What to know about Rep. Dean Phillips, the Minnesota Democrat challenging Joe Biden in 2024


MINNEAPOLIS — Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota has announced his intentions to challenge President Joe Biden on the Democratic presidential ticket, formally launching his 2024 campaign Friday morning in New Hampshire, where he will file to appear on the state’s primary ballot.

Even before putting pen to paper in New Hampshire, Phillips, 54, sat down with CBS News chief election and campaign correspondent Robert Costa in an exclusive interview for “CBS Mornings.”

“I think President Biden has done a spectacular job for our country,” Phillips said. “But it’s not about the past. This is an election about the future.”

Phillips told Costa he has studied polling data and is alarmed about the prospect of former President Donald Trump beating Biden, should the 2024 election end up becoming a rematch of the 2020 race. He said at 80 years old, it’s time for Biden to step aside for a new generation of Democrats to lead the party.

“I will not sit still and not be quiet in the face of numbers that are so clearly saying that we’re going to be facing an emergency next November,” Phillips said.

Who is Dean Phillips?

Emmer is a 54-year-old who was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and currently resides in Wayzata. He and his wife, Annalise, have been married since 2019. He has two adult daughters, Daniela and Pia, with his previous wife Karin Einisman.

READ MORE: Minnesota congressmen Dean Phillips, Tom Emmer enter national spotlight

What is Phillips’ background?

Before his political career, Phillips was heir to his stepfather’s Phillips Distilling Company empire, which holds major vodka and schnapps brands. He once served as that company’s president, but also ran the gelato maker Talenti.

In a Politico profile, it was highlighted that Phillips is the grandson of advice columnist Pauline Phillips, who wrote under the pen name Abigail Van Buren and also appeared on CBS Radio.

He is Jewish and previously served on the board of Temple Israel in Minneapolis. In recent weeks, as casualties mounted in the Israel-Hamas war, Phillips told MPR News he believed in the pursuit of a “two-state solution.”

“We need peace and prosperity and opportunity for both Palestinians and Israelis living side by side. But right now it is black and white,” Phillips said. “We need the United States to continue to support Israel. We need to eradicate Hamas. And we need to encourage Palestinians to elevate a leadership that can sit at the table with principle with good character, and with the intention for peace.” 

What is Phillips’ political background?

Driving a gelato truck was a centerpiece of his first House campaign in 2018, when Phillips unseated five-term Republican Erik Paulsen. It was the first time in almost six decades that a Republican didn’t carry that district. He has won re-election twice and, in 2022, by his widest margin — 59.6% to Republican challenger Tom Weiler’s 40.4%.

While his district in mostly affluent greater Minneapolis has become more Democratic-leaning, Phillips has stressed that he is a moderate focused on his suburban constituents. He is a member of the centrist Problem Solvers Caucus in Congress, and has said that he made most of his closest friends among Republicans on Capitol Hill.

During the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, as supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the building in an attempt to overthrow the results of the 2020 election, Phillips notably shouted at Arizona Rep. Paul Goser, “This is because of you!” Gosar was among the Representatives who launched challenges to Biden’s election victory during the certification process. He would later recount the experiences of that day on the floor of the House.

Where does Dean Phillips represent?

Emmer represents Minnesota’s 3rd district, which represents the portions of urban Hennepin County that, by and large, aren’t covered by Minneapolis or a few other first-ring suburbs, which is represented by 5th district Rep. Ilhan Omar. The cities included in Phillips’ district include Bloomington, Maple Grove, Minnetonka, Eden Prairie, Brooklyn Park, and Anoka.

How did Phillips come to his presidential bid?

The early inklings that Phillips would pursue a primary challenge against Biden have been in the works for months, but moved into hyperdrive when he stepped down from his role as co-chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Caucus (DPCC) at the start of the month.

“My convictions relative to the 2024 presidential race are incongruent with the majority of my caucus, and I felt it appropriate to step aside from elected leadership to avoid unnecessary distractions during a critical time for our country,” he said.

Prior to that, the congressman told WCCO in August that he was pushing for an alternative to Biden for Democrats in the upcoming presidential election. Also in August, he called for term limits for members of Congress. That came following the second time Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell froze during a news conference during summer. At the same time, the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein, was still in the midst of being hospitalized after a fall at her home, spending several months absent from Washington dealing with shingles.

This would not mark the first time Phillips has challenged the party’s status quo. When he first was elected to U.S. Congress, Phillips spoke of the need for a “new generation” of Democrats to replace then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and was frustrated when no one emerged. He would later go on to praise Pelosi as “one of the most successful speakers of all time.”

How will Phillips’ bid affect Biden’s chances?

Most pundits are characterizing Phillips’ bid as a long-shot at most. However, New Hampshire primary challenges have a history of wounding incumbent presidents.

In 1968, another Minnesotan, Democratic Sen. Eugene McCarthy, built his campaign around opposing the Vietnam War and finished second in New Hampshire’s primary, helping push President Lyndon Johnson into forgoing a second term. Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy’s challenge of President Jimmy Carter and Pat Buchanan’s run against President George H.W. Bush both failed, but Carter and Bush ultimately lost their reelection bids.

The state’s influence on Democrats was curtailed this year by changes engineered by the DNC at Biden’s behest.

A new Democratic calendar has South Carolina leading off presidential primary voting on Feb. 3 and Nevada going three days later. New Hampshire has refused to comply, citing state laws saying its primary must go first, and plans a primary before South Carolina’s. The DNC could, in turn, strip the state of its nominating delegates.

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