In the next few weeks, President Joe Biden should announce whether he intends to run for reelection. The president said recently that he would take the holidays to consult with family before making an announcement in early 2023.
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Typically, when an incumbent president has eligibility remaining, the going assumption is that the sitting president will run for reelection. But Joe Biden’s situation is a little bit different. While Biden may run again, the possibility sharply exists that he may not, that he may step down and let a new Democrat inherit the party’s mantle.
If Joe Biden does opt out of reelection, the question will become: who replaces him?
Will Joe Biden Run for Reelection?
My feeling is that Biden will run for reelection. Biden has been striving for the Oval Office his entire adult life; Biden spent fifty years in Washington pushing for the top job; 2020 was Biden’s third run for president (his first in 1988, faltered after Biden was caught plagiarizing a speech, while his second, in 2008, ended in the vice presidency).
Now that Joe Biden has the White House, it may be hard for him to simply walk away and let someone else have the Executive Branch – especially considering how weak the Democratic bench is.
Yet, Biden has powerful incentive not to run again – he’s the oldest sitting president ever (80 years old). If Biden ran for reelection, he wouldn’t be elected for a second term until he was 82 – and that second term would extend past Biden’s 86th birthday.
86 is too old for the presidency. Biden may well step down on account of his advanced age.
Who would replace Biden?
The Democrats have a weak bench, no obvious successor waiting in the wings. Vice President Kamala Harris would typically be an obvious choice; Vice Presidents are commonly understood to be the president-in-waiting.
But Harris has been deeply unpopular in her role as vice president. And Harris ran a terrible presidential campaign in 2020. Democrats may be hesitant to let an unpopular politician whose only run for president ended with an abrupt whimper go head-to-head in a general election against someone like Trump or DeSantis.
Bernie Sanders is an almost cult-like figure on the left, but he is also pushing 80 – too old for the presidency. Sanders is reportedly mulling another run for presidency. Personally, I hope Sanders does run.
Sanders forces the Democrats to have difficult conversations about who the party is built to benefit, conversations with an economic focus (which is a relief and a necessity in a party that seemingly wants to talk about one thing only: race).
Hillary Clinton has been rumored to be considering another presidential run. But Clinton has already lost two elections that were supposed to be hers. In 2008, Clinton was the clear-cut favorite to win the DNC ticket, yet she lost the primary to freshman Senator Barack Obama.
Then, Clinton was the heavy favorite to win the general election in 2016 – before losing to political neophyte Donald Trump. Democrats will be hesitant to roll out Clinton for a third try to win the presidency.
Who else is there? Michelle Obama? Obama has been clear: she has no intention of running for public office. Pete Buttigieg? Buttigieg was a small-town mayor before becoming the Transportation Secretary – he’s not quite qualified now is he. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? AOC is your best bet if you need an Instagram influencer for some politically-adjacent fundraising campaign – but the presidency is serious business for a serious person.
Like I was saying, the Democrats have a weak bench, which may push Biden to run for president one more time.
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.