With just a few months to go until the 2024 presidential primary season begins, President Joe Biden has a new primary challenge from a relatively unknown Democratic congressman, Representative Dean Phillips.
The 54-year-old Minnesotan, who has represented the North Star State’s 3rd District since 2019, officially announced his candidacy for president of the United States in New Hampshire on Friday, the final day for candidates to submit paperwork to appear on the Granite State’s primary ballot next year.
His candidacy is widely considered to be a long shot with no realistic chance of leading to him supplanting Mr Biden as the Democratic Party’s standard-bearer in what is widely expected to be a rematch against former president Donald Trump.
But it is the possibility of a repeat of the Biden-Trump face-off that Mr Biden won nearly three years ago that is animating Mr Phillips’ decision to make a quixotic run against his party’s leader.
In a succession of media interviews, the Minnesota congressman has cast himself as a younger alternative to the 80-year-old incumbent, who he has praised as “a president of great competence and success”.
Mr Phillips has also argued that Democratic voters deserve “not a coronation, but … a competition” and has posited that a primary challenge would strengthen — not weaken — Mr Biden.
Yet decades of US presidential political history belies his claim to be looking to bolster Mr Biden’s chances.
In numerous election cycles, when an incumbent faces a serious primary challenge, the incumbent almost always survives the primary but loses the general election.
The most recent victim of this curse was the late 41st president, George HW Bush, who lost his re-election bid to Bill Clinton in 1992 following a fierce primary fight with right-wing columnist Pat Buchanan.
Not two decades earlier, the 39th President Jimmy Carter lost his 1980 re-election bid to Ronald Reagan after a stiff primary challenge from the last of the famed Kennedy brothers, Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts.
And in what historians believe to have been a pivotal turning point in US history, the 36th President Lyndon Johnson bowed out of his re-election bid rather than fight it out in a contested primary with a Minnesotan upstart, Senator Eugene McCarthy.