AMAC Exclusive – By Barry Casselman
For some time now, I have been making the contrarian argument that Joe Biden will not be the next Democrat nominee for president. I wasn’t the first to contend this, though I was among the few, because it had seemed settled in the establishment media coverage, and among Democrat Party insiders, that Biden-Harris was a done deal for 2024.
Ambitious major Democrat politicians got the establishment message, and none entered the race.
But no one in charge apparently consulted the customers, that is, the voters, including the liberal and progressive voters who make up the left-of-center party.
Two minor candidates, Robert Kennedy, Jr. and Marianne Williamson, did announce their candidacies, and Kennedy particularly (and probably mostly because of his famous surname and family), has received much media attention, raised notable contributions, and polled unexpectedly well so far.
The incumbent president and his vice president have languished in very low poll numbers, even among Democrats. Mr. Biden’s age, especially as it has been accompanied by stumbles and blunders almost every day, only has made matters worse, and now there is a steadily growing chorus among friends and foes that he should step down.
The question arises then — who can the Democrats nominate in his place? And if Joe Biden is going to retire, when should he do it?
It has been a common refrain, especially among Republicans, that the Democrats have no political “bench” that logically leads to a successor. Contenders from the past, such as Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren, are too old and controversial. Some promising younger Democrats, including recently elected Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro, do not seem quite ready for prime-time next year. The “Hail Mary” choice of Michelle Obama seems unrealistic.
But there are some other prominent Democrats who are quite likely to run in 2024 if Mr. Biden does step down.
California Governor Gavin Newsom would probably be the frontrunner among them. He certainly has been the most visible and blatantly self-promoting alternative potential candidate so far, and the most telegenic.
Newsom’s term as chief executive of the nation’s largest state, however, has been mixed and contentious. As the newest figure in the Pelosi-Getty-Newsom California political dynasty, he was able to survive a recall election, but the state is undergoing many serious social and economic problems, and for the first time is losing population and industries.
Other major Democrat figures who might eventually enter the presidential race are Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Commerce Secretary (and former Rhode Island Governor) Gina Raimondo, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, and one of the Castro brothers from Texas. Vice President Kamala Harris likely also would run. As has happened in the recent past, new and unexpected candidates could enter the race as well.
With his access to major campaign funding, the very large California delegation to his party’s national convention in Chicago next year, his national name recognition, and his media savvy, it would appear that Mr. Newsom is the man to beat if Biden exits the race later this year or early next year.
The timetable for such a retirement would be important. If it takes place soon, that gives the other potential candidates, or a new entrant, time to get better known and build a winning campaign in televised Democrat debates — debates that are not now even scheduled.
Most Democrat strategists believe their candidate, even Joe Biden, will win if Donald Trump is the opponent in November 2024. While former President Trump leads in early GOP polls, the Republican nomination battle remains undecided, and Mr. Trump and his most significant GOP challenger, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, will probably go through most of the Republican primaries before the nomination is won.
Nevertheless, polls are currently indicating that either Mr. Trump or Mr. DeSantis could defeat Mr. Biden, and if that continues and grows worse for Biden, the urgency for a new Democratic ticket increases significantly.
An additional pressure on Biden is that the recent expansion of election “day” to election “month” with mail-in voting and ballot harvesting, which most Republicans feel gave Democrats an unfair advantage in 2020 and 2022, will apparently not go unchallenged by Republicans in the 2024 election cycle, especially in key battleground states. Republican campaigns are promising the hardball campaigns necessary to win the close races—which could weigh heavily on Democrats as they consider whether it’s necessary to change up the ticket.
There are also sure to be a number of unexpected developments between now and when voters start casting their ballots that could shake up the expected tickets for both parties.