Meet the red-state governor Democrats should nominate in 2024 instead of Biden or Harris

Republican Glenn YoungkinGlenn YoungkinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats see victory in a voting rights defeat Psaki claps back at Youngkin over school mask mandates Why our parties can't govern MORE’s stunning win in blue Virginia and Jack Ciattarelli’s near miss in deeper-blue New Jersey have put the already-struggling Biden presidency in peril less than a year in.

Things are looking so bad that a serious primary challenge may be in the works against President BidenJoe BidenMacro grid will keep the lights on Pelosi suggests filibuster supporters 'dishonor' MLK's legacy on voting rights Sanders calls out Manchin, Sinema ahead of filibuster showdown MORE — if, that is, the soon-to-be 79-year-old president decides to run again.

As you may have heard, the president’s poll numbers — even among Democrats — are horrific. 

His approval rating is well under water in every key battleground state that he captured in 2020 (Virginia, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire), in some cases by double digits. 

A whopping 71 percent of voters, including half of Democrats, believe the country is on the wrong track. A shocking 64 percent of Americans don't even want Biden to seek a second term. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Another poll shows just 36 percent of Democrats want him to run again.

 

ADVERTISEMENT

Biden and Vice President Harris are polling in the 30s on the economy and crime and in the 20s on their handling of the border and the Afghanistan withdrawal.

Speaking of polling in the 20s, that's where Harris's numbers stand: at 28 percent approval. 

A majority of Americans believe the administration as a whole is not competent, focused or effective enough to run the federal government. 

 

The poll result on the administration’s competency may be the most damning of all because it’s hard to change people’s perception of you once they believe you're in over your head.

The economy isn't getting better anytime soon, either. Inflation by all accounts is not transitory. The supply chain crisis may last into 2023, per Transportation Secretary Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegAirlines warn of 'catastrophic' crisis when new 5G service is deployed Buttigieg says parenthood 'lights a fire' The Memo: 2024 chatter reveals Democratic nervousness MORE. Ask Jimmy CarterJimmy CarterWhy our parties can't govern Second gentleman Emhoff acts as public link to White House After the loss of three giants of conservation, Biden must pick up the mantle MORE what prolonged inflation and high gas prices can do to a presidency. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Speaking of Carter, he was the last sitting president to get a serious primary challenge. He's also the last Democratic president to serve just one term.

So who could come off the Democratic bench to help the party keep the White House, an especially important task given that the House and Senate will likely flip back to the GOP in 2022? Here are two obvious alternatives and a dark horse who may be the Democrats’ best option.

1. Buttigieg: The former South Bend, Ind., mayor's donors are reportedly positioning him as a plan B under a scenario in which Biden doesn't run again and Harris isn’t elevated to the top of the ticket. At 28 percent approval, it's hard to see the party rallying around Harris the way Al GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold GoreThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Biden unleashes on Trump and GOP A presidential candidate pledge can right the wrongs of an infamous day VP dilemma: The establishment or the base? MORE cruised to the nomination after eight years as former President Clinton’s VP.

But Buttigieg is just 39 years old and looks even younger, which will prompt many to ask, "Can this kid who was mayor of a college town really be leader of the free world?"

  1. Stacey Abrams: The Democratic rising star narrowly lost her Georgia gubernatorial bid in 2018 but checks off the same boxes as Harris in terms of race and gender. She is infinitely better than Harris on the stump and in interviews. Agree or disagree with Abrams, she is relatively authentic (unlike Harris) and has a talent for fundraising. But like Buttigieg, she lacks experience.
  1. Andy Beshear: As witnessed in Virginia earlier this month, the Democratic Party is hemorrhaging independent voters as it continues its march away from the center and toward the AOC/squad wing of the party. Beshear won his gubernatorial race in deeply red Kentucky because of moderate policies, particularly on police and crime. For example, Beshear’s budget proposes a $15,000 raise for state troopers and an $8,000 raise for dispatchers, flying in the face of the calls of some Democrats to defund the police.

Unlike Biden, Beshear is a unifier who worked with state Democratic and Republican leaders to pass legislation to appropriate funds to build better schools, expand broadband and invest in hard infrastructure improvements, including clean drinking water.

He can also point to a successful economic record: At 4.3 percent, Kentucky's unemployment rate is well below the national average. Kentucky is also among the top 10 states people are moving to

It's a long way to Election Day 2024 — 1,087 days, to be exact. But given the uphill climb Democrats will have in holding power, it's never too soon to start planning.  

Democrats would be wise to get behind Beshear. But given how woke the party has become, it's hard to see a moderate white guy from a red state getting the nod. 

Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist for The Hill.