In a surprising turn of events, Dean Phillips, a millionaire businessperson and Minnesota Democrat, has announced his bid for the presidency.

Dean Phillips Of Minnesota: A Quixotic Bid For The Presidency

In a surprising turn of events, Dean Phillips, a millionaire businessperson and Minnesota Democrat, has announced his bid for the presidency.
Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips (Source: Phillips For Congress)

In a surprising turn of events, Dean Phillips, a millionaire businessperson and Minnesota Democrat, has announced his bid for the presidency.

The congressman announced his presidential campaign during an interview with CBS News’ Robert Costa where he insisted 2024 needs to be “about the future.”

“I am. I have to,” Phillips told Costa when asked if he’s running for president. “I think President Biden has done a spectacular job for our country. But it’s not about the past. This is an election about the future. I will not sit still I will not be quiet in the face of numbers that are so clearly saying that we’re going to be facing an emergency next November.”

While some view his campaign as a vanity project or mid-life crisis, Phillips sees it as a necessary move to provide voters with a generational alternative to the 80-year-old President Joe Biden.

Concerns about Biden’s ability to beat former President Donald Trump a second time have fueled Phillips’ resolve to challenge the incumbent. However, despite Phillips’ sincerity and conviction, many doubt his chances of success and question his understanding of the institutional forces he will face.

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A Longshot Campaign

Phillips initially considered recruiting another candidate to lead the charge against Biden. He called for a “moderate governor” to step up, hoping to raise concerns and create space for an alternative candidate.

However, Phillips ultimately decided to take matters into his own hands, filing paperwork for “Dean 24, Inc.” with the Federal Elections Commission. His 2018 congressional bid serves as a blueprint for his presidential campaign, where he defied the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s advice and relied on his marketing background.

Phillips ran a retail-heavy election, emphasizing digital ads over TV spending and avoiding negative attacks on his Republican opponent.

The Resurgence of Phillips’ Playbook

Phillips’ 2018 campaign tactics are already resurfacing in his presidential bid. A “Dean Phillips for President” bus, emblazoned with the slogan “Everyone’s invited,” has been spotted in New Hampshire, where Phillips plans to focus his campaign.

He aims to replicate the success of his 2018 campaign on a national scale. However, running against an incumbent president in a primary race poses significant challenges.

Phillips has already faced setbacks, failing to make the ballot in Nevada, the second presidential nominating state. Additionally, he lacks name recognition in New Hampshire, needing to introduce himself to the state party chair just weeks before his campaign launch.

The Biden Factor

One of the most significant obstacles for Phillips is President Joe Biden himself. With $91 million in campaign cash and the support of the entire Democratic party machinery, Biden is a formidable opponent.

The Biden campaign is not expected to engage heavily with Phillips’ campaign, focusing instead on casting him as wealthy and out-of-touch while highlighting his 100 percent voting record with Biden.

Many Democrats are mystified and frustrated by Phillips’ decision to challenge Biden without offering a clear public explanation. In their view, the focus should be on reelecting Biden, rather than mounting a primary challenge.

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The Schmidt Connection

Phillips’ association with Steve Schmidt, a top campaign strategist for Senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, raises eyebrows among Democrats. Schmidt also advised former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz in his independent presidential run in 2020.

The choice to work with Schmidt is seen by some as a “red flag.” Additionally, Phillips has enlisted the services of media buyer Ondine Fortune and ad-maker Bill Fletcher, further signaling his intent to scale up his campaign.

New Hampshire’s Fraught Moment

Phillips’ decision to focus on New Hampshire comes at a complicated time for Democrats in the state. They recently lost their first-in-the-nation primary status for the 2024 presidential cycle, as the Democratic National Committee reordered the calendar, elevating South Carolina to the first-place slot.

Phillips has yet to reach out to South Carolina Democrats, leading many to question his seriousness as a candidate. The New Hampshire primary, an unsanctioned contest, is unlikely to yield any delegates for the winner.

While President Biden’s name will not appear on the ballot, top New Hampshire Democrats are expected to lead a write-in effort on his behalf. Marianne Williamson, a 2020 presidential candidate, will also be on the ballot in New Hampshire.

Turmoil and Uncertainty

The calendar reshuffling has created turmoil within the Democratic Party, with some feeling that the decision was an attempt to take control away from the people. Former New Hampshire House Speaker Steve Shurtleff hopes that Phillips’ candidacy will shake up the race, given the dissatisfaction with the DNC’s calendar changes.

However, challenging an incumbent president like Biden comes at a cost, and it could potentially mark the end of Phillips’ political career. Minnesota Democrats, who expected Phillips to run for statewide office, are now preparing to vie for his House seat, with Ron Harris already announcing a primary challenge.

Dean Phillips’ bid for the presidency may be seen as a quixotic endeavor by some, but he remains resolute in his belief that voters need a generational alternative to President Joe Biden.

Despite facing significant hurdles, including Biden’s formidable campaign war chest and the lack of support from prominent Democrats, Phillips is determined to run a campaign similar to his successful 2018 congressional bid.

As the primary race unfolds, only time will tell if Phillips’ concerns about Biden’s ability to beat Trump resonate with Democratic voters and if his unconventional campaign strategy can garner enough support to pose a genuine threat to the incumbent.

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