Joe Biden will turn 86 in the last year of the next presidential term. America may elect an octogenarian one day, but the 78-year-old in the White House seems like a poor candidate to be the one. He’s increasingly spacey and confused, and clearly dependent upon his younger wife and aides to go through the machinations of being president. Keep in mind, that’s with a press corps committed to protecting him like he’s the mental equivalent of FDR in a wheelchair.
Biden in March said he expects to run for reelection, but he qualified that statement. “I’ve never been able to plan four-and-a-half, three-and-a-half years ahead for certain,” he said in response to the question about 2024 at a news conference in March.
In reality, fellow Democrats issued an unspoken decree last year: we will put up with you for one term if that’s what it takes to beat Trump, and then you must step aside.
Biden acknowledged this during the primary campaign when he labelled himself “a bridge” to the next generation of elected Democrats who endorsed him. Three of those are listed below.
Biden would squander most of his political capital if he outed himself as a lame duck, so he will fake reelection plans until the last possible moment. This is probably after the 2022 midterms and one year before the 2024 New Hampshire primary. Behind the scenes a Democratic presidential primary is shaping up because there’s no consensus that Kamala Harris deserves to be Biden’s successor, especially after her recent Bidenesque stumble.
These are the six leading prospects, starting with the vice president.
Ever since she smeared Biden as a former racist for opposing forced federal bussing during the 1970s, the Californian has owned him. Harris dropped in the polls after that surprise debate moment in June 2019.
However, the scare she put into Biden without drawing any vengeance all but guaranteed herself a ride on his coattails. She has floundered as vice president, to the point that liberals demand the White House cut her workload.
But Biden will surely endorse her, and she isn’t above explaining away their administration’s disasters by stabbing him in the front again.
Biden’s ambitious Transportation secretary and former small city mayor has closer ties to corporate America than Harris. He also has a better claim on the Democratic nomination if the 2020 primary still counts. While Harris dropped out before the voting started, Buttigieg had extremely close second place finishes to Bernie Sanders in Iowa and New Hampshire.
He is the Democratic Mitt Romney, most comfortable fundraising and using management consultant-speak. This will give his own lane against Harris.
Booker underwhelmed in his 2020 presidential bid and is thought unlikely to challenge Harris. But he started his statewide political career by challenging a sitting Democratic U.S. Senator.
He may decide that New Jersey is a backwater now that every other Senate colleague has Instagram. Like Buttigieg, he’s known for his close corporate donor base. Only one lifelong bachelor has served as president (James Buchanan, 1857-1861).
For one, she turns 35 three months before the next presidential inauguration. Also, it’s easy to forget AOC has been the de facto leader of the liberal base since she arrived in Congress just two years ago. Her 2020 endorsement of Bernie Sanders after his heart attack cemented her power after he surged in the polls and won the early nominating contests.
Ocasio-Cortez could pick up the mantle from Sanders and run an ideological campaign against the party establishment. She would not have to give up her Bronx congressional seat to run for president.
Probably the only straight white man who would seriously consider 2024. If he prevails in this year’s Virginia election he would run as a governor winding down his second nonconsecutive term.
McAuliffe has the life Biden always coveted: money, a close relationship with the Clintons, and real power in office. Most of the Democratic establishment would secretly root for him to succeed because they have all talked to him at a cocktail party.
The former Harvard professor would be 75 by this time, so another presidential campaign would probably be a sideshow to raise the stature of her overeducated wing of the Democratic Party.
Warren was able to draw large crowds in 2020. She’s also been ahead of the curve in ending private fundraisers and rejecting corporate PAC money. Like AOC, she could primary Harris from the left. She says she will run for Senate reelection in 2024 but sounds like she has unfinished business to go with little respect for the Biden team.
Ultimately, it’s not a strong field of Democratic prospects, which helps explain why Biden won the nomination and settled for Harris in the first place. But the decision of Democratic voters amid a pandemic to nominate an elderly retired vice president created this predicament of having to replace him sooner than later
Don’t think that campaign hasn’t already started.
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