WASHINGTON — It's far from official but if recent statements are any indication, President Joe Biden is girding for a 2024 showdown with former opponent Donald Trump -- a duel for which most Americans have little appetite.
Speaking Wednesday Biden even went so far as to say it was his "intention to run again."
The 79-year-old Democrat's new tone -- confident and upbeat -- evinces the opportunity he now senses on the horizon.
While the balance of Congress still remains unknown, the Republicans' much desired "red wave" failed to materialize in Tuesday's midterm elections, and they did not sweep as many candidates into office as hoped.
Despite Biden's new optimism, a majority of Americans -- 56 percent according to a YouGov/The Economist poll from early November and even more according to some exit polls -- do not want him to run again.
When asked about this by one journalist, a self-assured Biden responded: "Watch me."
While he has said he will hold off on a confirmation until "early next year," Biden has already laid a strong foundation to appeal to the electorate via reforms he hopes will propel him beyond his current low approval rating of 41 percent, according to polling aggregator FiveThirtyEight.
Asked what he would change to sway public opinion, Biden responded: "Nothing, because (Americans are) just finding out what we're doing. The more they know about what we're doing, the more support there is."
New highways, faster internet, cheaper insulin -- these are the perks which Biden hopes will win over voters.
And he believes that time is on his side too. There is no rush to declare, he feels, even as Trump, 74, repeatedly promotes a "big announcement" next Tuesday.
A majority of Americans also do not want the real estate billionaire to run again -- 53 percent according to the YouGov/The Economist poll.
Biden has often said and certainly continues to believe that he is the person best positioned to beat Trump again.
And according to exit polls he is right.
"Biden's approval rating, while low, was higher than Trump's by just about the same margin" as between their 2020 presidential scores, said political science professor Wendy Schiller of Brown University.
Biden has so far not weighed in on other possible opponents, such as rising Republican star Ron DeSantis, the 44-year-old Republican governor of Florida.
Asked whether he would prefer to face DeSantis or Trump, Biden said only: "It'd be fun watching them take on each other."
'HAS TO COMMIT'
Optimism is, after all, the hallmark of Biden's long career, which has involved 2 failed bids for the White House.
Despite these political setbacks, Biden never quit believing in his odds, which also seems to be his modus operandi in the face of Father Time, with Biden to turn 80 later this month.
His doctor a year ago said he was healthy -- particularly given that Biden's pace could easily bring a younger man to his knees.
But with thinner hair, a stiffer gait and more numerous verbal hesitations, the president is beginning to look the part of an octogenarian.
Even so, "being the leader of the party, it would be political malpractice for him to announce now that he was not seeking reelection because it would destroy any remaining leverage he has over Congress and in the public arena," Schiller said.
"If for no other reason than to uphold and protect what he has already accomplished, he has to commit to seeking reelection," Schiller added.
And at least for the moment, momentum is also on his side.
© Agence France-Presse