As he formally launched a long-shot Democratic primary challenge against President Biden on Friday, Rep. Dean Phillips criticized the president’s border policies.
The moderate three-term Democrat lawmaker from a suburban Minneapolis, Minnesota, district praised much of Biden’s work as president but had harsh words for his party regarding the crisis at the southern border.
“Right now, having been to the southern border twice, it is not secure. It is inhumane. It is not fair to those who are seeking refuge,” Philips told reporters after filing to place his name on the primary ballot in New Hampshire.
Illegal immigration and border security have long been top of mind for Republican voters, and GOP leaders and politicians for two and a half years have heavily criticized President Biden’s administration over the surge in border crossings by migrants.
But increasingly, Democrats are also speaking out.
“It is not fair to our border patrol agents who have shown extraordinary mercy and humanity in ways that I wish more Americans saw. And they’ve been demeaned by Democrats,” Phillips argued. “For someone to accuse those who care about border security as being racist, I think those people are being inhumane, and I think we can do better.”
Pointing to his service on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Phillips argued that America is not using aid money effectively.
“It’s wasted. It fuels corruption in a lot of places. Why do we not invest in the very countries from which migrants are coming because they’re persecuted, feel unsafe, or have no opportunity,” he said.
“Why don’t we use American resources upstream to invest in those countries, so people have a safe place, they have opportunity, they have shelter and do not need to pour across our border,” he added.
Phillips, a millionaire businessman and co-founder of a gelato company who is one of the wealthiest members of Congress, technically launched his campaign on Thursday, as he filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to set up his presidential campaign, and launched his website.
On Friday, after filing at the Statehouse in Concord, New Hampshire, he gave a speech at a small rally as he stood in front of his campaign bus.
“I am the Democratic candidate who can win the 2024 election,” Phillips said, referring to polls that suggest former President Donald Trump edging Biden in a 2024 hypothetical general election matchup.
Phillip’s bid comes as the 80-year-old Biden continues to suffer from underwater approval ratings among many Americans.
While the president is the commanding front-runner for his party’s 2024 nomination, polls indicate Biden faces mounting concerns from Democrats over his age.
Phillips, citing the president’s age, in recent months has criticized Biden for “not passing the torch” to the next generation of Democratic leaders.
“I’m here to celebrate the president. This might surprise many of you – I admire President Biden. I think he saved our country four years ago. At that time, he was the only one who could have done so,” he told reporters on Friday.
The White House, when asked earlier this week about Phillips’ expected candidacy, pointed to the lawmaker’s “almost 100% support of this president.”
Phillips on Friday responded that “yes, I voted for his polices. I’m a Democrat. I’m a proud Democrat.”
But he emphasized that “President Biden has served for fifty years in Washington. I think I was three years old when he became a United States senator.”
“People are struggling immensely,” he stressed. “We have passed very important policies, but it is not nearly enough.”
Phillips said Biden’s “a good man. That’s not why I’m doing this. I’m doing this because I’m listening to people all around the country who say they want a change. They want a new generation. That it’s time to go to the future. . . . I’m part of a different generation that’s looking ahead.”
Asked by Fox News whether he’ll support the party’s eventual nominee, regardless of who it is, Phillips said: “I think it’s terribly important that a Democrat win this election, and I will do anything – I will give everything I have, every moment of my time, every ounce of my energy, to ensure that that nominee, whether it be me of course, President Biden or somebody else, becomes president. I think it is that existential.”
He also emphasized that he would not support any third-party candidate for president.
The Biden campaign, in a statement, said that “President Biden is proud of the historic, unified support he has from across the Democratic Party for his re-election. The stakes of next year’s election could not be higher for the American people, and 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.”
With New Hampshire expected to hold a primary out of compliance with the Democratic National Committee’s revamped 2024 nominating calendar, Biden will not be appearing on the ballot.
On Tuesday, the president’s 2024 re-election campaign announced that Biden would not file to place his name on New Hampshire’s ballot. Top Democrats in the state now plan to mount a write-in effort on behalf of the president.
But even without Biden on the ballot in New Hampshire, Phillips faces an uphill climb to unseat the incumbent president for the party’s nomination.
“I’m the underdog. I’m the longshot. I’m at a massive disadvantage,” he acknowledged.
But he called Biden’s skipping of the primary “disappointing” and pledged, if elected president, to restore New Hampshire’s lead-off primary position in the Democratic nominating calendar.
“I believe in tradition. I think that our entire country can and must learn from New Hampshire. I think it’s the most civically engaged state in the country,” he highlighted.