Ranking the 2024 Democratic field
President Joe Biden was asked in an interview that aired over the weekend whether he was planning to run for a second term in 2024. Here’s how he answered: “Look, my intention, as I said to begin with, is that I would run again. But it’s just an intention. But is it a firm decision that I run again? That remains to be seen.”
Which isn’t exactly a “yes”!
The reality is that Biden has a relatively small window to decide whether he is going to run for reelection – especially with Donald Trump looking like an all-but-announced candidate on the Republican side.
If Biden runs, he would be the strong favorite to be the Democratic nominee and almost certainly wouldn’t face a serious primary fight. If Biden doesn’t run, however, then there would be a massive free-for-all with no clear frontrunner.
Below I’ve ranked the 10 Democrats most likely to wind up as the party’s presidential nominee in 2024. It’s still early – obviously – so these rankings are very much a moving target. (Check out my last rankings – from June – here.)
10. Roy Cooper: Winning twice in a Republican-leaning state – with Trump on the ballot both times – is not an easy accomplishment. And there is significant precedent for a southern Democratic governor to not only win the nomination, but the presidency. (Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter to name two.) Cooper’s biggest problem is that he remains a little-known figure for many Democrats nationally. And according to Carolina Journal opinion editor Ray Nothstine: “Cooper’s far from a prolific public speaker and doesn’t seem like he’d be particularly skilled in retail politics like a Clinton or Barack Obama.” (Previous ranking: 9)
9. Cory Booker: The New Jersey senator has two things going for him: a liberal record in the Senate and natural charisma. The problem? He had both of those things on his side in the 2020 presidential primary and never emerged as a factor. (Previous ranking: 8)
8. Gretchen Whitmer: Whitmer looks to be a the favorite to win a second term as Michigan governor this fall in a race that looked far from a sure thing as recently as a year ago. A convincing win for Whitmer in November could well function as a springboard into a national bid in two years’ time. Asked over the summer about her interest in running in 2024, Whitmer demurred: “I appreciate that it’s flattering for people to even ask.” (Previous ranking: Not ranked)
7. Amy Klobuchar: On paper, there’s a lot to like about Klobuchar. She’s a midwestern moderate who ran surprisingly well – she had a moment in New Hampshire! – during the 2020 primary. There is still some wariness about her in regard to how she treats staff, but Klobuchar proved herself to be resilient in the last campaign. (Previous ranking: 7)
6. Bernie Sanders: A series of recent polls has made one thing very clear: Democratic voters are concerned that Biden may be too old to carry out all of the duties required of a president. Now consider that Sanders, at 81, is two years older than Biden. Sanders remains well-liked and has a clear following among progressives. But the age factor seems like it will really matter this time around. (Previous ranking: 3)
5. Elizabeth Warren: When asked about 2024, Warren has said a) she expects Biden to run again and b) she is running for reelection to her Senate seat. But in the event of Biden deciding not to seek a second term, it’s hard to see the Massachusetts senator taking a pass on another national bid. And she would be well positioned to run. The niche she carved out in 2020 – as a policy-driven candidate with a detailed set of proposals for every problem that faces the country – could be appealing to Democrats in search of what’s next post-Biden. (Previous ranking: 6)
4. Gavin Newsom: What we can say for sure is that if Biden doesn’t run, it sure as heck looks like the California governor will. His latest gambit – paying for billboards in seven Republican-led states advertising that abortion is legal in California – has presidential bid written all over it. Newsom is coasting to a second term this fall and using California as a sort of incubator for liberal policy. And unlike many of the people ranked lower than him on this list, there’s no doubt he could raise the tens of millions of dollars needed to finance a national bid. (Previous ranking: 5)
3. Pete Buttigieg: Buttigieg’s successful run as Biden’s Transportation secretary almost came crashing down last week as a railroad strike looked like a certainty. But with an intervention from the President, the strike was averted and Buttigieg’s reputation stayed intact. There’s no question that Buttigieg is a generational talent, politically speaking. So, why is he not ranked higher? He still must demonstrate an ability to appeal to non-White voters, which he struggled mightily to do in 2020. (Previous ranking: 4)
2. Kamala Harris: There’s been very little news coming out of the vice president’s office of late, which is a good thing for her and her future political prospects. It seemed for a while there that Harris was constantly in the news for a senior staffer leaving or some other unrest in her office. While her vice presidency has been somewhat rocky, Harris would be first among equals if Biden declines to run again. Harris remains well-liked among Black voters who, as Biden’s nomination in 2020 made clear, play an outsized role in choosing the party’s standard-bearer. (Previous ranking: 2)
1. Joe Biden: I think the President remains genuinely undecided about whether or not to run again. His team is putting the pieces in place so that if he decides to run they can be sure he isn’t starting behind. But Biden is notorious for taking a loooooong time to make up his mind on even small decisions. And this is no small decision. How long after the midterm elections can Biden reasonably wait to make his intentions known? (Previous ranking: 1)