The seven Democrats most likely to run for president — if Biden bows out
President Biden’s statement this week that it “remains to be seen” if he’ll run for reelection has prompted more Democratic chatter about whether they’ll have a different candidate for the White House in 2024.
If Biden doesn’t run again, a number of Democrats are expected to wade into the presidential waters. But even Vice President Harris isn’t seen as a definitive leading contender in such a situation, Democrats acknowledge privately.
“There’s not one clear candidate and there’s not a rising star,” said one top Democratic donor.
Here’s who is generating the most talk and the most confidence.
While Harris, 57, has seen her own approval ratings fall at times during an up-and-down tenure as vice president, she remains the top non-Biden possibility for 2024.
Strategists say it would be difficult to convince Black women — who helped catapult Biden to the White House — to vote for anyone else as the party’s standard-bearer.
And as one strategist pointed out, “No one is going to win the nomination without winning in the South.”
While Harris had a rocky start during the first year of the administration, generating headlines for both gaffes and a string of staff departures, she has settled into the role.
She has also made women’s rights one of her issues out on the trail, an issue that can only help her political prospects with the Democratic base as the Supreme Court decision overturning the Roe v. Wade ruling on abortion rights continues to reverberate.
The Transportation secretary has been a popular figure in the Democratic Party since his 2020 presidential run, when he surprised the base with his come-out-of-nowhere ascent.
Buttigieg’s current role has sent him around the country to boast about popular infrastructure projects —something that can only help him down the road.
Just last month, Buttigieg, 40, appeared in the swing states of Florida, New Hampshire, Nevada and Ohio. Buttigieg’s stature with voters could have taken a beating with the railway strike earlier this month but after Biden’s late-hour intervention, it never amounted, solidifying his standing with Democratic voters.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
The two Biden administration fixtures are the top two non-Biden Democrats on our list.
The most likely alternatives after them are two governors.
The first is Michigan’s governor, who came closer than many realize to being Biden’s pick for vice president.
Now Whitmer, 51, is catching the eyes of Democrats as she runs for reelection.
This week, she opened up a 16-point lead over her Republican opponent Tudor Dixon in a Detroit Free Press poll.
Whitmer has made it a point to lean in on abortion rights, in particular. At a recent event she highlighted her role in the fight.
“The only reason Michigan continues to be pro-choice state is because of my veto and my lawsuit,” she said, according to CNN. The remarks refer to a lawsuit Whitmer filed to prevent a Michigan abortion ban from happening.
She often points out she filed the lawsuit even before Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court in June, a move that will surely appeal to the base in the coming years.
Gov. Gavin Newsom
At a time when Democrats have been craving a leader who would get in the faces of Republicans, Newsom, the California governor, appeared to do battle.
Newsom, 54, made headlines in July when he took the fight directly to Ron DeSantis (R), running an ad in the Sunshine State blasting the Florida governor and the conservative culture there.
“Freedom, it’s under attack in your state. Republican leaders, they’re banning books, making it harder to vote, restricting speech in classrooms, even criminalizing women and doctors,” he said in the spot, which ran on Fox News programming throughout the state.
Earlier this month, he continued his aggressive stance by paying for billboards in some conservative states including Mississippi, Texas, Indiana and Oklahoma. His message? That abortion is still legal in California.
“He has still got a lot to prove but he has certainly made Democrats pay attention,” one strategist said.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
The one-time presidential hopeful has made it clear she has one race on her mind in 2024: her own reelection to the Senate.
But Democrats say there would be a place for her if Biden decides not to run again.
Warren, 73, has continued to be a top advocate on Capitol Hill for issues important to Democrats including climate change, abortion rights and gun safety.
But when she’s asked about the next presidential election, she consistently punts.
“We’ve got to stop the catnip about 2024,” she told Axios this summer. “If we start getting tangled up on 2024, and fail to pay attention to business in 2022, that is not only going to hurt us in 2022. It is going to bite us on the rear end in 2024.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
It’s tough for some Democrats to see the senator from Vermont launching another presidential campaign.
After all, he is 81 years old and — if elected — would be nearing 90 by the end of his term.
But Sanders has become such a staple of the Democratic Party since his first White House bid in 2016 that it’s hard to rule out a run. And if he did compete, he’d definitely have support.
Whenever there’s a debate that matters to the base — on student loans or climate change — he’s at the heart of it, one strategist pointed out.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.)
Almost no one in the Democratic Party has had the meteoric rise of “AOC,” as she’s known.
And while most strategists doubt that the congresswoman from New York will run for president just yet, her name is constantly bandied about when Democrats complain that their bench is weak.
The number one question strategists ask when they talk about her is whether she’ll even be of age to run for the highest office in the land. The answer is just barely: she turns 35 a month before the 2024 election.
Besides her age, another question that would undoubtedly come up is whether Ocasio-Cortez’s politics are too liberal to win a Democratic primary or general election.
Warren and Sanders, after all, lost to Biden in 2020.