WASHINGTON - President Joe Biden is building up to a 2024 campaign launch with a victory lap showcasing his accomplishments so far in office, as questions about his political future have shifted to when, not if, he'll announce a re-election bid.
The 2024 warmup plan includes travel to potential battleground states, including plans for him to make his first visit to Arizona as president next week. The White House also is planning a major event to celebrate the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act and spotlight Biden's championing of marriage equality. Biden and top officials are ramping up outreach to key supporters across the country with meetings, political briefings and social gatherings - all in advance of a campaign launch early next year.
Longtime Biden supporters and friendly constituency groups have also been invited to the White House in mid-December for what is officially characterized as an opportunity to discuss the president's agenda for the new year, but one expected participant called it a strategy session ahead of the campaign launch.
As the Republican presidential field is expected to grow in the coming weeks with new challengers to former President Donald Trump, the White House is aiming to make the incoming House GOP majority its primary sparring partner. White House aides believe that a Republican Congress riven with internal divisions and united only by opposition to and investigations of Biden will reinforce why they think voters gravitated to him in 2020.
"The best politics is governing in a way that delivers for people," said one Biden adviser who requested anonymity to speak frankly about internal discussions.
Even as Biden has insisted he intends to seek a second term, there were concerns in the party that he might either reverse course and opt not to run, leaving the party scrambling to find a candidate who can beat Trump, or that his advanced age and subpar approval ratings put him at risk for defeat. And a month ago, some Democrats - donors in particular - were preparing to question whether he should seek a second term.
The midterm results, though, "bought him a lot of time to methodically decide," a person close to the White House said.
And now Biden aides point to the midterms to argue that his approach to leading the party has been validated.
Democratic successes in the Senate and statehouses, the White House has argued, prove the popularity of Biden's agenda.
"The same coalition President Biden built to expand the map for Democrats in 2020 powered our historic midterm wins, including unprecedented youth turnout," White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said. "At the same time, the president galvanized independent voters with a message widely adopted across the party, highlighting the differences between his values and ultra MAGA Republicans' agenda."
Top Biden advisers think that after a long midterm campaign, voters are uninterested in an immediate start to a full-blown presidential contest - particularly a rerun of the last campaign. And so they argue that the West Wing should focus on governing, not campaigning - at least not overtly. On Tuesday, Biden met with congressional leaders to navigate an intense lame-duck session but also to consider what a divided Congress might be able to work together on next year.
Deputy chief of staff Bruce Reed, working with other top Biden confidants Mike Donilon and Steve Ricchetti, is taking the lead in developing the president's State of the Union address, which is expected to come after Biden has made his 2024 intentions clearer but before a full campaign launch, according to a senior Biden adviser. The speech will focus on an economic agenda geared toward the middle class and highlight his record of bipartisan accomplishments with a promise to add more.
"The slogan du jour seems to be never underestimate how much Team Biden is underestimated, and nothing rings more true," said Jim Messina, President Barack Obama's re-election campaign manager. "Understanding the pulse of the country leads to both good policy and good politics, and no one has a better finger on the pulse than Joe Biden."
But Biden will continue to travel outside Washington, like a visit to Michigan on Tuesday and Arizona next week, to tout both bipartisan successes, such as his infrastructure law and the CHIPS Act, as well as provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act including an insulin price cap, reduced health care premiums and tax incentives for energy efficient products, as they are set take effect next year.
"When you see these big projects in your hometown - cranes going up, shovels in the ground, workers in hard hats - I want you to feel the way I feel: pride. Pride in what we can do when we do it together," Biden said in Michigan. "We're building a better America. We just have to keep it going."
But the GOP still sees considerable vulnerabilities in the president that the new Republican House majority was elected to address.
"Biden has overseen soaring inflation, a humanitarian crisis at the border, and unrest abroad. Over the next two years, he will finally meet oversight and accountability for the failures he's unleashed on the American people," said Nathan Brand, the deputy communications director for the Republican National Committee.
Those close to the White House say that, at this point, they expect that only a family emergency or a personal health issue would change Biden's mind about seeking re-election.
Biden has said he would discuss a potential campaign with his family in the coming weeks. But the sources stress that there is not likely to be one climactic family discussion as there was in 2020, with more of a "rolling" series of informal discussions into the New Year.
Key staffing and structural decisions about his 2024 campaign are also still under discussion. His brain trust in the West Wing, which includes chief of staff Ron Klain, deputy chief of staff Jen O'Malley Dillon and senior adviser Anita Dunn, are largely expected to stay in place through the State of the Union, according to two sources close to the planning. All were also part of the senior leadership of the 2020 Biden campaign, and some combination of those players, especially O'Malley Dillon and Dunn, will likely direct the 2024 effort, the sources say.
Advisers are weighing who would be a point person in a Biden 2024 headquarters, serving as campaign manager based in a headquarters in Philadelphia or Biden's hometown of Wilmington, Delaware. For now, the Democratic National Committee is taking the lead role in preparing for and responding to the many potential GOP challengers, starting with Trump.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com