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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Biden heads for Caribbean to ring in the New Year

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden depart Joint Base Andrews, Md., en route to St. Croix, Virgin Islands, for a week-long vacation on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2023. The trip comes as Biden faces pressure to prevent the Israel-Hamas war from spiraling into a wider regional conflict. (Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times)

By Lisa Friedman

President Joe Biden left the drizzly skies of Washington behind Wednesday and headed for St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where he and Jill Biden, the first lady, intend to ring in the new year.

The White House would not say where the Bidens would be staying for their holiday, but last year, they spent the week at the beachfront villa of friends and longtime Democratic donors Bill and Connie Neville.

The three-bedroom home, which is listed on Airbnb for about $900 per night, has an infinity pool, private beach access and unobstructed views of Buck Island Reef National Monument.

But work has a way of intruding on even the most secluded getaways, especially if you’re the president.

The trip comes as Biden faces pressure to prevent the Israel-Hamas war from spiraling into a wider regional conflict. On Tuesday, he authorized strikes on Iran-backed militias in Iraq in retaliation for a series of assaults and a drone attack on Christmas Day that left three American troops wounded and one in critical condition.

Later in the day, the administration said Biden had spoken to the emir of Qatar about the hostages being held by Hamas and the effort to get more humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.

The White House declined to discuss the president’s expected meeting schedule while in St. Croix or who will be accompanying the first couple.

The visit to St. Croix is Biden’s second as president. But the Bidens have traveled there more than a dozen times over the years.

The tropical escape is likely to be a respite for Biden before the start of an intense 2024 presidential campaign season.

While the economy has shown significant signs of improvement since the pandemic (“Start reporting it the right way,” a frustrated Biden scolded reporters this week), Americans are still expressing anxiety. At the same time, the Democratic Party is deeply fractured over Biden’s support of Israel in its war against Hamas.

The president is entering the new year with a persistently low job approval rating. But campaign officials have indicated that the president will double down on a message that his administration’s policies are bolstering national security and the economy. In January, the campaign has planned a major push in South Carolina to drive voter turnout before a Democratic primary in February.

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