U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips does not sound like a man who expects to run for president in 2024.
In an interview with the Star Tribune over the weekend, Phillips said that running for president this cycle "is not something as of today that I see happening for a number of reasons." He said his mission is to encourage others to enter the primary fray even while confirming that he is still eying a September timeline for making a firm decision on what he'll do.
"Setting up a competitive campaign, the infrastructure, the people, the systems in multi states, requires a tremendous amount of effort and time, and there are people who have laid that groundwork. I'm not one of them," Phillips said. "Perhaps in the future. We'll see about that."
The 54-year-old moderate Democrat from Minnesota's Third Congressional District has gained national attention over his public call in recent weeks for a primary challenge to Democratic incumbent President Joe Biden. Phillips has gone even further lately.
"The president should pass the torch because that's the only way that that stage will open up," Phillips said.
Even if Phillips or someone else decides to run, the odds of defeating Biden in a Democratic primary are slim. Biden formally announced his re-election run in April and despite Phillips' encouragement this summer, no major Democrats are publicly signaling they want to enter the 2024 presidential race at this time.
Some Biden allies also have publicly pushed back against Phillips after the Minnesota lawmaker confirmed in late July he was being urged to consider running.
"I do not think there is a legitimate appetite for another Democratic candidate," Symone D. Sanders-Townsend, an MSNBC host who held a prominent role in Biden's 2020 campaign, said earlier this month on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Author Marianne Williamson and anti-vaccine voice Robert F. Kennedy Jr. are running against Biden in the Democratic primary, but are not seen as major competition.
Phillips has given numerous interviews in recent weeks to push the prospect of bringing different Democratic options into the 2024 race, ranging from local media to appearances on the influential national Sunday political shows "Meet the Press" and "Face the Nation."
He appears keen on trying to turn the spotlight from him and the question of whether he'll run to the issue he's trying to raise within the Democratic Party. He worries Democrats are "sleepwalking" into a replay of 2016 when Republican Donald Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton in a shocking upset.
"My candidacy is very unlikely to be part of this," Phillips said. "But I've used the moment and the spotlight that came with my call to action to encourage others."
His 2024 comments have at times been publicized by a social media account for the Republican National Committee, giving evidence to some Democrats' worries that Phillips' public stance on Biden could harm the president's re-election chances next fall.
Prominent elected Democrats in Minnesota have made it clear they support Biden's re-election run as the likelihood of former President Trump being the GOP nominee in 2024 looms over the general election race. Trump has been charged in several cases this year, including over the failed attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
"While I certainly have great respect for Dean Phillips, who's a wonderful friend, I have a deep disagreement with him on this because I really strongly believe that the only thing that his comments could do right now is hurt our chances to win" in 2024, Minnesota DFL Party Chair Ken Martin said in an interview last week.
Biden is the oldest sitting president in U.S. history and would be 82 at the time of a potential second inauguration. Yet, that fact hasn't helped Phillips build much public momentum for viable alternatives. And even though a group of younger Republicans are running for president on the GOP side, Trump remains the frontrunner and is set to turn 78 next year.
"I'm not the first person in the United States of America to recognize that we face an actuarial issue with both candidates. ... Not just President Biden, but also former President Trump," Phillips said. "When I say actuarial issue, all you have to do is look at an actuarial table to understand the likelihood of either of these men living through the end of the next term, period."
Yet Phillips said if Biden is the Democratic nominee, he will strongly support the president's bid.
"I will do everything I can to ensure he is re-elected despite my concerns, because they don't even come close to the concerns that I have about his likely opponent," Phillips said.
Even within Democratic circles, Phillips was not a nationally known name before his dance with a 2024 bid. Being this public about the presidential race has given Phillips the kind of national media attention that he hasn't had during much of his three terms in Congress.
But breaking from Democratic leaders so publicly about the 2024 primary may also threaten Phillips' ability to win higher office at the state and federal level in the future.
"Let me assure you, if I wanted to raise my profile as a Democrat, do you think this is the way I would have gone about it?" Phillips said, noting the "extraordinary amount of heat" he's taken from the establishment and local activists.
"This is not a very smart way to become better known as a Democrat," Phillips said. "This is all about conviction and principle ... and I trust people will ultimately see that because if not, then I really made a big error in my judgment."