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If Joe Biden Doesn’t Run: 7 Potential Democratic Candidates for 2024

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Women's March on NYC 2019.

Amid the polarization, there at least seems to be expanding bipartisan consensus around something. President Joe Biden is “neither bold nor inspiring.”

Those are the words of the liberal group Roots Action—which backed Biden for president in 2020 but is launching a six-figure “#Don’tRunJoe” ad campaign to start a day after the November midterm. The group is already collecting signatures. 

The group is in line with a supermajority of Democrat voters, 64 percent of who want their party to nominate someone else in 2024, according to a New York Times/Sienna College poll that also showed the president with a 33 percent approval rating. The number itself sounds bad enough, but for context, President Donald Trump’s approval dropped to 39 percent after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. 

Biden keeps saying he plans to run for a second term, which for any other president would be the de facto assumption. But Biden, already the oldest president in history, will be in his 80s in 2024—with about half of Americans questioning his mental health and almost two-thirds that believe he should be tested for mental fitness. 

There is a face-saving way to bow out without appearing to cave to the leftwing pressure groups in his party or without asserting any health issues. During the 2020 campaign, Biden said: “I view myself as a bridge … There’s an entire generation of leaders you saw stand behind me. They are the future of this country.” He could simply declare in early 2023—time enough to allow Democrats to organize a campaign—that he accomplished his mission in restoring the soul of a nation by defeating Trump, then rattle off that he passed an infrastructure bill and gun control bill and anything else he deems is a success. So now it’s time to pass the torch to a new generation. 

But if not Biden, then who? If he does run, he might get a primary challenge, but the field would likely be one other candidate. If he decides not to run, it could be a wide-open field. 

Let’s note in passing that the second-runner up for both 2016 and 2020, Sen. Bernie Sanders, won’t rule out running. If he did, he’d be more of an octogenarian than Biden. It’s possible but unlikely. So, for this piece, we’re focusing on fresher faces and only two also-rans up front. 

Kamala Harris

Vice President Kamala Harris would be the immediate frontrunner, but also a fairly vulnerable one. Much like Hillary Clinton in both 2008 and 2016, she would be a frontrunner facing likability problems, with voters questioning her authenticity. But worse, she’s been unable to articulate responses to even softball interview questions and has become known for a trademark cackling laugh. 

In 2019, she soared to a top-tier candidate by aggressively – and very coherently – targeting Biden in a primary debate. But as the spotlight increased, she plummeted to single digits and dropped out of the race before the Iowa Caucus. Being vice president doesn’t seem to have caused her to grow into the job. She is nevertheless a heavy favorite for the nomination, as she checks off so many intersectional boxes for a party obsessed with identity politics. 

Kamala Harris and Joe Biden

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris confer together Monday, March 29, 2021, in the outer Oval hallway of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

Pete Buttigieg

Mayor Pete was a strong enough campaigner to win the Iowa Caucus in 2020 and did well in other states. Now he is Secretary Pete. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg would have more gravitas to add to his stage presence, even if the Transportation Department is hardly the most august assignment. It beats leading the city of South Bend, Indiana as a line on his resume. 

Like Harris, he would also appeal to the Democratic Party’s identity politics wing, which might want to elect the first gay president. At the same time, he could garner support from moderates in the party, as he ran largely as a pragmatist in the 2020 campaign. The PAC from his campaign, Win the Era, is still running without his involvement. But he could have an infrastructure in place should he run. 

Pete Buttigieg

Then Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaking with attendees at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention at the George R. Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California.

Gavin Newsom

As I’ve noted before, California Gov. Gavin Newsom is getting some chatter. He’s jumped on the national stage and was actually helped by his survival in winning big in a recall election last year. He could outshine other Democrats by touting that he has imposed a progressive agenda in the state. 

But, he would likely be unelectable in a general election, when looking at the decline of California. Moreover, a big question is: would he challenge Harris, a fellow San Francisco politician? The answer is likely yes. He’s ambitious and would seize an opening if he thought he had a decent chance at the nomination. 

Gavin Newsom

Governor Gavin Newsom speaking with attendees at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention at the George R. Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California. Image Credit: Gage Skidmore.

J.B. Pritzker

While we’re on governors, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker could be strong. He’s made the talk-show rounds after the mass shooting in his state on July 4, and dropped hints at going national; Illinois is a big state. Pritzker is a big politician, both in girth and wealth. He’s a billionaire and could potentially finance much of his campaign while his opponents are chasing donations. Governors have historically been better presidential candidates – Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush. However, there is also a record to consider. Pritzker has the same problem as Newsom. A lot more people are moving out of both California and Illinois than are moving in. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

We can’t let this one pass without a little speculation. New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whatever one thinks of her, has a following.

While she often proves to be a punchline, she seems to have taken up the Trumpian view that there is no such thing as bad publicity. She managed to use that publicity seeking to outflank House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2019. She would be just old enough to run for president. Since nothing is stopping her from running for her safe House seat, if she loses the presidential primary, she could go for it. 

AOC

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC, being interviewed on CNN.

Ro Khanna

A more likely candidate from the same ilk as AOC is Rep. Ro Khanna of California. Yep, this is shaping up to be heavy on Californians. Khanna has been aggressively pushing himself into the national spotlight by going after oil companies and holding investigative hearings. He was a co-chair for Sen. Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign in 2016, so he might take up that mantle. That is if Sanders does run. 

Andy Beshear

We end with a long shot. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear was touted as a potential Democratic candidate for 2024. The selling point was that as a red state governor, he would be a strong general election candidate, and would return to the days of Bill Clinton’s centrist coalition. 

Beshear has worked with a Republican legislature and gained some national attention for his handling of COVID-19 in the state. Democrats have traditionally had a better history of nominating long shots than Republicans—before 2016 anyway. However, Beshear says he won’t, and already filed to run for a second term as governor in 2023. To effectively run for president, he’d have to spend most of 2023 doing it. That said, if Biden announced he won’t run, many politicians will change their plans. Beshear might decide not to attempt to renew his day job. 

Fred Lucas is chief national affairs correspondent for The Daily Signal and co-host of “The Right Side of History” podcast. Lucas is also the author of “Abuse of Power: Inside The Three-Year Campaign to Impeach Donald Trump.”

Written By

Fred Lucas is chief national affairs correspondent for The Daily Signal and co-host of "The Right Side of History" podcast. Lucas is also the author of "Abuse of Power: Inside The Three-Year Campaign to Impeach Donald Trump."

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. pagar

    July 16, 2022 at 8:04 pm

    AOC would be a good choice to replace Biden, a man who visibly stoops to the front when walking or shuffling forward, a man with a brain with detectable holes or voids among the grey cells caused by dementia and a life of lying.

    Biden however has voiced his determination to be there, right at the center of attention in 2024, after presumably winning his proxy war in Europe. Biden, however, has never considered the possibility that his proxy war in Europe could well turn out to be annunder Afghanistan.

    • El Gato

      July 16, 2022 at 9:33 pm

      AOC is the embodiment of todays generation with her “Its all about me!” attitude and narcissistic tone, spouting non-sense just to talk, while not saying one intelligent thing

  2. Jack Cross

    July 16, 2022 at 8:21 pm

    Even the Democratic Party cannot be stupid enough to run Cortez

    A Congress Person who’s only accomplishment is costing New York billions of dollars from Amazon.

    Cortez introduced a total of 21 bills which defined as “substantive”.

    Her legislation received no action in committees, no floor votes, and none ever became law

  3. Stephen Jeppesen

    July 16, 2022 at 9:30 pm

    AOC a good choice, that’s laughable. The Democrats have no viable candidates for 2024.

  4. Scottfs

    July 16, 2022 at 9:55 pm

    Run, Joe, Run!

    Biden has been an amazing president*. He’s flooded the country with tens of millions of illegals, all of whom will vote for him. He’s made driving a car impossible for many, which is great; transitioning to Zero Fossil Fuel! He’s spent $65 billion on a war half a world away, with no declaration of war. Seriously, what president* has done more? Sure he’s a bit shaky on the facts, and shakes hands with people we don’t see, but that just proves he’s better than you or I.
    Democrats can step up the cheating and elect anyone… or no one, as is the case with Joe.

  5. Ghost Tomahawk

    July 17, 2022 at 3:44 am

    All garbage. Look for the democrats to manufacture another candidate like Obama. A NO name with no record with a bullet proof card to play like race sex or decision orientation. It won’t be a known quantity.

  6. TPM

    July 17, 2022 at 6:02 am

    They all are far left clowns. FJB

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