By Jarrett Renshaw
(Reuters) -U.S. congressman Dean Phillips of Minnesota launched his long-shot challenge to President Joe Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination on Friday, seizing on Biden’s lackluster approval ratings and voter wariness over his age.
The 54-year-old millionaire businessman and gelato company co-founder announced his bid in a one-minute video posted online, saying: “We’ve got some challenges… We’re going to repair this economy, and we are going to repair America.”
Phillips, a three-term House Democrat from a swing district, is unlikely to affect Biden’s chance of securing the party’s nomination, given Biden’s deep resources, official party support and reshaping of the party’s nominating contest calendar to help fend off any early challengers.
Phillips plans to hold a campaign event outside New Hampshire’s Statehouse in Concord later on Friday before filing for its primary at the secretary of state’s office, then embarking on a bus tour.
Phillips has already missed the Nevada filing deadline and will have to follow his New Hampshire performance with a race against Biden in South Carolina, a state with a large Black voter population that set Biden on the path to victory in 2020.
Even so, Democrats are wary of any challenge to Biden that could dent the party’s chances against likely Republican nominee Donald Trump.
“I’ve known Dean for 10 years. He’s a friend, someone I deeply respect and admire, but I have a deep disagreement with him on this,” Minnesota Democratic Party Chairman Ken Martin said.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me that he would spend all of this political capital, frankly, all of his political capital, on a wild goose chase that isn’t going to result in him being the president of the United States,” Martin added.
Phillips did not respond to requests for comment.
The Biden campaign said in a statement that the president is “proud of the historic, unified support he has from across the Democratic party for his reelection,” adding that “the campaign is hard at work mobilizing the winning coalition that President Biden can uniquely bring together to once again beat the MAGA Republicans next November.”
Phillips’ entry into the race comes after the Biden campaign informed the New Hampshire Democratic Party the president will not submit his name to appear on the state’s primary ballot because the state didn’t comply with Biden’s demand that New Hampshire give up its first-in-the-nation primary status in favor of South Carolina.
The Democratic Party is expected to penalize New Hampshire by robbing it of all its delegates, leaving the winner no closer to securing the delegates needed to win the party nomination.
Top New Hampshire Democrats expect a write-in campaign to kick off on behalf of Biden.
Opinion polls show Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents want someone other than Biden, 80, to be the party’s nominee, citing concerns about his age.
Phillips in August said while he was tired of Trump’s fearmongering, he thought Biden should step aside.
“I would like to see Joe Biden, a wonderful and remarkable man, pass the torch, cement this extraordinary legacy,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
(Reporting By Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Heather Timmons, Jonathan Oatis, Susan Heavey and Diane Craft)