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Democrats Are Starting to Think About What Comes After Joe Biden

Former Vice President of the United States Joe Biden speaking with supporters at a community event at Sun City MacDonald Ranch in Henderson, Nevada. From Gage Skidmore.

Even before the reports this week of very bad polls for President Biden, it was clear that some Democrats are already thinking about how to position themselves for a post-Biden Democratic party. 

Party After Biden

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, of course, has been doing a lot of things that make it look like he’s running for president, from visiting early primary states to meeting with foreign leaders to taking positions on issues of national import to scheduling a debate with a current presidential candidate. 

Now, according to Axios, it appears that Newsom isn’t alone in taking such steps. 

While just about every major Democratic elected official, Newsom included, has endorsed President Biden for re-election, and many have actively worked as campaign surrogates for him, several of those same people are taking steps to build out their own political operations, much in the same way that presidential candidates typically do. 

“The ambitious, next-generation Democrats all support Biden’s re-election — but they’re drawing battle lines for the next race for the White House,” the Axios story said. 

Several potential candidates, Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, and Rep. Ko Khanna, have recently visited New Hampshire. Also, Newsom, Pritzker, and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer have all launched political groups. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) is planning to visit South Carolina and has amassed a large war chest for his re-election campaign that could be repurposed for a presidential campaign. And New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, like Newsom, has recently gone on a trip to Asia to meet with foreign leaders. 

Vice President Kamala Harris and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, both past presidential candidates who are seen as likely to eventually run again, are currently in government and not participating in such activities. 

Waiting in the Wings

According to Axios, those potential candidates appear to be eying 2028 … unless something happens that keeps Biden from running next year. 

“Democrats’ commitment to Biden hasn’t stopped them from running just-in-case scenarios,” the story said. “If Biden were to leave the race before the end of this year, there likely would be time for candidates to get on enough state ballots to determine the nomination.”

However, any scenario after the New Year would be more complicated, since the deadlines will have passed for candidates to qualify for the ballot in most states. That could potentially push the decision to the Democratic convention next summer. 

The Brookings Institute, meanwhile, recently looked at what would happen if a presidential candidate is incapacitated. 

“If a candidate dies or is incapacitated between now and New Year’s Day, there will be plenty of people in each party willing to jump into the nomination race. The problem will be filing deadlines — approximately 22 states have filing deadlines to get on the primary ballot between now and January 1, 2024,” the Brookings article said. 

“On the Republican side there will be many candidates who have filed — although Trump’s absence could prompt others to jump into the fray. And on the Democratic side there could be many late entries. In the event of something as dramatic as death or total incapacitation, state election officials (usually the secretary of state) may adjust filing deadlines to be able to get new entries onto the ballot in time for some of the spring primaries.”

There are different rules, however, for whether the candidate dies or is incapacitated during the primary season, after the conventions, and later than that. And the different parties have different rules. 

“The authority of the national parties to choose their nominee in the event the nominee can’t run comes as a surprise to many in this day of wall-to-wall primaries. And yet, it is a reminder that the choice of a nominee is party business — not state law, not federal law, and not constitutional law,” Brookings writes. 

Author Expertise and Experience

Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Stephen has authored thousands of articles over the years that focus on politics, technology, and the economy for over a decade. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @StephenSilver, and subscribe to his Substack newsletter.

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Stephen Silver is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.