Yes, Joe Biden plans to run for president again, wife Jill says

By Steve Holland and Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. first lady Jill Biden wants Americans to know that her husband, President Joe Biden, does plan to run for a second four-year term, and she's all for it - even as a formal declaration of his intentions has yet to be made.

Jill Biden, asked by CNN about her husband's plans on a just-completed trip to Namibia and Kenya, said she expects him to announce a campaign and dismissed a question on whether the 80-year-old Democrat might opt out of a run in 2024.

"I'm all for it, of course," said the first lady, whose opinion is considered critical for the president's upcoming plans, even as he consults with a close group of longtime political advisers.

She made even stronger remarks to the Associated Press on the trip, when asked if the president was running again: "How many times does he have to say it for you to believe it?"

Whether Biden should run in 2024 continues to be a source of debate among Democrats. Another run would test whether voters are ready to give Biden, already the oldest American president ever, another four years in office.

Biden himself has said repeatedly that he intends to run for re-election and has dismissed questions about his age, but has yet to make a formal declaration.

"There's too many other things we have to finish in the near term before I start a campaign," he told ABC's David Muir at the White House.

Biden said last November that he would decide in early 2023 whether he would run again, but an announcement now is not expected until the spring.

Biden to date has faced no major primary challenger, and he has shown no urgency to make a re-election bid official.

Biden spent the early weeks of the year in a controversy about classified documents, and more recently, his focus on foreign policy including a surprise trip to Ukraine has dominated his schedule.

Cedric Richmond, a former Biden White House adviser, said Biden would announce "whenever he's ready" when asked if an announcement was coming in March or April.

Any re-election bid would likely be influenced strongly by Biden's White House inner circle of advisers. But there has neither been a campaign manager identified yet nor the location of his campaign headquarters.

Polls show concerns about his age among some Americans since Biden would be 86 by the end of a prospective second term.

Some 46% of respondents to a Reuters/Ipsos poll earlier this month said the phrase "Joe Biden is too old to work in government" strongly describes the president, with 24% of Democrats and 49% of independents holding that view.

Some 71% of respondents, including 52% of Democrats, said they did not believe that Biden should run for re-election in 2024.

On the Republican side, former President Donald Trump, who will be 78 by the time of the 2024 election, and Nikki Haley, Trump's former U.N. ambassador and former South Carolina governor, have so far declared as candidates for 2024.

Democratic strategist Bud Jackson said the issue of whether Biden should run again is a topic of great debate in Democratic circles.

"Almost everyone I talk to is concerned about his age," Jackson said, but that "nearly everyone I talk to give him the benefit of the doubt that he should still run."

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Jeff Mason; additional reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Heather Timmons and Leslie Adler)