Democratic leaders are publicly rallying behind Joe Biden to be their guy for the 2024 presidential election — potentially setting up a rematch with Donald Trump — but it is reportedly a different story behind the scenes.
According to a recent Politico article, Biden faces doubt from some “high-level Democrats” who may only support the president because they fear what a Biden-less ticket could look like.
“High-level Democrats are rallying to President Biden’s reelection, not because they think it’s in the best interest of the country to have an 82-year-old start a second term but because they fear the potential alternative: the nomination of Kamala Harris and election of Donald Trump,” the report read.
In 2020, Biden and Vice President Harris defeated Trump when they received more votes than any other presidential ticket in U.S. history. But, just three years later, Biden has an approval rating in the 40s and numerous verbal slipups have caused headaches for the White House press team.
According to the Politico report, a senator at the National Governor’s Association meeting in February went as far as to question whether Biden had the stamina for the presidential campaign season. Biden won his initial election during the travel-restricted COVID pandemic and spent much of his time campaigning from his basement.
At the same NGA winter meeting, a congressman “said Harris wasn’t an option,” Politico reported.
Former White House and Pentagon official Douglas MacKinnon said if not Biden or Harris, Democrats could look to a past superstar to create a more viable ticket.
Former first lady Michelle Obama’s name was floated ahead of the last Democratic presidential primary, although she has repeatedly denied any interest in seeking office. At 59, and with her “it” factor (as McKinnon labeles it) she could emerge as a top candidate and Democrats could look to push her to run.
Other candidates could include those who previously won the Democratic presidential nomination, potentially a resurgence of Hillary Clinton, John Kerry or Al Gore (setting up another rematch between Clinton and Trump).
The hypothetical candidates, however, fail to address the concerns of some voters who want a younger president as Clinton is 75, Kerry is 79 and Gore is 74.
Democrats could also look to past candidates that generated public support but ultimately fell short of securing the nomination. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Cory Booker, D-NJ, each ran in 2020, and could potentially step up for another presidential bid.
Warren is 73 and Sanders is 81, while Klobuchar is 62 and Booker is 53.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also ran and lost in 2020, but joined the Biden administration and has continued to grow his political resume over the last three years.
He is 41.
Beto O’Rourke, who most recently lost a statewide race in Texas, is 50.
Govs. Gavin Newsom of California, 55, and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, 51, could also look to make the moves from their respective state offices to the White House.
Any of these candidates, McKinnon notes, would have to trek strategically to explain why Democrats moved away from Biden or Harris.
“Are the chances of a superstar from the past becoming the 2024 nominee a pipe-dream? Most likely. But with the river of political denial threatening to wash away the Democrats’ chances in 2024, what else is a party to do?” he asked.
Currently, self-help author and spiritual guru Marianne Williamson is the only candidate to begin a long shot challenge to Biden.
“We are upset about this country, we’re worried about this country,” Williamson told a crowd on Saturday when she officially launched her campaign. “It is our job to create a vision of justice and love that is so powerful that it will override the forces of hatred and injustice and fear.”
Williamson, 70, also ran in 2020.
“I have run for president before. I am not naive about these forces which have no intention of allowing anyone into this conversation who does not align with their predetermined agenda,” she added. “I understand that, in their mind, only people who previously have been entrenched in the car that brought us into this ditch can possibly be considered qualified to bring us out of it.”
According to a Fox News poll last month, 37% of Democratic primary voters want to keep Biden as their party’s nominee, while 53% said they would like someone else to run.
The Associated Press contributed to this report