Who could follow Joe Biden?

OPINION: Many Democrats want a new nominee in 2024—but who?

U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris walk back to the Oval Office after an event about gun violence in the Rose Garden of the White House April 11, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

We know Joe Biden is struggling, so the question we must ask is can someone replace him as the Democratic nominee in 2024? He has an approval rating below 40 percent, which is in the danger zone, and Democratic voters are disenchanted with both his performance and his age. Right or wrong, the perception that Biden is an old man who’s not mentally sharp enough to deal with a complex world has found a home in many minds. Gas prices are high, Russia is romping through Ukraine and the Republicans ended the right to an abortion in many states without Biden stopping them or striking back.

Democratic voters are dissatisfied. In a recent New York Times poll, 64 percent of Dems said they want another option. That’s chaos. Among Black voters, who are usually the kingmakers in Dem primaries, 47 percent are in favor of nominating someone other than Biden. The president may end up being the nominee, he may not. If he’s not, who could or should replace him? 

1. Vice President Kamala Harris. She’s brilliant, she’s charismatic and, well, she’s complicated. Her time as VP has not exactly set the world on fire but the VP isn’t supposed to outshine the president. In a post-Biden election, a different Harris would emerge that could charm many voters, given the sheen of being a historic VP. Or not—some Black voters remain against her because of her prosecutor background, and some white voters could be against her because, well, she’s Black. But it’s hard for me to imagine Black voters turning their back on the VP in a Democratic primary but…

2. Beto O’Rourke is running for governor in Texas and he’s just six points behind incumbent Governor Greg Abbott. If O’Rourke wins, we would have a popular, young, Southern Democratic governor. He would have proven that he could inspire Dem voters and win over Republican voters. He would immediately become a force in the Democratic primary. He seems like a politician who speaks his mind, someone who works from his heart rather than from focus group data, someone who cares about people, and someone who never forgets about his principles. But he has to win a tough race in order to have a chance at any of this unlike…

3.  Pete Buttigieg, the Biden administration’s secretary of transportation has charisma, gravitas and the love of Team Biden—it was Buttigieg stepping aside in 2020 that made it possible for Biden to defeat Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Buttigieg’s sacrifice was made to help him have a chance in a future Democratic primary. Is that chance coming now? He has much more experience after 2020. It’s not decisive or even truly detrimental that he lost in 2020—that race made him a national name so he would start 2024 with name recognition, which is a big strength in a primary. Dem primaries often build on prior ones—Bernie Sanders was a close No. 2 in 2020 after being a more distant No. 2 in 2016. Hillary Clinton was the nominee in 2016 after being second to Obama in 2008. It’s likely that the 2024 nominee was in the 2020 field unless…

4.  Stacey Abrams is in a tie in the race to become the governor of Georgia, and if she wins, she would be a very powerful member of the Democratic future. She’s brilliant, charismatic, admirable, and, again, a Democratic governor from the South would send blue hearts soaring. For years, one of the biggest electoral hurdles for national Dems has been the South’s love of Republican candidates. A Dem who can win in the South would have broken through a tough wall and proven that they can speak to an important bloc of voters. In a primary where Black voters are so influential, it’s hard to see Abrams not having a lot of strength. But she has to win to be a factor, and she’s got a tough race unlike…

5. Gavin Newsom is the governor of California, and he’s cruising to re-election. He’s what Hollywood tends to think presidents look like (him or Morgan Freeman), and he’s got to be given serious respect in an open Dem primary because a successful California politician can raise money like few others can and in a big race, the candidate who raises the most money is quite often the winner. 

I know Dem voters are saying that they want a change, and I feel their pain, Biden has been disappointing—both the Republicans and the Russians seem to be running over him. But Dems also told N.Y. Times pollsters that if Biden is on the ballot they’ll vote for him. So will he step down? I do not believe that Biden spent his life trying to get to the top of the political hill only to retire after one term. He’s a fighter, and it would take a lot to dislodge him as the nominee. In a world where there’s not an overwhelmingly powerful Republican nominee, Biden may look at his potential opponents—Trump, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and ???—and say, I can definitely beat those clowns.

Biden knows that incumbency is powerful. But if his approval rating creeps lower and the polling against him gets more dire and another crisis emerges that seems beyond him, then, maybe, he’ll step aside and make way for his vice president. But if he did that, and thus admitted that he may not be strong enough to pull together the diverse coalition of Dems necessary to win, then why would we think he was strong enough to inspire people to vote for the VP? And why would we think that Harris is politically strong enough to hold off everyone else? Right now, there’s more uncertainty in the Democratic Party than there has been in a long time—after Obama, it was clear that his secretary of state and his VP were next up. Right now, we don’t know who will be up next.

Touré, theGrio.com

Touré is a host and Creative Director at theGrio. He is the host of the podcast “Toure Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is also the author of seven books including the Prince biography Nothing Compares 2 U. Look out for his upcoming podcast Being Black In the 80s.

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