© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) with the Problem Solvers Caucus and other members, speaks at a news conference on the forthcoming passage of the bipartisan emergency COVID-19 relief bill in Washington, D.C., U.S., December 21, 2020. REUTERS/Ken Cede
By Jarrett Renshaw
(Reuters) – U.S. congressman Dean Phillips of Minnesota will launch a long-shot challenge to President Joe Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination on Friday, seizing on Biden’s lackluster approval ratings and voter wariness over his age, according to two people familiar with his plans.
The 54-year-old millionaire businessman and co-founder of a gelato company is expected to hold an event outside New Hampshire’s Statehouse in Concord on Friday and file for its primary inside the building in the secretary of state’s office before embarking on a bus tour.
Phillips, a three-term House Democrat from a swing district, is unlikely to affect Biden’s chance of securing the party’s nomination, given Biden’s deep resources, official party support and reshaping of the party’s nominating contest calendar to help fend off any early challengers.
Phillips has already missed the Nevada filing deadline and will have to follow his New Hampshire performance with a race against Biden in South Carolina, a state with a large Black voter population that set Biden on the path to victory in 2020.
Even so, Democrats are wary of any challenge to Biden that could dent the party’s chances against likely Republican nominee Donald Trump.
“I’ve known Dean for 10 years. He’s a friend, someone I deeply respect and admire, but I have a deep disagreement with him on this,” said Ken Martin, head of the Minnesota Democratic Party.
He added, “I don’t understand the political calculus on this. I don’t understand the how, I don’t even understand his why. It doesn’t make any sense to me that he would spend all of this political capital, frankly, all of his political capital, on a wild goose chase that isn’t going to result in him being the president of the United States.”
Both Phillips and the Biden campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
Phillips’ entry into the race will come only days after the Biden campaign officially informed the New Hampshire Democratic Party the president will not submit his name to appear on the state’s primary ballot because the state didn’t comply with Biden’s demand that New Hampshire give up its first-in-the-nation primary status in favor of South Carolina.
The Democratic Party is expected to penalize New Hampshire by robbing it of all its delegates, leaving the winner no closer to securing the delegates needed to win the party nomination.
Top New Hampshire Democrats expect a write-in campaign to kick off on behalf of Biden.
Opinion polls show Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents want someone other than Biden, 80, to be the party’s nominee, citing concerns about his age.
Phillips has said the polls show voters want an alternative. In August, Phillips said that he wasn’t planning on running at that time, and was tired of Trump’s fearmongering, but thought Biden should step aside.
“I would like to see Joe Biden, a wonderful and remarkable man, pass the torch, cement this extraordinary legacy,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”