Ranking the five Democrats most likely to win party nod if Biden doesn’t run

Whether President Biden will seek reelection next year is one of the most discussed topics inside and outside the Beltway.

Biden has said he plans to run for a second term, privately telling former President Obama and other Democrats of his intentions. 

The president’s allies say he is still the only one who can defeat a challenger like former President Trump or Gov. Ron DeSantis, of Florida. 

But there are doubts he will follow through on his plans because of his age — Biden would be 81 in November 2024 — and because of the brutal political headwinds he and his party are now facing. Biden’s approval ratings have sunk to the mid-30s in some polls.

If Biden chooses not to run for reelection, who else would be in contention?

Here’s a look at the five Democrats best positioned to win the nomination.

Vice President Harris

Harris tops our rankings, as she would instantly be the leading contender to win the Democratic nomination for president if Biden decided to end his political career with one term.

She has the visibility at the White House, and the name recognition, and could give Democrats another chance at breaking the vaunted glass ceiling by becoming the first woman to be elected president.

But Harris is not a sure bet to win the nomination. She has been tripped up by a rash of negative headlines since she assumed the role of vice president and her poll numbers have taken a hit.

A Los Angeles Times analysis of national polls this month showed Harris underwater with a 40 percent approval rating. 

“She has fallen short of expectations,” said one Democratic strategist.  

Should Biden decide not to run, “I don’t think she has a lock on the nomination and she’ll have some viable competitors” in 2024, the strategist added.

Some Democrats point out that while her 2020 presidential campaign started strong, it petered out when she ran into fundraising trouble and was unsuccessful in communicating a message for why she was the best candidate in a crowded field. 

Pete Buttigieg

Biden’s Transportation secretary surprised the Democratic establishment and political observers in 2020 with his come-out-of-nowhere campaign.

The former mayor of South Bend, Ind., a virtual stranger to Democrats, managed to win the Iowa caucuses, defeating a field of better-known candidates. He then came close to winning the New Hampshire primary.

Buttigieg has continued to make a name for himself, touring the country to tout Biden’s infrastructure projects and visiting key swing states including Iowa, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Ohio.

Democratic strategists say he would be well positioned for a 2024 run. Still, even as a Cabinet secretary, some still wonder if he has enough political chops to make the leap to the Oval Office. 

Elizabeth Warren

Warren maintains strong support from progressives and recently revved up the base when in the days following the leaked draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, she went to the Supreme Court and joined protesters.

Videos of her railing against the potential decision went viral.  

She also wrote an op-ed for The New York Times in which she instructed on how Democrats could “avoid disaster” in the upcoming midterm elections.

Warren has said she has no plans to run for president.

“I’m not running for president in 2024, I’m running for Senate,” she said last month on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “President Biden is running for reelection in 2024 and I’m supporting him.”

But if Biden doesn’t run, Warren would instantly vault into contention and her plans would likely change.

Bernie Sanders

Few Democrats think Sanders will run for president again.

But last month, the senator put himself back into the conversation when his aides circulated a memo revealing that he wasn’t saying no to a third presidential bid.  

“Sen. Sanders has not ruled out another run for president, so we advise that you answer any questions about 2024, with that in mind,” read the memo from Faiz Shakir, the Sanders adviser who served as his 2020 campaign manager.

Sanders, who is seen as the patriarch of the progressive movement, has also penned an opinion piece for Fox News calling for “Medicare for All.” But like Biden, Sanders’s age — he’s 80 years old — could cause potential problems for him should he choose to run again.  

Amy Klobuchar

The Minnesota senator didn’t perform too well in the 2020 presidential election, but if Biden doesn’t run, Klobuchar could benefit, receiving support from moderate Democrats.

When she traveled to New Hampshire earlier this year to give a keynote address to state Democrats, political observers couldn’t help but think she was quietly building the groundwork for a potential 2024 run.

“It was one of the very first signs that some folks had started to eye the next election,” one strategist said. “Because few people think Biden is going to run again.” 

Tags 2024 election Amy Klobuchar Bernie Sanders Bernie Sanders Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Joe Biden Kamala Harris Kamala Harris Pete Buttigieg Ron DeSantis

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