CHARLESTON, S.C. — President Biden is spending his August vacation in South Carolina, an early 2024 primary state and the stomping ground of key ally Rep. James Clyburn, which suggests the president is already thinking about his reelection campaign.
Mr. Biden and Mr. Clyburn have been friends for decades and the South Carolina Democrat’s endorsement helped the president recover from a string of early losses to win the state’s 2020 Democratic primary and propel him to the White House.
That victory gave Mr. Clyburn tremendous influence in Mr. Biden’s administration, including private dinners with top advisors, despite Mr. Biden’s rebuff of Mr. Clyburn’s unabashed push to nominate Michelle Childs, a federal judge in South Carolina, to the Supreme Court.
Now Mr. Biden is spending a week at Kiawah Island, South Carolina, an exclusive golf-and-beach resort about an hour from Charleston.
The two men did not get to meet while Mr. Biden was in Mr. Clyburn’s home state. Mr. Clyburn was in Washington to help pass Mr. Biden’s climate and economic agenda and then had to go to Kansas for planned events over the weekend.
Nonetheless, Mr. Biden may need Mr. Clyburn to work his magic a second time in 2024.
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In the 2020 race, Mr. Biden lost the first three straight contests, including an embarrassing fourth-place finish in New Hampshire. It was Mr. Clyburn’s endorsement that helped solidify Black voters for Mr. Biden, first in his home state and then nationally, and that turned everything around for the future president.
Chatter among Democrats suggests that party officials are concerned that Mr. Biden may not be the strongest candidate to help them keep the White House in 2024. Mr. Biden is coming off the most successful roll of his presidency, but his poll numbers are still bogged down by soaring inflation and energy prices.
No Democrat has publicly announced a challenge to Mr. Biden for the nomination and the White House has strongly denied whispers that the president won’t run for reelection.
A University of New Hampshire poll released last month showed that Mr. Biden is in a statistical tie with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to be the Democratic standard bearer in 2024. Mr. Buttigieg pulled 17% to Mr. Biden’s 16%, the poll revealed.
Other Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, are gaining on the president, with both polling 10%, according to the poll.
The New Hampshire primary is the first in the nation and takes about a month ahead of South Carolina’s 2024 Democratic primary. Overall, Mr. Biden has notched devastating poll numbers among Democrats and young voters.
A CNN poll last month found that 75% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters want someone other than Mr. Biden to run in 2024. It is also a marked increase from the 51% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters surveyed by CNN in February saying they want a different nominee.
Among Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, just 18% would prefer Mr. Biden as the 2024 nominee.
That could give rise to a primary challenger in 2024. While challenges to a sitting president are unusual, they have happened.
In 1992, talk-show host Pat Buchanan challenged President George H. W. Bush for the Republican nomination, and 12 years earlier, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, sought to wrestle his party’s nod from President Carter.
While both Mr. Bush and Mr. Carter beat back their rivals, they both lost in the general election.
Only one modern, primary-era president, Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968, has not sought a second full term.