AMAC Exclusive – By Aaron Flanigan
Between the investigations into the Biden family, the increasingly desperate lawsuits against Donald Trump, war in the Middle East, and Joe Biden’s rapidly declining cognitive abilities, the 2024 presidential election is already shaping up to be unpredictable in ways that few could have imagined. But one of the most significant factors driving this historic unpredictability is the growing slate of third-party candidates and intra-party challengers, many of whom are seen as potential spoilers who could make or break Democrats’ hopes at retaining the White House next fall.
One such challenger is Dean Phillips, a third-term Democrat congressman from Minnesota’s 3rd district who last month announced he is running against Biden for the Democrat nomination. Regarded by most other Democrats as a relative “moderate,” Phillips has long stated that Joe Biden is ill-suited to serve as a two-term president and should step down to allow a more broadly appealing alternative to take his place.
Phillips believes that he is that alternative. “I am running for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States because, my friends, it is time for a change,” he said in his October campaign launch. “And I am ready to lead our great nation to a secure and a more prosperous future.”
Despite hailing Biden as a “terrific president,” Phillips insists Biden would lose a general election matchup against Donald Trump—and claims he decided to enter the race only after urging Biden to step down and pressing other Democrat elected officials to enter the primary. “This was not about me,” he recently said to CNN. “But my inability to attract other candidates, to inspire the president to recognize that it is time, compels me to serve my country because it appears that President Joe Biden is going to lose the next election.”
Of course, there is virtually no that chance Phillips will succeed at dethroning Biden as his party’s standard bearer in next year’s primaries. Even though two-thirds of Democrat-leaning voters say they wanted someone other than Biden atop the party’s ticket, recent polling has indicated that Phillips stands at only four percent nationally among Democrats. His lack of name recognition and support from party leadership suggests his White House bid will be a steep uphill battle.
Phillips’s candidacy, however, signals that there is a thirst among some Democrats and Independents for a reversion back to the center—and a retreat from the far-left legislative agenda and war on American culture that has come to define the Democrat platform.
Although Phillips’s campaign has in many ways toed the Democrat Party line—particularly on issues like healthcare, education, guns, the environment, abortion, and “diversity, equity, and inclusion”—he has broken with his party’s talking points on several contentious issues.
In his campaign announcement, for instance, he sounded the alarm on “the chaos at our border,” alluding to the Biden-inflicted border crisis, which has manifested thanks to the Biden administration’s cancellation of Trump-era immigration policies. He also railed against the poor state of the economy and skyrocketing prices—an attitude that stands in sharp contrast to that of the Biden campaign, which continues to bizarrely insist that the economy is strong.
But even despite Phillips’s embrace of most of the left’s key priorities, his candidacy has been met with ridicule from many of his fellow Democrats. “You know, I have to say this about Minnesota: it’s a great state, full of great people. And sometimes they do crazy things,” said Tim Walz, Minnesota’s Democrat governor, referring to Phillips. One House Democrat derided Phillips’s candidacy as an “exercise in futility” that would “essentially [torpedo] his career completely and [destroy] any goodwill he has within the Democratic Party.” Another congressional Democrat lamented the move as a “head-scratcher.”
Nevertheless, Phillips has shown no signs of letting up. As CNN recently reported, Phillips is now significantly ramping up his bid to take down Biden—investing millions of dollars “worth of negative ads in primary states that are likely pivotal in the general election.” Phillips appears to be doubling down specifically on bellwether states like New Hampshire and Michigan, including by planning to hold a whopping 119 town halls in the Granite State.
Whether Phillips intends it or not, however, his campaign may only succeed in harming Biden while implicitly making the case for the eventual Republican nominee. While it’s unclear now if Phillips will manage to gain any momentum, recent history suggests that first-time presidents who face a serious primary challenger (George H.W. Bush in 1992 and Jimmy Carter in 1980) go on to lose general elections.
With the first primary contests just a few months away, any serious moves from Phillips to boost his name ID or attack Biden are worth watching.
Aaron Flanigan is the pen name of a writer in Washington, D.C.