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Top One Magazine

How Biden’s campaign video triggered the timeline

After four whirlwind days in Ireland, President Joe Biden took questions from reporters beneath the wing of Air Force One on the tarmac at Ireland West Airport Knock and said he was excited to head home — specifically, to his place in Rehoboth Beach where he would spend the rest of the weekend.

Biden told the reporters he was going there because Secret Service agents were installing bulletproof windows at his primary Delaware residence in Wilmington. But there was another reason: he would be meeting top aides and a film crew in Rehoboth, as the Washington Post was first to report, to record parts of the video he released Tuesday officially launching his reelection campaign.

In the days that followed, suspense continued to build about Biden’s decision and the timing of his announcement. But there shouldn’t have been — because once Biden’s team hired the film crew, he was boxed in, required by federal law to announce his candidacy within 15 days, even though some of his aides didn’t realize that at the time.

According to two people familiar with events, some aides involved with the run-up to Tuesday’s launch sought legal guidance after the video segments were recorded and were reminded about what’s known as “the 15-day trigger,” the requirement that campaigns file paperwork within 15 days of spending $5,000 on campaign-related expenditures.

“I assume that the campaign spent more than $5,000 to produce [the announcement video],” said Erin Chlopak, the senior director for campaign finance at the Campaign Legal Center. “Under federal regulations, once a candidate spends that, they are required to file their official statement of candidacy within 15 days.”

As late as last week, the people said, legal guidance was still being sought as to whether an announcement was required within that timeframe as a result of the video. According to people familiar with the deliberations, the legal requirement to file paperwork triggered by making the launch video was ultimately not part of the calculation to make the reelection bid official. The decision to flip the switch had already been made. Hence, hiring the video crew.

“There was no ambiguity among the senior team about what happens once you enter the 15-day window,” one Democratic strategist close to the process said, disputing that those involved in deciding to go ahead with the video production had failed to realize the implications.

Still, up until this week’s launch, there was robust debate among Democratic operatives close to top Biden aides about whether it made sense to announce in April. Biden himself, known for taking his time with weighty decisions, has long seemed inclined to seek a second term. But he hesitated about the timing of when. Some people close to the campaign speculated that those pushing for an earlier launch were trying to box him into announcing in April. One thing they had in their favor was Biden’s sense of nostalgia and superstition. Tuesday’s announcement came on the four-year anniversary of his last campaign launch.

But the announcement still left little time for sorting out more of the campaign structure, from lining up surrogates to launching a robust email program. Nor did the launch come with the usual pomp and circumstance that usually accompanies making the first step in a bid for the White House. Biden spoke before a gathering of union workers and did not mention the election run he’d just embarked on. There was only a spattering of fundraising solicitations sent around — a level that, one Democratic digital operative suggested, would have been more robust had the president’s digital team had a bit more prep time. There was no rally (though, Barack Obama similarly held off on doing a campaign event until weeks after making his 2012 bid known via a video).

The just-launched campaign declined a request for comment. Still, as the campaign gets going, top aides may want to keep the lawyers on speed dial.

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