President Biden’s bid for reelection will be shaped by a range of issues, such as age, inflation, abortion, cultural conflicts, and others.

We reached out to BU faculty experts to gain their insight on the factors that will prompt Biden’s efforts towards securing an unprecedented second term. Can I assist you with anything else?

He would be 82 years old at the start of a second term, the oldest president in history. Democratic voters are not excited by him, polls show, and many Democrat politicians say privately they wish there was an alternative candidate for their party to push in 2024. But on Tuesday, President Joe Biden announced in a video he would indeed seek reelection, and now the only question is who his opponent will be. Will it be a 2020 rematch of 2020 with former President Donald Trump (who would be 78 in 2024)? Will Florida Governor Ron DeSantis run? Will another GOP candidate rise?

What Biden makes clear in his video announcement is that he plans to will run on his political accomplishments, his work to lower the temperature of the country after Trump’s presidency, and his determination to, in his words, “finish the job” that he started. “The question we are facing is whether in the years ahead we have more freedom or less freedom, more rights or fewer,” Biden says in the video. “I know what I want the answer to be. This is not a time to be complacent.”

Ronna McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee, wasted no time in responding to Biden’s news in a statement: “Biden is so out-of-touch that after creating crisis after crisis, he thinks he deserves another four years. If voters let Biden ‘finish the job,’ inflation will continue to skyrocket, crime rates will rise, more fentanyl will cross our open borders, children will continue to be left behind, and American families will be worse off.”

So, what are the issues that will define Biden’s reelection campaign? BU Today reached out to faculty experts across the University and asked them to share their insights.

Trump, DeSantis, GOP opponents

Thomas Whalen, associate professor of social sciences, College of General Studies 

Treat Donald Trump as yesterday’s news. Biden has to stand on his own merits here. He doesn’t even have to mention Donald Trump. He wants Donald Trump because Trump is the proverbial bull in the china shop. Trump’s making reckless charges, acting increasingly irrational at his rallies. He’s becoming more and more extreme, but the American electorate, for the most part, is in the middle. The vast majority of voters are independents and they don’t cotton well to that kind of extremism. It works for the GOP base, which is largely white, evangelical, conservative, and authoritarian, but it won’t work outside of the GOP primaries. The vast bulk of independent voters—especially women—are not going to be willing to go down that kind of road. They’ll look for a more middle-of-the-road candidate which, in this case, will be Joe Biden. 

Additionally, demographics show that people under 50 years of age—millennials and Gen Z—are far more policy-driven and they’re less inclined to agree with the extremist baby boom ideology that Trump is espousing. That’s a major problem for the Republican party. And there’s a larger problem for the GOP—the party is not attractive to younger voters. Their base is literally dying and if you don’t replace them with younger voters, you’re setting yourself up for long-term irrelevance, politically speaking. 

Biden needs to focus on issues that matter to younger voters: student loan forgiveness, reproductive rights, affordable housing and healthcare, the Green New Deal, and gun control. 

On top of everything, it seems like the justice system will do Joe Biden’s job for him regarding Trump, painting him as an unfit candidate for office. We’ve never had a major candidate since Eugene Debs running for office under this cloud of illegality and perhaps even treason. Trump faces federal, state, local, and even civil charges in multiple cases that paint him as a common criminal who considers himself above the law. Unless our society has changed to the point where it no longer matters, we’re not in the habit of electing convicted felons or criminals to the highest office in the land. 

If Trump is indicted and convicted for his role in the January 6 insurrection, under the terms of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, he would be barred from holding federal office. All together, this spells doom for Trump’s bid for a second term as president. 

Regarding DeSantis, he has already jumped the shark. He’s tried to out-Trump Donald Trump to win the GOP nomination with his increasingly shrill and extremist views and policies: case in point, his war against Mickey Mouse and Disney. It’s become a national joke. It might work in Florida, but it won’t hold sway with independent voters. DeSantis is coming across as a tribute band to Donald Trump, and a rather weak one at that. Biden’s goal here should be to embrace the center and hold onto his liberal base—but his liberal base here really has nowhere to go. Liberals have grown up, thanks to Donald Trump. They may not get exactly what they want from Joe Biden, but they’ve come to recognize they’ll get enough from him. 

The Electorate

Lauren Mattioli, assistant professor of political science, College of Arts & Sciences

I respectfully disagree that “Democrats” aren’t thrilled Biden isn’t running again. Are there some Democrats that would have preferred a different candidate? Sure. But the party leadership sees Biden as the party’s best shot to beat Trump in 2024 and Biden’s approval rating among Democrats is 80 percent (according to Gallup)—not a perfect indicator of broader support, but suggestive that he hasn’t been abandoned by copartisans. I don’t know whether Biden has to “energize” the electorate—270 unenthusiastic electoral votes spend the same as 270 excited ones, after all—but he does have to get voters to cast ballots. To that end, he could be well served by the lesson of 2020: when voting is easier, people are more likely to do it.  Voter turnout was higher in 2020 than any in the past 100 years—a fact partially attributable to the availability of vote by mail. Even though the federal government has very little control over how states run their elections, Biden could directly and indirectly pressure state governments to maintain (or even expand) the availability of mail-in ballots. 

There might be something Biden could do to win over Trump supporters, but it shouldn’t be a centerpiece of his campaign strategy. Voting patterns are tightly linked to age, race, and educational attainment, and the national trends on all three of these factors are favorable for Democratic candidates. Even within “swing states” in the Electoral College, demographics are shifting in Democrats’ favor. It would be irrational for Biden to divert attention from mobilizing the faithful to converting his skeptics. His campaign should focus on voter registration and turnout.

The economy

Mark T. Williams, master lecturer in finance, Questrom School of Business; member, candidate Biden’s 2020 Economic Advisory Council; president, Boston Economic Club

Given that polling shows economic concerns are top on the minds of voters, the state of the economy heading into the election cycle matters. The ongoing strength of the US economy, including historically low unemployment, respectable GDP growth, and an uptick in consumer spending are positive economic messaging that the Biden administration will stress in their reelection campaign. There are other economic indicators that the Republicans will undoubtedly use to tar the Biden administration as failing the average voter, including stubbornly high inflation, lofty housing costs, and soaring prices of basic goods, including groceries. The Republicans will also try to stress that interest rates are too high and a tax on the average voter. The state of the economy will be front and center for this coming election cycle.

Jay Zagorsky, clinical associate professor of markets, public policy, and law, Questrom School of Business

Future US economic conditions are a key problem facing President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign. Swing votes are often swayed by economic issues, which impact voters’ pocketbooks. The misery index, which adds together the unemployment and inflation rate, is a good indicator of whether swing voters will stick with a president or switch. Currently, the unemployment rate is 3.5 percent and the inflation rate is 5 percent.  President Biden’s 8.5 percent index is right in the middle of the range compared to past presidents. This number suggests Biden has a high likelihood of reelection. However, if a recession occurs and unemployment surges or inflation stays stubbornly high, then the Biden campaign might face its own reelection misery.


Sarah Sherman Stokes, clinical associate professor of law, School of Law;, associate director, Immigrants’ Rights and Human Trafficking Clinic

As President Biden announces his intent to run for re-election, a collective groan could be heard from immigration advocates. President Biden’s record so far on immigration has been, in a word, disappointing. It’s not that we never had hope for this Administration’s immigration policy—it’s that we did. Biden’s immigration platform was bold, progressive, and a welcome response to years of President Trump’s relentless attacks on noncitizens, and asylum seekers in particular. But President Biden has seemed a long way from candidate Biden—a then presidential hopeful who spoke with great promise and passion about reestablishing asylum protections, ending unlawful border restrictions and “restor[ing] our moral standing in the world and our historic role as a safe haven for refugees and asylum seekers.” 

Yes, this Administration has expanded humanitarian parole for certain groups of Venezuelans, Cubans, Nicaraguans and Haitians, but ongoing restrictions at the border and a failure to end Title 42 have meant that the border has been shut to so many more, among them some of the most vulnerable. In addition, this Administration drastically expanded the surveillance of noncitizens through ankle monitors and smartphone applications, and failed to provide long term security for Dreamers, or a pathway for new DACA applicants to receive protection. It is likely with reluctance that immigration advocates will embrace this re-election campaign. Hopefully, rather than hue toward the center politically, President Biden will embrace a compassionate, common sense and lawful approach to immigration policy that deemphasizes enforcement and delivers on his promises from his previous campaign.

The environment

Richard Reibstein, lecturer of Earth & Environment, College of Arts & Sciences, lecturer of environmental law and policy, BU Institute for Global Sustainability

Biden needs to show how he will make a deal with the powerful oil companies that involves them winding down their activities, and not expanding into plastics.  The curtailment of withdrawal of fossil fuels is the key to a new, unpoisoned world and it’s not an easy one to turn, but it is the one that opens the door to a new future.  Companies that are invested in the old ways of doing business are doubling down now and backing Republicans with all they have, and participating in democracy in an unethical manner, distorting the processes that should reflect the will and the needs of the people.  The will of the people is clear, that we need to act on climate change, and the science, technology and economics are clear that we can have a clean transition.  We won’t have it tomorrow, but today is when we have to get started.  Biden has to start America down that path.

Culture wars

Phillipe Copeland, clinical associate professor, School of Social Work, whose research and work focuses on antiracist education and social change

I watched the video announcing Biden’s reelection campaign and found a few things noteworthy. First was evoking the specter of the January 6 insurrection. There have been efforts among some to downplay its significance or even deny that it happened. The insurrection was nothing less than a 9/11-level attack on the peaceful transfer of power and should remain seared in public memory. While not explicitly mentioning fascism, Biden frames the election as having higher stakes than simply whether a Republican or Democrat occupies the White House. It is helpful to remind voters that this is not a “politics-as-usual” moment we are living through. It was good to see connections made between things like reproductive rights, book bans, and voter suppression as part of a broader assault on freedom. The overall message echoes rhetoric we have heard from the Biden administration over the past few years on these issues. But people can’t eat rhetoric, and fascism will not be defeated by political messaging. 

I am reminded of this observation by Frederick Douglass in 1866: “…no republic is safe that tolerates a privileged class, or denies to any of its citizens equal rights and equal means to maintain them.” 

The past few years have been a reminder that freedom is fragile and democracy is vulnerable. This will remain the case without addressing an economic and political system that primarily serves the wealthy, fails to consistently uphold basic human rights, and withholds the means for many to prosper and fully participate in political life.

LGBTQIA+ rights 

Carl G. Streed, Jr., assistant professor of medicine, Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine; research lead at the Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery at Boston Medical Center, a BU teaching hospital

The ongoing Republican attack on Americans is alarming. Republicans have made stripping rights from anyone who is transgender a central part of their party identity. While their efforts are seen as focused on a minority, there is no mistake that they are setting up an infrastructure to eliminate anyone who does not fit their narrow view of who is American. In contrast, the Biden administration has achieved much to safeguard LGBTQ Americans with a particular focus on transgender Americans. Though some would argue these issues “distract” from larger economic concerns facing the nation, attacks on any Americans by Republican-led local and state governments, such as Florida, Missouri, and Nebraska, strike at the very core of our national values. As Biden prepares for the 2024 election, he and his team must not deflect questions about LGBTQ rights and, in fact, should be prepared to lead any debate on these issues. Biden and his team can win more hearts and minds by standing their ground and protecting Americans of all genders and sexual orientations and highlighting how un-American the current Republican Party has become. 


Andrew Budson, professor of neurology, Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine; chief of cognitive and behavioral neurology and associate chief of staff for education, VA Boston Healthcare System; associate director and education core leader, Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center

I am not worried about Biden’s chronological age. There is increasing evidence that biological age, not chronological age, is what is associated with age-related diseases, including cognitive impairment. Although Biden is 80 years old, his actions and behavior lead me to believe that his biological age is significantly younger than 80. 

The cognitive skills relevant to being president are myriad. Executive function—the ability to manage complex data and use it to plan for the future—is particularly important for a president. Episodic memory—the ability to remember events and information—is also important. I’ll also mention that no one person could possibly be able to manage all of the data and remember all of the events and information that a president needs to function effectively; it will also require a team to get the job done.

Thomas Perlsprofessor of medicine, Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine; director, New England Centenarian Study

Joe Biden is only four years older than Donald Trump. According to a medical summary by his physician, his medical issues are: atrial fibrillation, for which he takes a blood thinner, apixaban, which is very effective at preventing strokes; hyperlipidemia, for which he takes Crestor, result[ing] in a normal lipid profile; acid reflux, for which he takes Pepcid; and stiffened gait due to moderate to severe spondylosis and osteoarthritis of his spine. Of note, his blood pressure is normal (128/76) without meds.

Many Americans in their 80s and 90s are in very good physical and cognitive health. For that matter, most centenarians who are at least 20 years older than Biden on average experience significant (impacts their function) medical and/or cognitive problems after their mid-90s. I see no indication that Biden is not among the 80 percent of people in their 80s who do not show evidence of dementia. Furthermore, he has none of the risk factors that make cognitive impairment more likely, such as diabetes, obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, or elevated LDL or low HDL cholesterol; he’s in excellent health, especially for his age—all of which makes him much less likely to have cognitive issues down the road.

I have read that there are some people saying that presidents who are at an older age should undergo detailed neuropsychological testing to determine they are cognitively in good shape. As a geriatrician, we do not perform such tests unless a person is demonstrating increasing and persistent or worsening difficulty with tasks or activities that require concentration or planning. People should not be concerned about losing their keys or forgetting someone’s name; that may happen if we haven’t had a good night’s sleep. It’s when these issues are persistent and worsening that we become concerned.

Misinformation, disinformation

Arunima Krishna, assistant professor of mass communication, advertising, and public relations, College of Communication

I think misinformation will most certainly be central to the 2024 election in a variety of ways. For starters, it will be very interesting to see who takes over Tucker Carlson’s mantle over at Fox News, and therefore, the mantle of monetizing misinformation and fear under the guise of journalism. I suspect it will get ugly with different Fox News personalities trying to outdo each other to cater to that vast market that made Carlson one of the most successful personalities on cable. Carlson’s own future and what he might bring to different campaigns, either as an official campaign member or as a surrogate, in terms of weaponizing disinformation and outrage, will also play a role, I believe. Misinformation in the MAGAsphere and beyond will remain alive and well and play a role in the outcome of the election—and the Biden campaign needs to be ready with much more effective messaging and counters to it. The Republicans already have a roadmap of successfully deflecting from what should be legislative priorities to using misinformation to create fester[ing] culture wars and creating lightning rods out of what may be considered nonissues, like banning drag shows and books from classrooms. I suspect that deflection will continue throughout the 2024 campaign and the Biden campaign needs to be ready.

Russia, Ukraine

Kaija Schilde, the Jean Monnet Chair in European Security and Defense, associate professor of international relations and director of the Center for the Study of Europe, Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies

I don’t know how much the actual outcome of the [Russia-Ukraine] war or any US support for Ukraine—which is not direct support, but in the form of military and civilian aid—will actually affect the election. But I do know it is a major source of disinformation that is targeted to the US electorate. So, I don’t have a prediction for the outcome, but I would warn everyone to be on the watch for misinformation during the election season that will dial up significantly. 


Linda C. McClain, Robert Kent Professor of Law and codirector of the Program on Reproductive Justice, School of Law

The midterms sent a message that voters are motivated when abortion is on the ballot in some way. After so many years of politicians treating abortion as a political hot potato, we see that abortion is politically popular, even in some conservative states, where voters aren’t willing to be as extreme as politicians there may want them to be.

Having a Democrat on the ticket is going to invoke messaging about protecting reproductive healthcare at every level of government, and presidential elections historically bring strong voter turnout, so we’ll continue to see this be a major issue, I think.

A lot of this is being fought out at the state level, but at the same time, who’s in the White House is highly important. One of the reasons that a federal judge enjoined mifepristone across the entire country is because he was a Trump appointee. Now, Biden has had some success in getting his appointees on federal benches. If you elect a Republican [president], you interrupt that momentum, whereas if Biden is reelected, you have more opportunities to put judges on the courts. This is not to mention what could happen on the Supreme Court—if a justice retires or leaves the bench, whoever is in the White House has control over their replacement.

More recently, we’ve seen the [Food and Drug Administration] roll back some of its more restrictive policies about medication abortion, but a new administration could change the head of the agency and push policies through that would reverse that direction, so the [abortion fight at the] national level does matter.

Now, people have been urging Biden to do more with abortion—including saying the word “abortion”—but the White House has taken steps to protect reproductive rights. We don’t know yet what’s going to happen in this lawsuit against the FDA. If there’s anything more that the Biden administration can do to fortify the FDA’s support of medication abortion, and fortify access to those drugs, that would be important in the upcoming months.

There are some Democratic senators, like Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren [both of Massachusetts], who have urged Biden to do more to strengthen HIPAA, to make clear what kind of resources people have who seek abortions outside their home states—there’s a whole laundry list of things that Democratic lawmakers think Biden could do to strengthen abortion access right now.

There’s a mantra that’s important because it’s true: abortion is healthcare. I hope we see this administration embrace that and talk about the bigger picture of reproductive health moving forward.

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