The upper echelons of the Democratic party are whispering about drafting an alternative to Joe Biden in 2024, CNN reported.
The creeping pace of Biden's re-election campaign, apparently, has some donors and party apparatchiks convinced that Biden isn't actually running, and they're eager to find a replacement.
"They feel like time is already running out and that the lack of the more robust campaign activity they want to see is a sign that his heart isn’t really in it," CNN reported.
With the pretext of COVID gone, Biden will not be able to justify another low-key effort like his 2020 "basement" campaign. So far, skeptics say his travel schedule is looking pretty light, underscoring concerns that the 80-year-old president is running out of gas.
His skeletal campaign operation has added to those worries.
Looming over these concerns is the fear of Donald Trump returning to power. The former president has been outpacing Biden in numerous national polls.
“If Trump wins next November and everyone says, ‘How did that happen,’ one of the questions will be: what was the Biden campaign doing in the summer of 2023?” a top aide to Biden's 2020 campaign said.
While Democrats publicly dismiss Trump's campaign, Biden's circle is "privately much more concerned with the possibility of losing to [former president Trump] than they tend to let on," CNN noted.
But Biden had supporters breathing a sigh of relief Friday when his campaign announced a $72 million fundraising haul, double the amount Donald Trump raised - but less than the $86 million Barack Obama raised in the first few months of his 2012 re-election campaign.
Biden's inner circle dismissed CNN's report as familiar handwringing about Biden, who they say has been consistently underestimated. Biden defied expectations last year of a crushing "red wave."
They insist that Biden's slow campaign pace is a deliberate effort to save money, as Biden and his aides promote "Bidenomics" at government events, on the taxpayer's dime.
While Biden doesn't seem to be doing much campaigning, his often-freakish behavior in public continues to raise concern about his mental health.
The latest example came this week in Finland, where Biden was seen nibbling on a terrified little girl like some hungry storybook monster.
Despite his obvious weaknesses, Biden has long been buoyed by a lack of clear alternatives. Vice president Kamala Harris' striking incompetence has many viewing Gavin Newsom as a plan B candidate.
California's governor has clear ambition, but he has closed the door - for now - on challenging Biden in 2024. It remains to be seen if that could change - but it's a possibility Democrats appear to be keeping in their back pocket.