After the midterm elections, I wasted no time pivoting to the 2024 presidential election, which is hopefully one of only a few things I have in common with Donald Trump. I first considered the looming Republican civil war between Trump and DeSantis, and then last week I evaluated potential 2024 campaigns from President Biden and Vice President Harris.
I finished that last post with a question: who else, besides Biden or Harris, could be considered contenders for the 2024 Democratic nomination?
That’s what today is for.
What follows is an inexhaustive list of potential Democratic candidates for president. I’ll group candidates into categories, but I do not want you to mistake those categories as my classic “tiers” where I steadily ascend some sort of political ziggurat to the most likely nominee. Instead, these categories are just that — categories. They are thematic groupings. That’s all.
That said, just to keep you interested, the last category will be a list of ten candidates I consider the most likely nominees. I’ll list them alphabetically, not in a hierarchy, but they’re the candidates I’ll keep my closest eye on, particularly if Biden announces he won’t run again.
First up, however, are categories with potential candidates who I don’t take too seriously as realistic nominees, starting with…
The Lefties: Last week I noted that a challenge to Biden could come from the ideological base of the party, much like Reagan taking on President Ford in 1976. Some big names from the left spring to mind here:
- Congressman Ro Khanna: Representing California’s 17th district in the House, Khanna is a 46-year-old technocrat who co-chaired Bernie Sanders’s 2020 presidential campaign. Calling himself a “progressive capitalist,” he’s probably best positioned in this group to marry the left and center. And yet, lacking name ID as a member of the lowly House, a body with members who don’t have a great track record running for president, he’s probably not ready. He’s also the least likely of this group to challenge Biden (of whom he’s been complimentary), which might be necessary if Biden doesn’t remove himself from consideration.
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Guess who turns the Constitutionally crucial age of 35 just three weeks before the next presidential election? The left’s most famous democratic-socialist, that’s who. Buuut, come on.
- Ayanna Presley: She matches AOC’s unelectability without matching AOC’s social media presence, donor network, and name ID.
- Bernie Sanders: In a scenario where Democrats and the country are moving on from Biden because he’s too old, I doubt the party turns to someone even older.
Mayors of New York Who Haven’t Learned Lessons from Past Mayors of New York Who Ran for President: Eric Adams
The Great White Hopes: In this category, we have the guys who fit an old notion that the most electable Democrat — that is, someone with the greatest crossover appeal to the Republican Party — is a straight white male from a red or swing state. (See Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, the only two Democrats to win between 1968 and 2008.) Unfortunately for them, Steve Bullock and Michael Bennet tried that last time and it didn’t work. Unless you have the name ID, prominence, and connections of Joe Biden, the Democratic Party, as presently constructed, prefers to diversify.
- Andy Beshear, Governor of Kentucky
- Roy Cooper, Governor of North Carolina: Beshear and Cooper are Democratic governors while maintaining popularity despite serving in two-time Trump states alongside Republican legislatures. These are qualities the Democratic Party should value. It does not.
- Mark Kelly, Senator from Arizona: If your re-election campaign against a candidate who never ran for office before went down to the wire, you probably shouldn’t run for president.
- Joe Manchin, Senator from West Virginia: As a Democrat elected to statewide office from dark red West Virginia, he’s a political marvel. In a bid to represent the national Democratic party, he’d be a dead candidate walking.
- Jon Ossoff, Senator from Georgia: Ossoff, like Kelly, only barely won his own state. He’s also just 35, so it’s safe to say it’s a bit early.
- Jon Tester, Senator from Montana: He’d be a tremendous ambassador for the Democratic Party in an urgent quest to bring back rural voters. I think he’d be a great nominee, like John Kasich in reverse. But fellow Montanan Steve Bullock would have been too. Tester would suffer the same fate.
Billionaires In a Party That Wants to Eat Them: Michael Bloomberg, JB Prtizker, Tom Steyer
Looming Blue Staters (check back in four to eight years:) Being from a blue state is not a disqualifier on its own, but such a candidate would need a bolstered resume to make a deep run. These guys don’t have it — at least not yet.
- Chris Murphy, Senator from Connecticut
- Wes Moore, Governor-elect of Maryland
- Alex Padilla, Senator from California
- Brian Schatz, Senator of Hawaii
You Can’t Just Keep Losing Elections Then Run for President: Stacey Abrams, Beto O’Rourke
Huge Names Who Won’t Run:
- Hillary Clinton: She’s remarkably high in the markets. (Predict It has her fifth!) She was also in markets’ top five for much of the 2020 race. The theory of the case here is that the primary goes awry in some way, and the party turns to a former nominee who they feel has been vindicated by Trump’s behavior since his election. She won’t run, but… what if Biden dies or becomes incapacitated as the presumptive nominee before the convention? Without the vetting of other candidates through primaries, the presumed nomination would obviously fall to Vice President Harris, but if she’s a disaster (within the realm of possibility), the party may pressure her to be a caretaker president only. In such a scenario, Clinton might be dragged out of retirement for one last chance to achieve her childhood dream. (Harris becoming the first female president by accident before more attention is given to the first elected female president after her would also mirror Harris’s Veep doppleganger.)
- Michelle Obama: Of the 30 or so names I’m italicizing today, there is probably no more popular person than Michelle Obama. Sounds great, right? Two problems. First, there’s nothing that can ruin someone’s popularity faster than running for president. Just wait for the knives to come out. Second, she has absolutely no interest. The party would have to drag her kicking and streaming to the convention floor then force her mouth to move while some ventriloquist throws their voice into her mouth so she appears to say, “I humbly accept this nomination.” Sorry, Dems. You’re not getting the Obamas back.
- Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson: I may be mistaking a huge name for a huge person. His potential candidacy was more in vogue back when we worried celebrities like Trump, since we’ve nearly arrived at our Idiocracy, were the only people who could now win national elections. It’s a common name on the betting markets, but this would be… weird.
I’m Listening/Honorable Mention: These candidates are just outside my top ten
- Laura Kelley, Governor of Kansas: Kelley has now won back to back elections as a Democrat in Kansas, and she serves alongside a heavily Republican legislature. There’s few things I like more from a candidate than winning re-election in enemy territory and working with the other side. (I still remember my soft spot for a man with many soft spots, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.) Plus there’s the fact that she’s a woman in a state that surprisingly voted to keep abortion right. That could get her going.
- Susan Rice, former Director of the NSA and Ambassador to the UN: Rice was a contender for Biden’s VP slot before being beaten by someone with more star power and fewer IQ points. An African American woman in a party where African American women pick nominees, she also has the upside of being a serious person and tremendously qualified for the presidency. Although her highest profile experiences are in foreign policy (she was a high-ranking member of the State Department under Clinton before leading the National Security Agency and then representing the US at the United Nations under Obama), under Biden she heads leads the US Domestic Policy Council. It seems to me like she wants to diversify her experience ahead of a run at the presidency.
- Raphael Warnock, Senator from Georgia: This spot is contingent on him winning next week’s Senate runoff against Herschel Walker. I know that I held against Mark Kelly and Jon Ossoff that they had only barely won the Senate elections in their swing states, but I must admit Warnock is different in key ways. As a devout Christian preacher, he could make the case that he’s well-position to make in-roads with a Christian community that often feels ignored by the Democratic Party. Further, Warnock, as an African American, certainly can catch fire in the Black community, particularly in the Bible belt, which has been key for recent Democratic nominees. Finally, if Warnock wins back-to-back runoff elections, he can lay claim that he’s been put through his trials, and he always comes out the other side victorious. He’s essentially run four senate races in just two election cycles, and he’s still standing.
- Or he’ll lose, and his political career is over.
As for the Top Ten, two of them are Biden and Harris, but who are the other eight?
You’ll find out with my next post, and you won’t have to wait too long. Check back soon.