Joe Biden said he wants to run for a second term in the White House and will make a final decision early next year, after his political prospects were boosted by a stronger than expected performance by Democrats in midterm elections.
“Our intention is to run again. That’s been our intention, regardless of what the outcome of this election was,” Biden told reporters, adding he hoped to have conversations with his wife Jill about a new presidential campaign between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“I don’t feel any hurry one way or another to make that judgment . . . my guess [is] it will be early next year,” he said.
On Tuesday, Democrats avoided sweeping defeats in Congress but still risked losing control of both chambers to the Republicans as Americans were unwilling to hand a strong political mandate to either party.
The outcome of the vote provided some comfort for Biden and his party, which had been predicted to suffer a heavy defeat. But it dealt a blow to the presidential ambitions of Donald Trump, who was counting on victories by Republican candidates he endorsed to power a new run for the White House in 2024.
Instead, the clearest victory for the former president’s party was clinched by Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor, who is considered Trump’s most likely challenger for the Republican presidential nomination. When asked who would be the toughest competitor, Biden said: “It would be fun watching them take on each other.”
Biden has faced doubts about his willingness to run given that he turns 80 later this month and has been dogged by low approval ratings. Exit polls from the midterm elections showed more than two-thirds of Americans do not want him to seek a second term, but he told reporters his message to sceptics was: “Watch me!”
Control of the House of Representatives, which had been expected to decisively shift to the right on the back of voter dissatisfaction with inflation, crime and immigration, remained in limbo as Democrats successfully defended several battleground districts and even flipped some held by Republicans.
Pollster Frank Luntz said the Republican party may have placed too much emphasis on opinion polls that suggested they would perform strongly. “This is not a tsunami . . . I think that Republicans got ahead of themselves,” he told the Financial Times.
Luntz called DeSantis “the real winner” of the midterms. “He has turned a successful governorship into a nationwide movement. I think he is going to give Trump a run for his money.”
Analysts said that while Republicans had won over voters concerned about the economy and high inflation, Democrats had seized on anger at the recent Supreme Court ruling overturning the constitutional right to an abortion. Exit polls showed most Americans opposed the high court’s ruling on reproductive rights and had an unfavourable view of Trump.
Biden said that after he returns from an upcoming trip to north Africa and Asia for a series of international summits, he would invite leaders of both parties to the White House to discuss possible ways to find compromises. While he said he was “open to any good ideas” he did not see a need for a big change in direction on policy from the administration.
In the Senate, Democrats scored a high-profile victory when John Fetterman defeated Republican Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania. But it was unclear if they would retain control of the Senate with crucial races in Nevada and Arizona too close to call, and a potentially pivotal contest in Georgia heading to a run-off in December.
However, Republicans still managed to chip away at the political coalition that propelled Democrats to power in the House in 2018 and allowed them to win full control of Congress two years ago, including some gains among white women and Hispanic voters.
If Republicans do manage to wrest control of the House from the Democrats, it will be by a small margin that could make it very difficult for party leaders to strike compromises with the White House on critical legislative priorities including funding the government, raising the debt limit to avoid a default, and continuing to provide military and economic aid to Ukraine.
“House minority leader Kevin McCarthy didn’t just want to win back the majority, he wanted to win enough races to have a ‘governing majority’,” Beacon Policy Advisors wrote in a note to clients on Wednesday. “That’s looking like a shaky proposition right now.”