President Joe Biden has said he plans on running for a second term in 2024.
“Yes,” Biden said when asked by ABC News late last year whether he would run again for the White House. “But look, I’m a great respecter of fate – fate has intervened in my life many, many times. If I’m in the health I’m in now – I’m in good health – then, in fact, I would run again.”
Which does leave the door slightly ajar for him to not run again. And The Atlantic’s Mark Leibovich argued that is the course he should take in a piece this week.
“Let me put this bluntly: Joe Biden should not run for reelection in 2024,” wrote Leibovich. “He is too old.” Leibovich added:
“Biden will turn 80 on November 20. He will be 82 if and when he begins a second term. The numbers just keep getting more ridiculous from there. ‘It’s not the 82 that’s the problem. It’s the 86,’ one swing voter said in a recent focus group, referring to the hypothetical age Biden would be at the end of that (very) hypothetical second term.”
That article comes hard on the heels of a report in The New York Times documenting the growing whispers among Democrats that their best chance in 2024 might not be with Biden leading the ticket.
“As the challenges facing the nation mount and fatigued base voters show low enthusiasm, Democrats in union meetings, the back rooms of Capitol Hill and party gatherings from coast to coast are quietly worrying about Mr. Biden’s leadership, his age and his capability to take the fight to former President Donald J. Trump a second time.”
In response to the questions surrounding a Biden 2024 bid, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on CNN this week: “What I can say is the President has repeatedly said that he plans to run in 2024, and I’m gonna have to leave it there. All I can say is that the President intends to do what the President plans to do.”
Given that growing chatter about Biden’s future, I thought it would be a worthy exercise to look at who else could wind up as the Democratic nominee for president in two years’ time. One thing to note: If Biden runs, it is very unlikely he faces a significant primary challenge. Most of the names on this list would only run if Biden decided not to.
My initial rankings of the 10 Democrats most likely to represent the party in the 2024 presidential race are below. (My 2024 Republican rankings, from earlier this month, are here.) If you don’t see your favorite on this list, don’t despair: There are more 872 days between now and the 2024 general election. Stuff will change!
10. Chris Murphy: The Connecticut senator is at the center of negotiations for a new legislation on guns in the wake of the mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. He is also an articulate voice on liberal policy, but by no means a strict ideologue. “He seems to understand that politics is the art of accomplishing the possible, not merely aiming for the impossible and blaming the opposition,” wrote political analyst Stu Rothenberg in a column earlier this month that speculated about what’s next for Murphy. Murphy isn’t receiving much attention as a potential 2024 candidate, but I think he would be an intriguing one if he did decide to run.
9. Roy Cooper: Getting elected – and re-elected – as a Democrat in North Carolina is no simple thing to do. But that’s exactly what Cooper has done. And there is a template for a southern governor (Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter) to run for and win the White House. As The New York Times noted in a story late last year, Cooper has a record that could appeal to Democratic primary voters: He helped repeal a bill that required people at government-run facilities to use bathrooms that corresponded to the gender on their birth certificate. He has also issued executive orders on paid parental leave and carbon neutrality. Cooper’s biggest issue in a 2024 race? He isn’t well known nationally. At all.
8. Cory Booker: The New Jersey senator’s 2020 presidential campaign never really got out of the starting blocks. But many of the things that made Booker appealing on paper in 2020 remain true: He is a charismatic politician with a healthy dose of star power. Plus, having run and lost once for the Democratic nomination, he is likely to be wiser about a bid the second time around. Of course, the fact that Booker’s last effort was unsuccessful raises the question of “why,? which Booker would have to answer in order to gain traction in a subsequent race.
7. Amy Klobuchar: Unlike Booker, the Minnesota senator did have a moment in the 2020 race. In the days leading up to the New Hampshire primary, she looked like the momentum candidate and looked like she had a chance to pull of an upset win. She wound up finishing third, behind Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg. Less than a month later, she was out of the race and throwing her support to Biden. The way she ran – and the way she ended her campaign – earned Klobuchar kudos, which could be useful if she runs again in 2024.
6. Elizabeth Warren: My eyebrows were raised when Warren took to the pages of The New York Times in April with an op-ed entitled: “Democrats Can Avoid Disaster in November.” Her argument was that Democrats needed to pass as much of their agenda as possible before November and that voters would reward them for doing so. Which, well, questionable. The op-ed included these lines: “Despite pandemic relief, infrastructure investments and the historic Supreme Court confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson, we promised more – and voters remember those promises.” Whoa! That sort of language puts Warren in a position to say “I told you so” if Democrats, as expected, get clobbered at the polls in 2022. And could serve as a launching pad for a second bid for the White House.
5. Gavin Newsom: A funny thing happened when Republicans in California tried to recall Newsom as governor: it made him much, much stronger. Newsom not only easily defeated the 2021 recall effort, but is now a huge favorite to win a second term this November. That recall effort also gave Newsom massive amounts of national exposure to the donor and activist class, which would come in handy if he decided to run in 2024. Newsom, at least at the moment, is playing coy. “It’s not even on my radar,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle in May of a potential presidential bid. Which, fine. But Newsom has always had BIG ambitions.
4. Pete Buttigieg: When Buttigieg, the breakout star of the 2020 Democratic presidential race, took the job as secretary of Transportation in the Biden administration, many observers wondered why. After all, it isn’t the sort of lofty perch that positions like Attorney General or Secretary of State are. But Buttigieg has proven his doubters wrong, emerging as the face of the decidedly popular infrastructure bill. It turns out that doling out federal dollars for local projects is a very good way to build goodwill. Buttigieg is among the most natural politicians in the Democratic Party and, at age 40, can afford to wait if the 2024 or even 2028 field doesn’t look promising for him.
3. Bernie Sanders: Most people assumed that the 2020 presidential race would be the Vermont senator’s last. After all, he’s now 80 years old, and with two unsuccessful national bids behind him, it seemed that Sanders was likely to ride into the political sunset. Nope! “In the event of an open 2024 Democratic presidential primary, Sen. Sanders has not ruled out another run for president, so we advise that you answer any questions about 2024 with that in mind,” wrote Sanders adviser Faiz Shakir in a memo to allies in April. While Sanders has ruled out challenging Biden in a 2024 Democratic primary, it’s easy to see him consider another run if Biden bows out. And Sanders remains the best-known – and most well-liked – candidate among liberals in the country.
2. Kamala Harris: The vice president appears to have steadied the ship somewhat after a decidedly rocky first year-plus in office. While Harris’ political stock has taken a major hit, she would still start an open 2024 Democratic race as the frontrunner, thanks in large part to her support from Black voters. While she would start as the favorite, it’s still hard to see Harris clearing the field after her struggles, so far, as Biden’s second-in-command.
1. Joe Biden: There’s zero question that Biden is in bad political shape at the moment – approval ratings in the high 30s, gas at $5 a gallon, inflation the highest it has been in 40 years. There’s also zero question that if Biden decides he wants to run for a second term, he will almost certainly be the party’s nominee – and probably won’t have to fight all that hard for it. It’s an open question as to whether that is the best thing for Democrats nationally.