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AOC, Kamala Harris or Buttigieg: Who Runs if Biden Can’t in 2024?

AOC on CNN. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
AOC on CNN. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

President Joe Biden is the standard bearer and leader of his party. Rank and file Democrats are not elated about him running again in 2024, but they will likely support him if he does. Biden seems like he will attempt re-election in 2024, but two years is a long time in politics, and things could change.

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For example, Biden could have a health scare, which could mean Vice President Kamala Harris stepping in, or he could pull a Lyndon B. Johnson maneuver and refuse to run again.

If that happened, who would run in his place?

Kamala Harris 

The first obvious choice would be Harris.

She has endured a rocky road as vice president, although she has seemed to right the ship lately. Harris has given awkward interviews. She has been given the task to quell the border crisis but illegal immigration crossings and “gotaways” have only increased. Harris also lost a previous bid for president. 

The Los Angeles Times conducted a study Dec. 20 in which the newspaper averaged approval ratings for Harris. She scored a 39% favorable rating, with 53% unfavorable. But a September Morning Consult/ Politico poll showed that 28% of Democrats would still support her for president in a primary should Biden decide to stay on the sidelines. 

Gavin Newsom

California Governor Gavin Newsom has said repeatedly he will not run for president if Joe Biden does, but he could change his mind in an emergency. Newsom strongly beat back a recall challenge and won his 2022 re-election handily, scoring 59% of the vote.

Newsom has ridden the wave of mostly popular policies such as the transition to green energy and in-state government-run health insurance. Newsom has run advertisements in red states such as Texas and Florida to increase his national name identification with independent voters and Democrats.

JB Pritzker     

A less-well known governor with national ambitions is JB Pritzker from Illinois. Pritzker won re-election in 2022 handily. He has traveled to Maine, New Hampshire, and Florida to introduce himself to voters.

Pritzker would have to work on his name identification, but there is plenty of time for that. Being from a border state, he would normally have an advantage in the Iowa caucuses were they still the first in the national primary voting, but the state no longer is first for the Democrats.

Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg, the Secretary of Transportation, is another possibility, but he just passed through a crisis during which at least 16,000 airline flights were canceled over Christmas. He came across as a leader who did not expect to be thrown into an uproar, and he did not show strong leadership. Buttigieg was criticized by Democratic lawmakers and by those on the right.

Buttigieg is only 40 and he still has a future in the party. He has nothing to lose by running for president again, but he had trouble attracting minorities to his last campaign for the White House, and his poor performance in South Carolina sealed his fate in 2020.

Michelle Obama

One interesting choice would be Michelle Obama. Her husband, Barack Obama, is probably the most popular figure in the Democratic party. His wife would have universal name identification. She knows how to read a crowd and give excellent speeches.

Her line “when they go low, we go high” was well received by the media. Michelle could take advantage of her husband’s old fundraising lists. But the former first lady has said she would never run and has no passion for politics.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez could always throw her hat into the ring. She has excellent name ID and a huge social media following. Her extreme brand of socialism would not endear her to independents, although these policy views would make her popular with the progressive wing of the Democratic party.

AOC has tremendous upside and a bright future ahead of her, but it is extremely difficult for House members to run for president. They are not seen as experienced enough to tackle a job as difficult as president.


Other people who have run before could try again. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Cory Booker are familiar faces. Sanders is the most popular choice, but he has lost twice.

Media darlings Stacey Abrams and Beto O’Rourke lost their recent governors races badly and would not fare well as presidential candidates.

Even though Biden will probably run again, without primary opposition, it will continue to be a popular exercise to look at potential Democratic candidates with presidential ambitions.

The Democrats need a new generation of national leaders, and it will be important to examine their policy positions and national support going forward.

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Author Expertise and Experience: Serving as 19FortyFive’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.