Democratic presidential candidate Dean Phillips defended himself against the fierce backlash he has faced from within his own party since launching his primary challenge to President Biden’s reelection campaign, in an interview published Sunday.
In a Saturday interview in New Hampshire with CNN, Phillips compared his bid for president to the late Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy’s challenge to President Carter’s reelection in 1980. Phillips suggested Carter’s failed reelection bid was not a result of Kennedy’s primary challenge; rather, a result of poor approval in general.
“[Biden’s] approval numbers are historically low, rivaling only Jimmy Carter, who got slaughtered, of course, in that election,” Phillips said. “[Carter] had a Democratic primary challenger because he was going to get slaughtered in the election. It’s the same circumstance again.”
“Ted Kennedy did not cause Jimmy Carter’s problems. I did not cause President Biden’s problems,” Phillips said.
Biden’s poll numbers have concerned some Democratic strategists, while others – particularly those affiliated with his campaign – have dismissed those concerns, noting it’s still a year out from the election.
A recent New York Times/Siena College poll, however, had Biden trailing former President Trump in five of six key battleground states.
“I think in 2020, (President Biden) was probably the only Democrat who could have beaten Donald Trump. I think in 2024, he may be among the only ones that will lose to him,” Phillips said to CNN. “And that’s why I’m doing this.”
In the interview, Phillips said if, after Super Tuesday, he has not come out ahead, he would suspend his campaign and help campaign for the Democratic nominee. He said he would not launch a third-party bid.
“I’m running in a primary. I’m not doing what Cornel West is doing, not doing what Jill Stein is doing, not doing what Joe Manchin might do,” Phillips said to CNN. “If the president beats me in New Hampshire and Michigan, all around the country, that’s good. He looks strong. If I force the president to have to get out and campaign basically for the first time — because he didn’t have to campaign in 2020 — and he appears well, and he debates and he’s strong, makes a good case, that’s good for him.”
“I could win this. I intend to win this. Or I could open the door for others who might be better positioned to beat Donald Trump,” he added.