WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden rolled out the first ad of his 2024 reelection campaign on Wednesday, casting himself as a warrior in defense of freedom, but immediately found himself grappling with questions about his advanced age and droopy poll numbers.
At an afternoon news conference with South Korea's president, Biden swatted away questions about his 42% job approval rating in part by arguing that most politicians running for reelection end up in roughly the same boat.
“I feel good, I feel excited about the prospects,” he said. “I think we're on the verge of turning the corner in a way we haven't in a long time.”
As for his age — the president would be 86 when he left office if reelected — Biden said such numbers don't even compute with him.
“I can’t even guess how old I am," he said. "I can’t even say the number, it doesn’t register with me. The only thing I can say is they’re going to see a race and they’re going to judge whether I have or don’t have it.”
He added: “Things are moving. And the reason I’m running again is there’s a job to finish."
Biden spoke from the Rose Garden as he was hosting South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol for a state visit.
The president, who announced his reelection campaign on Tuesday, offered a sharp comparison of his tenure with that of his predecessor, Donald Trump, who also is a candidate once again.
“Think about what I inherited when I got elected. I inherited a nation in overwhelming debt, in the hole for the four years that he was president," Biden said. “I inherited a nation that had a serious loss of credibility around the world.”
Biden's first TV ad aims to flip the script on Republicans who have traditionally claimed the mantle of “freedom," aiming to portray the GOP as part of an “extreme movement" bent on overturning elections, restricting access to abortion and undermining voters' economic security. It will air in major markets in the six states the president carried in 2020 that are key to his path back to the White House.
Along with the ad push, his campaign has begun the process of reengaging a legion of small-dollar donors, with frequent messages urging their support. As an incumbent, Biden is also benefitting from existing joint fundraising relationships with a host of candidates and local parties. His campaign, though, does not plan to release its fundraising totals before the end of the quarter.
The ad offers a taste of what is set to be the core of the Democratic president's campaign message to voters, as he seeks to paint all Republicans as embracing Trump and out of the step with popular opinion and the nation's values.
“Courage, opportunity, democracy, freedom: They’re the values and beliefs that built this country and still beat in our hearts,” a narrator says. “But they’re under attack by an extreme movement that seeks to overturn elections, ban books and eliminate a woman’s right to choose."
The ad goes on to say Biden “has made defending our basic freedoms the cause of his presidency: the freedom for women to make their own health care decisions, the freedom for our children to be safe from gun violence, the freedom to vote and have your vote counted, for seniors to live with dignity, and to give every American the freedom that comes with a fair shot at building a good life.”
The 90-second spot includes footage of the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters trying to overturn the 2020 election and of children fleeing a school shooting as well as patriotic-themed images of flags being raised and Biden greeting supporters.
“For freedom, for democracy, for America — Joe Biden," the ad concludes.
The Biden campaign said the ad is airing as part of a seven-figure, two-week media buy in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It said a second ad will be released next week.
“Freedom” is a common buzzword among Republicans who would challenge Biden for reelection, typically around the cultural issues that have defined the early stages of the 2024 GOP presidential nominating campaign. Republican figures, for instance, have attacked race and gender-affirming policy in schools as a threat to the liberty of those who object to them.
It was on the lips of several of the Republican presidential prospects who attended the first big GOP campaign event of the year in Iowa, where the 2024 caucuses are expected to begin the voting next year.
Former Vice President Mike Pence pointed to an eastern Iowa school district as an example of violating such freedoms. The Linn-Mar Community School District near Cedar Rapids allows students to request a gender transition plan for teachers, administrators and students to respect without the knowledge and permission of the students’ parents. A foundation Pence leads has been involved in supporting parents who are suing to overturn the school policy.
“Make no mistake about it, the battle against radical gender ideology is a battle for religious freedom,” Pence told about 1,000 Iowa conservatives in suburban Des Moines on Saturday. “And it’s a battle we must fight.”
AP writer Tom Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed.