candidates he supported and candidates who spread his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen won seats, others also lost. Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is considered a top 2024 GOP presidential contender, won his reelection decisively.
Asked on Wednesday who might be the better competitor in the 2024 race — Trump or DeSantis — Biden simply replied: “It would be fun watching them take on each other.”
Still, allies conceded that a number of factors would be in play as Biden decides if and when to announce an official run for reelection.
“I am sure the election results have altered Biden’s calculations on running again. In the end, he was the big winner last night — and DeSantis was a close second,” Carney said.
Others argued the opposite, that the tough night for Trump could mean Biden rethinks running again in 2024.
“With Trump wounded and Republicans reeling, President Biden’s argument that only he can beat Trump holds much less water. While he should certainly celebrate the role he played in a historic victory, he should seriously consider whether he is the right person to potentially take on candidates like Ron DeSantis in a general election,” said Democratic strategist Michael Starr Hopkins.
He also noted that Democrats like Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Pennsylvania Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro raised their national profiles on Tuesday night for potential 2024 bids.
In an appearance on Fox News Wednesday morning, former Speaker Newt Gingrich acknowledged that Biden’s move to demonize Republicans ended up working for him.
“I have to say, as much as I think it was despicable, the Biden strategy of demonizing Republicans … I think did have an impact and will become a definition of the Democratic Party,” the Georgia Republican said.
Biden spent Tuesday evening making congratulatory phone calls from the White House to Democrats as results rolled in, looking cheerful in a photograph shared from one of the calls.
He ended the evening with a text to Pennsylvania Sen.-elect John Fetterman around 2 a.m. to congratulate him on eking out a win over Republican candidate Mehmet Oz, who had Trump’s backing. The president had been optimistic about Democrats flipping that Senate seat and spent a lot of time over the last month in the Keystone State, most recently on Saturday for a rally with Fetterman and Shapiro.
Biden appeared to be vindicated on Tuesday night when the so-called red wave that some political watchers predicted did not come to total fruition.
“In an off-year election, with the odds stacked against the White House, President Biden outperformed former President Trump, Obama and Bush,” Hopkins said.
Updated at 5:52 p.m.