President Joe Biden motions while boarding Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport after attending the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles on June 11, 2022.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci
- Joe Biden plans to seek reelection in 2024, even though voters are souring on him.
- Democrats aren’t expected to primary Biden, but questions linger about a backup plan.
- Would-be candidates have been seeking the national spotlight.
President Joe Biden has been clear that he plans to run for a second term in 2024.
His political team is even getting ready for a spring reelection announcement, according to the Washington Post.
But that hasn’t stopped the “will he really?” chatter, particularly after a New York Times poll found that 61% of Democrats said they hoped someone other than Biden would be their nominee in 2024, largely because of his age and job performance.
Democratic insiders are questioning whether Biden, 79, can mount a vigorous campaign in 2024 — especially if former President Donald Trump decides to run again.
Despite the doubts, Biden is not expected to face a primary challenge given that it would would alienate other people in the party as well as the donor class, said Mark Jones, Rice University political science professor and Baker Institute fellow.
“The norm is that you do not challenge a sitting president from your party,” Jones said. “That’s a major political faux pas. It either isn’t done, or if it is done it’s done more for political ambition — not to actually win, but to put the spotlight on yourself for other reasons.”
A key factor helping Biden’s staying power is Trump. The New York Times poll found that Biden would be favored to win in another contest against Trump.
“The belief is Biden beat Trump before, he can beat him again,” Jones said. If a Democrat were to try to primary Biden — and weaken him in the process — then that person would be blamed if a Republican, even Trump, were to win in 2024.
But none of these factors rule out politicians’ making under-the-radar moves. If Biden somehow reverses his plans, that’ll mean the party will need to find a backup.
Some ways that candidates begin to test the field through “invisible primaries” are by campaigning for other Democrats to build loyalty, particularly in swing districts. They also may appear at events in potential early voting states and offer noncommittal responses about whether they’ll support Biden in 2024, said Shawn Donahue, a University at Buffalo assistant professor of political science.
Other ways are through grabbing headlines through weighing in on national debates, holding leadership roles in the party, and raising huge sums particularly from out-of-staters. In the case of governors interested in the White House, they’ll need to crush the opposition if they’re up for reelection this year, in November.
“There will be a host of people who want to be waiting in the wings so the moment Biden says he’s not running they can sort of jump in,” Jones said.
Even if Biden doesn’t change his mind, 2028 isn’t much further off.
Here are 15 politicians who are taking actions or gaining interest that might position them for a 2024 White House run if Biden changes his mind:
Vice President Kamala HarrisVice President Kamala Harris previously was a US senator representing California, and before that, was California’s attorney general.
Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Harris, 57, is the standard-bearer for Democrats if Biden bows out of a 2024 contest. Should Harris win, she would become the first woman and first woman of color to become president.
Any Democrats running against Biden, or against Harris, would be perceived as trying to jump ahead of a historic nominee.
“It’s the rare person that’s going to defect on Biden, because if you do that, you’re also defecting on Kamala Harris,” Jones said. “You’re alienating the president of the US and a substantial coalition in the Democratic party: Women and people of color.”
Harris has leaned into the abortion fight ever since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. She also headlined a Democratic fundraiser in South Carolina in June.
On top of that, Harris has the blessing of House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, whose endorsement is key for South Carolina.
“Right now, I’m for Biden, and second, I’m for Harris,” Clyburn told The Wall Street Journal in June.
There’s also a recent positive data point for a Harris-led ticket. If the Republican nominee is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — who’s gaining ground on Trump in polls — then Harris has the edge in winning, according to a Harvard-CAPS Harris poll conducted in March.
After herself running for president during Election 2020 but withdrawing before the primaries began, Harris has said she expects to run in 2024 — as Biden’s running mate.
Still, her approval ratings have been lower than Biden’s and she has faced criticism, including from Republicans, after media interviews. The White House also handed Harris a contentious set of policy issues that included immigration policy, police reform, and voting rights.
Transportation Secretary Pete ButtigiegTransportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
Patrick Semansky/AP Photo
Besides Harris, Buttigieg, 40, is the only other Democratic presidential candidate who unsuccessfully ran in the 2020 primary but landed a job in Biden’s administration.
And serving as Department of Transportation secretary has given Buttigieg loads of visibility with the public — he travels all over the US and holds the purse strings for $500 billion in new spending on roads, bridges, and railways as part of the bipartisan infrastructure package Biden signed into law.
Buttigieg frequently participates in national and local media interviews, where he has impressed insiders with his handling of difficult questions. All of his work provides solid groundwork for another future White House run.
“He has the advantage that he’s doing all that on Biden’s behalf,” Jones said. “He can essentially have his cake and eat it too, because he can be seen as serving Biden until the day Biden isn’t running anymore.”
Insider reported in October 2021 that Buttigieg’s donors from his 2020 presidential bid would like to see him run in 2024.
Still, Buttigieg, the first openly gay cabinet secretary to be Senate-confirmed, is relatively inexperienced compared to other potential Democratic candidates.
California Gov. Gavin NewsomCalifornia Gov. Gavin Newsom previously was mayor of San Francisco.
Newsom, 54, told the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board in May that he had “sub-zero interest” in running for president, and in DC on Wednesday, he told reporters he supported Biden in 2024.
At the same time, Newsom, a progressive, has taken several actions that raise his national profile.
He has been a leading national voice bashing conservative Republicans, particularly on guns, abortion, and LGBTQ rights. He even called out his own party on abortion.
“Why aren’t we standing up more firmly, more resolutely?” he said after the Supreme Court struck down Roe.
More 2024 speculation rose after his campaign took the unusual move of airing an ad in Florida attacking DeSantis. Back in 2021, he’d gone on “The Late Late Show” with James Corden to attack DeSantis on his coronavirus policies.
All of this raises questions about whether he someday expects to face off against DeSantis for the White House.
But Newsom also has liabilities, including attending a private dinner at the exclusive restaurant, The French Laundry, even as he discouraged Californians from getting together during the coronavirus pandemic.
Curiously, Newsom was once married to attorney Kimberly Guilfoyle, who is now engaged to Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr.
Newsom survived a recall in September and is expected to get reelected in November.
Illinois Gov. J.B. PritzkerIllinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is a billionaire and heir of the Hyatt Hotels fortune.
John O’Connor, File/AP Photo
Pritzker, 57, stoked presidential chatter after delivering vociferous speeches, one in support of abortion rights and another in the wake of the mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois.
The speeches gained national coverage given that many Democrats saw the governor delivering the type of passion they believe is necessary for the party heading into the midterms and then into 2024.
Pritzker also visited New Hampshire — the first presidential primary state — in June for the state’s Democratic primary convention and has donated to other Democratic candidates. He’ll be the keynote speaker at a July gala for Florida Democrats in Tampa. That’ll put him right in DeSantis’ home state.
Pritzker is a billionaire and heir of the Hyatt Hotels fortune who has given millions to his own reelection campaign. In November, he’ll face off against GOP state Sen. Darren Bailey.
Pritzker told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday that he would support Biden if he were to run again.
Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of VermontSen Bernie Sanders has run for president twice before.
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
Sanders, 80, has told CNN he wouldn’t primary Biden in a 2024 contest and that would support the president if he runs.
But Sanders’ aides wrote a memo earlier this year saying he hasn’t closed the door on seeking the White House if there’s an open primary.
Sanders continues to grab headlines on Capitol Hill. He also travels all over the US including a trip to Iowa in June when he rallied support for United Auto Workers who were on strike.
Sanders, an independent, has twice sought the Democratic nomination for president and lost, though he stunned Democrats with his performance and grassroots support, and decidedly shifted the party left.
Should the third time be the charm for Sanders in 2024, then he would be 83 by Inauguration Day 2025, just a year older than Biden would be.
Sanders has overcome murmurings about his health before: He had a heart attack when he ran for president in 2020 but was still the runner up to Biden.
Rep. Ro Khanna of CaliforniaRep. Ro Khanna was deputy assistant secretary in the Department of Commerce under then-President Barack Obama.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo
Progressives have been pushing for Khanna, 45, to seek the White House if Biden bows out in 2024, according to Politico.
Khanna has told CNN that he would not challenge Biden, and he’s mostly seen as the standard bearer of the progressive movement who’ll come after Sanders.
Khanna co-chaired Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, which allowed him to spend time in early voting states. As a representative, he’s been able to help secure tech jobs to some of those same states.
He also wrote a book — “Dignity in the Digital Age: Making Tech Work for All of Us” — which handed him high-profile interviews on late night shows. Presidential candidates generally write books about their lives or visions for America as a way to help introduce themselves to the public.
Khanna is the son of Indian immigrants. His wife’s multimillion-dollar fortune makes him one of the wealthiest members of Congress.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen WhitmerGov. Gretchen Whitmer was previously in the Michigan legislature.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Whitmer, 50, told NBC News in June that she wouldn’t weigh in on whether Biden should run for president in 2024 but that she’d back him if he did. She also said it was “flattering” that NBC would ask whether she would consider running for the White House.
Whitmer gained a national profile when she fought Republicans in Michigan’s state legislature to impose strict coronavirus restrictions. She’s been a consistent supporter of the Biden administration. And like several other politicians who’ve gained prominence in recent weeks, she has taken a forceful approach to protecting abortion rights.
Donahue of the University at Buffalo said that, particularly after the Supreme Court decision, Democratic voters were yearning for fighters.
“Whitmer has shown she’s a really strong fighter on the abortion issue, but she can also say, ‘I’m electable,'” he said.
Whitmer is up for reelection in November and was considered to be on shortlist for vice president.
But not all the coverage she’s received has been positive. Whitmer has received blowback for violating the state’s coronavirus measures, despite her push for strong regulations.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of MinnesotaSenator Amy Klobuchar has been in the US Senate since 2007.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Klobuchar, 62, frequently appears on news lists predicting she would have strength in a 2024 Democratic primary.
In 2020, she clinched the enviable endorsement of the New York Times editorial page, which passed on Biden in part because of his age.
Last March, Klobuchar was featured at a Democratic dinner in New Hampshire.
But it’s not clear how she might break through against other similar candidates if Democrats in 2024 conducted a wide-open primary.
“If you have Whitmer, Klobuchar, and Buttigieg then you have three kind of pragmatic Midwesterners all in one race, so you wonder how that would operate,” Donahue said.
Sen. Cory Booker of New JerseySen. Cory Booker of New Jersey was formerly the mayor of Newark.
AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades
Booker, 53, didn’t get very far when he ran for president in 2020. But having run once before could give him the experience he needs to give it another shot.
He hasn’t left the national spotlight: Booker was a prominent defender of now-Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson as she was being confirmed to the Supreme Court, and has also partnered with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on a sweeping cannabis reform proposal.
In December 2021, he headlined a Democratic fundraiser in New Hampshire.
Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey AbramsStacey Abrams previously served as the Democratic Minority Leader in the Georgia House of Representatives.
AP Photo/Akili-Casundria Ramsess
Abrams, 48, is a Democratic star who has said she “absolutely” has the ambition to be president one day.
In an interview with Cosmopolitan, she indicated 2028 would be her year, although earlier this year, Abrams made a cameo on “Star Trek: Discovery” as president of futuristic United Earth.
Back in the present, Abrams is widely seen as an effective advocate on voting rights who helped Biden secure a victory in Georgia, as well as a majority in the Senate.
Abrams was on Biden’s running-mate shortlist before she announced she’d run for governor in Georgia in 2022. If she wins, she’ll be the first Black woman governor in the United States.
Abrams has a huge out-of-state fundraising base that could help her on the national stage, but first she has to win decidedly in November in her rematch against Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican.
The race is one of the most hotly contested in the country, and if Abrams loses, it’ll be a second high-profile defeat in a row for her, having lost to Kemp in 2018.
North Carolina Gov. Roy CooperNorth Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has drawn parallels to former President Jimmy Carter.
Ben McKeown, file/AP Photo
Cooper, 65, has managed to get elected twice in a red state, which tends to be bonus for candidates aspiring to the national stage.
While some of Cooper’s actions have received national attention — including an executive order on paid parental leave and helping to repeal a transphobic bathroom bill — he hasn’t clamored for the spotlight like some other governors have.
Still, his job leading the Democratic Governors Association has helped him connect with big donors as he works to help elect Democratic candidates for governor all over the United States
Cooper told reporters in December that he would support Biden’s reelection and that he thought a Biden 2024 ticket was in the best interest of the party.
New Jersey Gov. Phil MurphyNew Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks at an international offshore wind conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on April 28, 2022.
Wayne Parry/AP Photo
Murphy, 64, has tamped down speculation that he’ll run for president in an interview with NJ Advance Media.
“I’m not running,” he said. “Jesus, lord, help me.”
But he’s seen as having national aspirations after the launch of Stronger Fairer Forward, a super PAC and nonprofit chaired by his wife. The group is running ads in New Jersey telling Murphy’s life’s story and promoting his tax relief measures aimed at fighting inflation.
Murphy is also poised to lead the Democratic Governor’s Association after Cooper, in 2023, and has held the role once before.
Murphy logged a major win when he was reelected governor in 2021, but he just squeaked by. Most of his voters also don’t think he’d make a good president, according to a Monmouth University Poll released in April.
Colorado Gov. Jared PolisColorado Gov. Jared Polis was previously a US House representative.
David Zalubowski, File/AP Photo
Polis, 47, recently told the National Journal that he had “no interest” in running for any office aside from the one he has, and told the Denver Post that he wants to stay in Colorado. He’ll be up for reelection in November.
But Polis has gotten a good deal of national attention. He stands apart from other Democratic governors by rejecting the efficacy of mask mandates as a way to prevent surges in COVID-19. (His team said the national coverage was aimed at stressing the efficacy of vaccines.)
Polis founded ProFlowers and is a multimillionaire who has contributed money to his own campaigns.
Polis, who is the first openly gay governor of Colorado, has been polling well in his state. While he’s often cast a progressive, he’s also seen as having unique positions on several issues, given his more hands-off approach to COVID and his calling for ending Colorado’s state income tax.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of MassachusettsSen. Elizabeth Warren ran for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president. She’s a former professor at Harvard Law School who proposed and helped create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
Warren, 73, has already said she’s running in 2024 — but for a third term in the Senate.
“I’m not running for president in 2024. I’m running for Senate,” she said in April on NBC’s Meet the Press. “President Biden is running for reelection in 2024, and I’m supporting him.”
Still, it’s no secret that Warren would be interested in becoming president given that she sought the White House in 2020.
Warren continues to gain national coverage, including by urging the Biden administration for stronger action. She has pushed Democrats to pass as much of their agenda as they can before November.
Most recently she presented a menu of options for officials to consider to protect abortion rights after the Supreme Court overturned Roe. She also continues to have a national network of supporters and donors.
Sen. Sherrod Brown of OhioDemocratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio has been in the US Senate since 2007.
Bill O’Leary/Pool via REUTERS
Brown, 69, hasn’t gotten the same kinds of questions about running for president as some others on this list, and he hasn’t taken any actions that might raise eyebrows about whether he’s considering the White House.
But Democrats do have their eyes on him because he considered running for president in 2020 and even toured early primary states. Ultimately, however, he decided against joining what turned out to be a crowded field.
Brown would face a challenging question should he consider running for president in 2024. That’s the year he’s up for reelection in Ohio. Should he run and not win the Democratic nomination, it might be difficult for him to jump back into the race to keep his Senate seat.
Brown gets a lot of attention for being a successful Democrat in red-shifting Ohio, and he was considered a potential running mate for Hillary Clinton in 2016.