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U.S. President Joe Biden, seen in his official campaign launch video published on April 25, 2023, announces his re-election bid.SOCIAL MEDIA/Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden has formally launched his bid for a second term, kicking off the country’s marathon 2024 election race with a broadside at “MAGA extremists” and setting the stage for a potential rematch with Donald Trump.

Mr. Biden, who had said for months that he would run again, made it official in a video Tuesday morning.

“The question we’re facing is whether, in the years ahead, we have more freedom or less freedom, more rights or fewer,” he says in the three-minute clip, over shots of himself and Vice-President Kamala Harris meeting with voters. “This is not a time to be complacent.”

The election will play out in a country anxious about the future of democracy and deeply divided over cultural issues, including abortion, LGBTQ rights and immigration.

Mr. Biden is putting these chasms front and centre. The video opens with images of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

“MAGA extremists are lining up to take on those bedrock freedoms,” he warns, over shots of Mr. Trump, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. “Cutting social security that you paid for your entire life while cutting taxes of the very wealthy, dictating what health care decisions women can make, banning books and telling people who they can love – all while making it more difficult for you to be able to vote.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who endured a torturous renegotiation of North America’s free-trade agreement during Mr. Trump’s administration, hailed Mr. Biden’s announcement.

“Yes, it’s a very good thing. It’s always very good to be able to work with President Biden. He has done great things not only for Canada-United States relations, but for the world, too. I will be there to support him, to continue to work with him for years to come,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters on Parliament Hill.

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In a statement ahead of Mr. Biden’s announcement, Mr. Trump accused the President of allowing other countries to use the U.S. as a “dumping ground” for violent criminals, and railed against both “left-wing freaks and zealots” and “woke” military commanders.

“Under Biden, the Southern Border has been abolished,” Mr. Trump said. “Our cities have been overrun with homelessness, drug addicts, and violent criminals.”

The Republican National Committee released a dystopic, AI-generated video of what they said would happen if the Democrats hold on to the White House in November of next year. The 30-second spot depicts the army shutting down San Francisco because of excessive crime, China bombing Taiwan and a row of bank offices boarded up.

A staid, 80-year-old career politician, Mr. Biden has sold himself as a safe conciliator after four years of Mr. Trump’s drama. He has earned plaudits for rallying international support against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – his government has directed tens of billions of dollars in military aid to Kyiv – and passing major legislation to build infrastructure, fight climate change, move semiconductor production to the U.S. from China and lower prescription drug prices.

But the President has fallen short on pledges to expand access to health care, institute paid parental leave, crack down on voter suppression and pass tougher gun safety legislation. Inflation, meanwhile, has hammered voters’ pocketbooks. He has also faced persistent questions about his age: already the U.S.’s oldest-ever president, he would, if re-elected, be 86 at the end of his second term.

Despite all this and relatively low approval ratings, Mr. Biden appears to have a glide path to the Democratic nomination. No serious competitors have so far stepped up to challenge him, in an apparent acknowledgment that his middle-of-the-road, big-tent style has proven the most effective way to hold the line against Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump, meanwhile, has an even lower approval rating and faces primary challenges from several candidates, both declared and potential, including Mr. DeSantis. But he has dominated recent polls of Republican voters, setting up the possibility of a presidential showdown between two historically unpopular nominees.

The Democratic campaign will likely paint Mr. Trump as a would-be authoritarian, particularly if either federal special counsel Jack Smith or prosecutors in Georgia charge the former president criminally for trying to overturn the 2020 election. Mr. Trump also faces criminal charges over hush-money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels.

Mr. Biden, who initially toyed with serving just one term, began moving closer to a re-election bid after his party won better-than-expected results in last autumn’s midterms. The official announcement will allow him to start fundraising and hiring staff.

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