In December 2019, then-former vice president turned candidate Joe Biden indicated that he would almost certainly not run for a second term if elected.
The concern for his advisors at the time was that such a pledge would turn him into a lame duck even if won the nomination.
That was of course before Biden won the Democratic nomination, and before the Covid-19 outbreak that resulted in a worldwide pandemic. Just four years ago, it also looked very much like President Donald Trump would easily win reelection. The Democrats were simply going through the motions, and likely looking to 2024.
Covid-19 changed everything.
And after Biden secured the nomination and the race tightened, Biden made clear he would be a transitional candidate to a new generation of Democratic leaders.
While it was never on the scale of a TV drama's "will they or won't they" – it wasn't until last April that President Biden announced his candidacy for re-election for a second and final term, with Vice President Kamala Harris as his running mate. Yet, it was also last December that Biden also said he might have bowed out of a second term were it not for Trump.
Biden essentially deemed himself the only candidate that would be able to take on, and possibly defeat Trumpism.
"If Trump wasn't running, I'm not sure I'd be running," Biden said at a fundraising event for his 2024 campaign outside of Boston. "We cannot let him win."
When pressed whether he'd step aside if Trump wasn't running, Biden was also candid on the matter.
"No, not now," Biden replied. "Look, he is running, and I have to run."
Numerous media outlets have already suggested that Biden's chances of defeating Trump a second time aren't very good, but as New York Magazine also reported in December, it is too late for Biden to have an "LBJ Moment" and withdraw from the race. He's committed and will need to see it through.
Yet, that doesn't mean he needs to serve out a second term.
Joe Biden: Win to Step Aside
It isn't just an inflated ego when Biden maintained he has to run. Biden actually has scored better in some polls against Trump than other potential candidates. At issue is that the Democrats don't really have a lot of options – at least not any good ones.
Harris maintains some of the worst approval ratings for any modern VEEP, while few Democrats have strong enough name recognition on the national stage. This is why the run-up to the primaries has become so important. The Republican debates – which Trump didn't take part in – allowed voters to decide who might be a good alternative should Trump be forced to bow out (including whether he leaves a courtroom in handcuffs).
The Democrats haven't offered such an alternative.
One possibility is that Joe Biden is in it to win it – and then could step down, truly being a transitional candidate. Harris may not be electable on her own, but if Biden wins in November, she could go on to become the nation's first woman president.
That's not to say it would be easy for Harris, and there would be few in the GOP ranks willing to give her a chance – and likely many voters who won't be happy that she didn't truly "earn" her place in the Oval Office. It should also be noted that no vice president has ascended to the presidency in nearly 50 years.
Two entire generations of Americans have grown up (including this reporter) not fully understanding what it really means for the vice president to take over. But that is likely what we can expect – one way or another – if Joe Biden does win in November.
Given his age, should he be reelected, Biden will be a transitional president.
Author Experience and Expertise: Peter Suciu
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu. You can email the author: Editor@nationalinterest.org.