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AOC vs. Biden vs. Kamala vs. Mayor Pete vs. Bernie: 2024 Democrat Primary War?

AOC. Image Credit: CNN Screenshot.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC, being interviewed on CNN.

Once the dust settles on the 2022 midterms, the focus of the political world will shift toward the 2024 presidential election. On the DNC side, much remains unclear, leading to rampant speculation. Let’s consider the DNC’s most likely ticket leaders. 

Joe Biden

Let’s start with the incumbent, Joe Biden. While Biden is the sitting president, he is yet to announce that he will run for reelection. Biden, who turns 80 in the fall, is currently the oldest person ever to serve as president. Were Biden to win reelection, his second term would last beyond his 86th birthday. Biden is already visibly slowing down; the thought of Biden in office at 86 is darkly comic – and completely irresponsible. 

More immediately pressing are Biden’s historically low approval ratings. Biden’s approval ratings have plummeted below 40 percent, making his numbers uniquely bad – worse than either one-termers Donald Trump’s or Jimmy Carter’s. Regardless, a sitting president has not opted out of a reelection campaign since 1968, when Lyndon B. Johnson, whose health was declining and whose administration was mired by the ongoing Vietnam War, stepped aside. Were Biden to withdraw, he would be the first president to do so in nearly six decades. 

Joe Biden

U.S. President Joe Biden attends the Quad leaders’ summit, in Tokyo, Japan, May 24, 2022. Yuichi Yamazaki/Pool via REUTERS

My best bet: Joe Biden will withdraw from the 2024 election, opening the field to a slew of challengers.

Kamala Harris

Sitting vice presidents – even former vice presidents – are enviably well situated to make a presidential run. VPs enjoy national prominence – and can be insulated from the criticisms their bosses face. Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and George H. Bush all served as vice presidents before assuming the presidency. Former VPs Walter Mondale and Al Gore won the DNC’s presidential primary. And former VP Mike Pence is eyeing a 2024 run. So, historically speaking, sitting VP Kamala Harris should be well situated for a presidential run. Certainly, she is amongst her party’s most prominent members. She also checks the right “identity” boxes that Democrats are currently so obsessed with. But Harris’s vice presidential performance has not been particularly impressive. 

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President Joe Biden And Vice President Kamala Harris walk from the Rose Garden of the White House to the Oval Office Friday, March 12, 2021, following their remarks celebrating the passage of the American Rescue Plan. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

Anthony Zurcher, writing for the BBC, explains. “The job has not come easy. Ms. Harris’ approval ratings have slumped. The president has tasked her with assignments that range from the intractable to virtually insoluble. Her office has been beset by high-profile resignations.” The result has been low approval ratings. “According to a November survey by USA Today, Ms. Harris’ public approval rating sat at 28 percent, making her one of the least popular vice-presidents in modern history – lower than Iraq War architect Dick Cheney, who was reviled by Democrats.” 

Harris may have an electability problem.

Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg seemingly came out of nowhere in 2020. “Mayor Pete,” then the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, mounted an impressive presidential campaign, which launched Buttigieg into the national spotlight. Buttigieg has parlayed that momentum into sustained national relevance; today he is the most prominent Secretary of Transportation ever (despite not having any prior experience in anything remotely related to transportation). And Buttigieg regularly appears on Fox News as the mouthpiece for the Democrat’s general talking points, signifying his relevance beyond the transportation realm. Buttigieg is young and ambitious; he’s going to be around forever. The next time there’s an opening, he’s going to make a move.

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.

Buttigieg’s problem is that he doesn’t really stand for anything. He’s what Beto O’Rourke called a “human weathervane.” Nevertheless, the establishment loves Buttigieg, for his ability to speak the language of progressivism, while remaining unlikely to challenge the status quo. With DNC backing, Buttigieg has big-time potential.

Bernie Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders is the face of progressive politics. He has been singing the same progressive song for decades; his credibility is unimpeachable. In 2016, Sanders’s insurgency presidential campaign nearly hijacked the DNC primary from the establishment’s choice candidate, Hillary Clinton. Sanders ran again in 2020, with less success in a more crowded field, but with a loyal contingent of ardent followers. Sanders has not ruled out a 2024 run. The moderate/conservative tendencies of the Biden administration may lead to renewed interest in Sanders’s brand of progressivism (Biden voters are still waiting on that student loan forgiveness that Biden promised – a loan forgiveness Sanders promotes incessantly). 

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Bernie Sanders speaking to rally attendees in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Credit: Matt A.J.

Sanders is old, however. Too old to be a first-time president. Were Sanders elected in 2024, he would be 82 years old – the oldest person ever elected president. Still, Sanders is uniquely stubborn. He could mount another grassroots campaign in 2024. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, AKA AOC

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest and least accomplished person being discussed as a 2024 candidate. Yet, she is also the most successful at marketing and promoting herself. What she lacks in resume or policy chops, she makes up for in Twitter presence. AOC is a hero of the progressive left – despite not accomplishing anything progressive other than regularly inciting the GOP. AOC has also been a “good, little soldier” for the establishment DNC – perhaps her loyalty could be rewarded down the line; AOC has already served as something of a progressive trojan horse, hiding establishment priorities within. Perhaps, AOC is being groomed to do this on a grander scale.


Can the Forward Party take on Democrats and Republicans? Image of AOC from MSNBC appearance.

Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. He lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken. Follow him on Twitter @harrison_kass.

Written By

Harrison Kass is a Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison has degrees from Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon School of Law, and New York University’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. He lives in Oregon and regularly listens to Dokken.