Representative Dean Phillips announced Thursday that he’s opening a bid as President Joe Biden’s Democratic primary challenger. But as the election landscape shapes up to be another razor-thin rematch between Biden and former President Donald Trump, the effort begs the question: What the hell is Phillips thinking?
Phillips, a multimillionaire former chairman and co-owner of Talenti Gelato, and heir to one of America’s largest liquor dynasties, was elected to Minnesota’s 3rd congressional district in 2018—the first Democrat to win the seat in nearly 60 years.
And for the last 15 months, Phillips has been campaigning for “prominent young Democrats” to challenge the 80-year-old president, reported The Atlantic, believing it’s time for Biden, who he has described as a “president of great competence and success,” to “pass the torch.” Failing to find that candidate, the 54-year-old Phillips has apparently decided to throw himself into the race.
“Democrats are telling me that they want not a coronation but they want a competition,” Phillips said during an interview on CBS’s Face the Nation.
He might be onto something. Although the self-described eternal optimist’s chances of unseating the incumbent president are slim, they’re not zero. A recent poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 77 percent of Americans believe Biden is too old to be effective for another presidential term.
That same poll found that Democrats thought both Biden and Trump, age 77, were too old for the gig, while just 28 percent of Republicans felt that Trump’s age would make him ineffective for another term.
Yet if Phillips somehow, against all odds, beats Biden in the Democratic primary—will he be popular enough to keep Trump from office? It’s probably safe to assume that this is the first time many Americans are even hearing about Phillips.
The Democratic establishment is also still firmly behind Biden.
“Biden’s already beaten Trump once,” Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, Jim Messina, told The Atlantic. “He’s the one guy who can beat him again.”