Dean Phillips has told members he’s running against Joe Biden

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Rep. Dean Phillips has begun signaling to fellow House members that he plans to launch a challenge to President Joe Biden.

Two people familiar with the discussions said that the Minnesota Democrat has told some colleagues of his intent to run, though a third person who has talked to Phillips recently said he had demurred when asked. That person said Phillips was clearly considering it but when asked point blank whether he was running, replied: “We’ll see.”

Phillips has frequently called for Biden to face a primary challenger, citing the president’s age and arguing that he has a “sense that the country is begging for alternatives.”

And he has taken several steps in recent weeks toward launching a presidential run, including calling New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley last week and reaching out to several potential staffers about working in New Hampshire.

Among those he’s approached are Steve Schmidt, a former Republican consultant, and Bill Fletcher, a Tennessee-based Democratic consultant, according to a person familiar with the nascent campaign. Schmidt and Fletcher did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Messenger first reported Phillips’ outreach to Schmidt.

Phillips and a spokesperson also did not respond to a request for comment.

A Phillips bid would face steep challenges. He’s a three-term congressman squaring off against Biden, who is sitting on more than $91 million in cash and supported by the entire party machinery. And the Democratic National Committee reordered the presidential nominating calendar last year, eliminating Iowa and New Hampshire from the top of the process and elevating South Carolina — a state that rocketed Biden to the nomination in 2020.

Phillips, a millionaire businessman who co-founded the gelato company Talenti Gelato, could self-fund much of his own campaign. But he’s struggled to hire staffers. Bill Burton, a longtime Democratic consultant and Barack Obama campaign veteran, said on X that “someone” approached him “for a conversation” about Phillips, but it was “not something I took seriously even for a second.”

Should Phillips go through with announcing, he will need to quickly get himself on the ballot in key states. He’s already missed the deadline to appear on the ballot in Nevada, the second presidential nominating state for Democrats. South Carolina, the first nominating state in the new calendar, has a balloting deadline of Nov. 10.

But Phillips may opt to skip the new calendar, focusing instead on New Hampshire, which is expected to hold its own unsanctioned primary after losing its first-in-the-nation status. A strong showing there would not net Phillips substantial delegates but it could prove a major embarrassment for Biden.

As such, top New Hampshire Democratic strategists plan to lead a write-in campaign for the president, who is expected to not formally appear on the ballot.

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