January 30, 2023

The Bidens make an island escape ahead of consequential 2024 announcement

7 min read


President Joe Biden This week he returned to St. Croix, one of his and first lady Jill Biden’s favorite vacation spots, looking for one last chance to relax before what is expected to be a contentious 2023. Re-election race

As Biden unfolds in a familiar place — the first couple has visited the U.S. Virgin Islands for more than a dozen years, vacationing there about ten times since the mid-2000s — his The work on the road ahead accelerates in a cold Washington, DC. Advisers are already preparing for the president’s annual State of the Union address, usually delivered in late January or early February, seeing the speech as an opportunity to lay out those stakes and themes. Which Biden can adopt during the election campaign.

The first couple arrived on St. Croix on Tuesday, accompanied by family members, a gathering of a tight-knit clan who spoke to CNN, according to several people with knowledge of the recent conversation, now another White House running back. has pledged support for By Biden. Top administration officials once viewed this week’s tropical escape as a turning point that will play a key role in deciding their political future, and — while the president still has to deal with his family’s re-election bid. Intend to consider the pros and cons of Recently discussed with him on this issue says that the decision has been made in principle.

Signs that Biden was expecting in St. Croix were everywhere during his arrival: Jumbo C-17 transport planes sat among the airport jumpers. makeshift security checkpoints among the bougainvillea along the quiet coastal road; An unusual number of visitors from Washington.

Even for a popular tourist destination accustomed to a flurry of winter travelers, this week’s presidential visit has stretched the island’s resources to the max. According to residents, rental cars were taken, and hotels were at capacity.

After the Bidens skipped the U.S. Virgin Islands tradition over the past two years, the trip could have similar vibes to one of their recent vacations. In the early hours of 2019, when Biden was finally mulling a presidential bid, the couple was photographed taking a selfie on New Year’s Day at Point Udall on St. Croix, the easternmost point under the American New Year. were catching the first sunrise. Flag, as the popular tourist spot is known.

The decision had been made. Several months later, Biden would announce his candidacy for the presidency.

In 2014, Joe et al Jill Biden Enjoying his time on the island so much, he visited St. Croix twice – once to ring in the New Year and again on a weekend in March, a quick one on the then-Vice President’s official schedule. Departure trip.

In 2015, the couple spent the week after Christmas there again, after deciding not to run for the White House.

In 2016, the Bidens spent the waning days of their vice presidency relaxing on St. Croix, before Donald Trump moved into the White House.

Biden’s loyalty to the American soil has been the highest of any American politician in recent history. No sitting US president has visited St. Croix since Harry S. Truman in 1948. Truman arrived by yacht – the USS Williamsburg – and was hosted by a Jeep manufacturer.

In 1997, President Bill Clinton made another visit to neighboring St. Thomas, the US Virgin Islands, for his winter vacation, chartering a catamaran with his family and snorkeling with daughter Chelsea.

In a 2020 statement, Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. said of Biden, “We think of him as our hometown president.” When asked why the Bidens chose St. Croix as their island retreat, Vanessa Valdivia, the first lady’s press secretary, told CNN, “In past years, the president and first lady have often visited the week after Christmas. What a hot spot to travel to, the US Virgin Islands many times.

For his entire presidency, Biden has eschewed weekend visits to his longtime family home in Washington, D.C., in favor of Wilmington, Delaware, where housing staff and bunk rooms are not a thing.

St. Croix has provided the kind of intense privacy for the first couple, as well as the warmth and beach that the Bidens favor.

During Biden’s visits in the years after he served as vice president, when his security apparatus was thinned and his daily routine returned to normal, the couple were first seen around the island. At this point one could see virtually no entourage, driving themselves through flower-lined streets in rented Toyota sedans.

The house they leased was modest – just a few bedrooms – and was available to other tourists on vacation rental websites at other times of the year.

Still on Tuesday, law enforcement was busy in the same area preparing for Biden’s visit, including installing floodlights and setting up white tents to act as roadside checkpoints.

The first couple are “beach people,” said a family friend familiar with their vacation preferences. Others who know him well say that there is little more fun than relaxing on the beach, pitching an umbrella, throwing a towel on the sand and closing your eyes in the hot sun.

Their Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, neighbors are now accustomed to being screened by Secret Service agents during their beach outings, suggesting that the president and/or first lady walk from their oceanfront vacation home to the ocean waves. Went to rest near.

The First Lady in particular finds comfort in her books and soaking up the sun. This spring, Jill Biden’s staff — on a lonely, whirlwind, three-country trip to Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica — ensured the first lady had a private poolside at a resort outside Panama City. Timed, so that he, like dozens of other vacationers, steps from the water’s edge.

“They both prefer hot and sunny and humid to wet and snowy and cold,” said another close acquaintance of the Bidens.

For the first couple, a true respite includes privacy, not just sun and heat. St. Croix has fit the checklist. Locals have spotted the couple at the grocery store over the years, mostly unnoticed as they shopped for the holidays at the Seaside Market and Deli. Joe Biden has played rounds of golf at Buccaneer Resort, a par-70 course described on the property’s website as “challenging, yet very playable.”

They attended mass at the white-clad Holy Cross Catholic Church in Christiansted, the island’s main town.

The break from Washington comes during the busy holiday season. Jill Biden — relegated to dozens of White House events, photo lines, family visits and general hosting duties because she had days of laryngitis — is on a second week off from her teaching duties at a Northern Virginia community college.

For Joe Biden, the running stakes aren’t just about rest and recovery.

Barring unforeseen events or a sudden change of heart, Biden’s team is laying the groundwork. to announce re-election in the coming months, ending continued speculation about whether the 80-year-old president would seek a second term.

CNN reported that Jill Biden She is “all in” on the 2024 campaign despite previous concerns about the deeper implications of what a second run could mean for her family and her husband. They have, as a White House official told CNN, “zero concerns” about Joe Biden’s schedule and ability.

“This is ultimately a family decision,” Joe Biden said at a news conference last month. “I think everybody wants me to run, but we’re going to have a conversation about that.”

In addition to the rigors of launching the final political campaign of his career, Biden faces a new Republican majority in the House of Representatives, which is intent on blocking many of his legislative ambitions. Republican leaders have also vowed to launch an investigation into the Biden administration and his family.

With his legislative prospects dwindling, Biden plans to travel extensively in the new year to build on the accomplishments of his first two years in office. It will be an intense period that could eventually include a rematch with his 2020 opponent, Trump — and one that will require the full support of his wife of 45 years, as well as the support of his extended family.

If there is a time to discuss hesitation, either with her own or her offspring, it will be during this holiday.

Wayne Nichols, who guides Alexander Hamilton’s tours of St. Croix in his role as a founding father, recalled a 2019 encounter with Biden, whom he became engaged to when then-Pres. Candidates were walking alone on the east end. of the island.

At the time, Biden was also considering a difficult campaign. After passing on a bid in 2016 after the death of her son, she was encouraged by her family to challenge Trump.

Nichols said he stopped Biden to ask if he would run.

“My question to him was, ‘Well, are you going to run?’ He goes, ‘Okay, I’m running now.’ And I thought, well, technically you’re running,” Nichols recalled this week, wondering if he might cross paths with Biden again.

Nichols met Joe Biden this week for the second time in 2019, while out on an island walk — Joe Biden ahead, Jill Biden walking a few steps behind — when someone in the group told Jill Biden that her husband should run. . President.

“‘Tell him when you get there,'” Nicholas said he replied.

As the Bidens are doing similar talks this year, they won’t be driving in a rented Toyota and their stops on the island will go unnoticed.

“I realize this is the place,” Nichols said of Biden, who often chooses St. Croix as his place to find quiet before making a productive decision about the future. “Cooling off by the water there with the good weather. They talk about it. And I’m sure he’ll run away again, just because I don’t know if he thinks there’s an alternative.

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