US First Lady Jill Biden has given one of the clearest indications yet that President Joe Biden will run for a second term, telling The Associated Press there is “virtually” nothing left for do more than determine the time and place for the announcement.
Although Biden has long said he intends to seek re-election, he has yet to make it official and has struggled to allay questions about whether he is too old to continue serving as president.
Biden would be 86 years old at the end of a second term.
“How many times does he have to say it for you to believe it?” the first lady said in Nairobi, the second and final leg of her five-day trip to Africa.
She added: “He says it’s not over. He has not finished what he has started. And that’s what matters”.
Granddaughter Naomi Biden, who is away, applauded the first lady’s comments after the exclusive interview.
“Preach lullaby,” he said on Twitter.
The president himself was asked about his wife’s comments just hours later in an interview with ABC News, and he laughed when told about his comments, adding: “God loves her. Look, I meant what I said, I have other things to finish before I go into a full-fledged campaign.”
Biden aides have said an announcement is likely to be made in April, after the first quarter of fundraising ends, which is around the time President Barack Obama officially launched his re-election campaign.
The first lady has long been described as a key figure in Biden’s orbit as he plans his future.
“Because I’m his wife,” he laughed.
Ms. Biden dismissed the question of whether she has the deciding vote on whether the president runs for re-election.
“Of course you will listen to me, because we are a married couple,” he said.
But, he added later, “he makes his own decisions, believe me.”
The extensive interview took place on the anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and Ms. Biden recalled her trip to the country last May to meet the first lady of the besieged country, Olena Zelenska.
They visited a school that was used to help immigrants fleeing the fighting.
Some of the families, Biden said, had been hiding underground for weeks before escaping.
“So we thought, how long can this go on? And here we are, a year later,” she said.
“And look what the Ukrainian people have done. I mean, they’re so strong and resilient, and they’re fighting for their country.”
“We all hope that this war ends soon, because every day we see the damage, the violence, the horror on our televisions,” the first lady added.
“And we just can’t believe it.”
Ms Biden also spoke at length for the first time about her skin cancer diagnosis, which prompted doctors to remove multiple basal cell lesions in January.
“I thought, oh, it’s just something in my eye, you know,” he said.
“But then they said, no, we think it’s basal cell.”
The doctors then checked his chest, he said, and said “that’s definitely basal cells.”
“So I’m lucky,” the first lady said.
“Trust me, I’m so lucky they caught it, they took it from me, and I’m healthy.”
Raising awareness about cancer screening has been a cornerstone of her advocacy efforts for years, even before her son, Beau, died of a brain tumor nearly a decade ago.
She often says that the worst three words anyone can hear are “you have cancer.”
When it was her turn to hear a doctor say that, Ms. Biden said: “it was a little harder than I thought.”
Now, she said, she is “very careful” with sunscreen, especially when she’s at the beach, which she described as “one of my favorite places in the world.”
Ms. Biden is the only first lady to continue her career in addition to her ceremonial duties, teaching writing and English to community college students.
At 71, she said she’s not ready to think about retirement.
“I know I’ll know when it’s enough,” he said.
“But it’s not yet.”
Ms. Biden said she left detailed lesson plans for a substitute teacher while on her trip, and has been texting students while traveling.
She plans to be back in the classroom by 8 a.m. Tuesday morning, after arriving home from Africa around 3 a.m. Monday.
Education has been a flashpoint in American politics, especially with activists and conservative politicians trying to limit discussion of race and sexuality in classrooms.
“I don’t believe in banning books,” Biden said.
He added: “I think teachers and parents can work together and decide what children should be taught.”
During the interview, Ms. Biden reflected on the legacy of former President Jimmy Carter, who recently began hospice care at home.
The Carter Center, which the former president founded after leaving the White House, was key in helping to eliminate the guinea worm parasite in African countries.
“That’s the perfect example,” he said.
“He is such a humble man. He didn’t come out and yell, ‘Look what I’ve done.’ He just did the job.”
Biden recalled that Carter and his wife Rosalynn reached out on the eve of Biden’s inauguration two years ago.
“They called and congratulated me,” he said.
“And it meant a lot to me and to Joe.”
The first lady also spoke about visiting the Carters at their home in Plains, Georgia, early in the Biden presidency.
“It’s not just that there are two presidents here. Here are two friends,” she said.
“Actually, four friends, who have really supported each other over the years.”