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The trappings of Joe Biden’s office were on full display in the days leading up to his re-election announcement: he spent the weekend at the presidential retreat Camp David, had lunch with his vice-president Kamala Harris at the White House and held an event in the Rose Garden to honour US teachers.

With the Marine Band playing in the background, he told reporters: “I told you I’m planning on running. You’ll know real soon.”

On Tuesday, Biden, 80, announced he would seek a second term in office. His goal is to emulate the successes of Barack Obama, George W Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, while avoiding the pitfalls that befell one-termers such as Donald Trump, George HW Bush and Jimmy Carter.

Biden had never left much room for doubt about his intention to seek a second term. But his age and lacklustre approval ratings had generated more questions than usual about whether he can, or should, mount another campaign.

In the past few months, some warning signs have been flashing about Biden’s popular appeal. An NBC News poll published on Sunday found that more than two-thirds of voters do not want him to run for a second term, including a slim majority of Democrats. His job approval ratings have recovered somewhat from the doldrums of last summer but remain negative by a significant margin, according to the Realclearpolitics.com average.

“Biden’s biggest challenge is that his announcement is not really being greeted with enthusiasm,” said Kevin Madden, a former adviser to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential bid and a senior partner at Penta, the Washington advisory group. “Instead it’s being met with this overwhelming sense of reluctance.”

The president’s re-election prospects were lifted by the better than expected performance of Democrats in last year’s midterm elections, however, which wiped out the possibility of a serious internal challenge within his party. This has allowed him to look past a primary fight and instead prepare for battle against his Republican opponent in the general election, and a possible rematch with Trump — for which many Democrats believe he is well positioned.

“Joe Biden has already beaten Donald Trump, and the last thing that the majority of Americans want to do in this country, again, is to have Donald Trump in the White House,” said Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic strategist. “Joe Biden will make mistakes, but in a match-up against Donald Trump, Biden wins.”

Biden has plenty of first-term accomplishments to tout, including sweeping economic legislation that generated millions of jobs as the US economy recovered from the worst of the pandemic and set the stage for an industrial revival across the country. On the foreign policy front, he marshalled the western alliance to support Ukraine in the wake of last year’s Russian invasion.

But there are also weaknesses in his record, from the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan to high inflation that has undercut the benefits of the economic recovery.

Biden’s best bet may still be to stress how different he is to Trump, who is now facing criminal charges, and to draw attention to the radical elements of the social agenda embraced by some Republicans on issues ranging from abortion to guns and election denialism. In the midterm elections — even more recently in a closely watched Wisconsin supreme court election that became a bellwether for voter sentiment — the US public turned to Democrats in a rebuke of Trumpian extremism.

“Democrats are offering normalcy, and the Republicans are offering a lot of crazy. People didn’t go for it in 2022, and I don’t think they are going to go for it in 2024, either,” said Simon Rosenberg, founder of the New Democrat Network, a liberal think-tank in Washington.

Polls show that if Republicans put forward a new nominee in 2024 who manages to beat Trump in the primaries, Biden could face a tougher time.

“[Biden] is not where he wants to be right now. He has got to improve his standing in order to make sure that he gets re-elected . . . but these are do-able things. It is much harder to understand how Donald Trump can go win back voters in Michigan or Pennsylvania, than it is for Joe Biden to get his numbers up a few points,” said Rosenberg.

In pivotal swing states, Democratic party officials are already rallying around his candidacy. Charlotte Valyo, the party chair in Chester County, outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, said her area was “excited to support” Biden and his “impressive” record.

“These are accomplishments that improve the lives of all Americans,” she said.

“I think he’s got a great chance to repeat,” said Mindy Koch, chair of the Democratic party in Palm Beach County, Florida, where Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort is based. “I don’t think age really matters, I don’t know why that would be a focus.”

Trump, who is 76, “ain’t no young chicken either”, she added.

One of the biggest dangers for Biden might be that voters find him as uninspiring as Trump — an equivalency that contributed heavily to Hillary Clinton’s defeat in 2016. But Patrick Gaspard, the president of the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think-tank in Washington, said he did not see that dynamic repeating itself.

“It was pretty easy to make a caricature of [Clinton] . . . it is far more difficult to do so with Joe Biden,” he said. But Gaspard added it would still be crucial for Biden to carry a positive agenda into his 2024 campaign, as opposed to just highlighting his differences with Trump.

“[He should] talk to the accomplishments and talk about the future,” Gaspard said.

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