President Biden became the oldest serving president on Sunday when he turned 80 — a feat that has some wondering if the octogenarian commander-in-chief should seek re-election in 2024.
While Biden has publicly expressed his ambitions to run for a second term, at least one Democratic strategist said the president should make good on his promise to be a bridge to the next generation of center-left leaders.
“The best thing would be for President Biden to call it a day sooner rather than later so that we can be the party of the next generation–not the expiring generation,” said Colin Strother, a Democratic political strategist. “[House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi is gone, Mitch McConnell has established he’s way behind the times, and there are legitimate concerns about someone of the President’s age being able to do this tough job well.”
Here are some of the top options Democrats have if Biden opts to bow out of re-election in 2024:
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Vice President Kamala Harris
Harris, as Biden’s second in command, is seen as a logical choice for Democrats. The former California senator, 58, is the first female vice president in the nation’s history. She is also the first African American and first Asian American to hold the role.
During the 2022 midterms, Harris was a top political surrogate for Democrats. She has also represented the White House at various global summits.
Despite the resume, Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign ended before the primaries even took place. Harris is also a polarizing figure for Republicans because of her responsibility in overseeing the surging migrant crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Complicating matters is that Harris’s job approval rating is even lower than Biden’s, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“She would have the burden and blessings of the Biden administration,” said Mike Madrid, a consultant who advises both parties and helped found the Never-Trump Lincoln Project. “But as vice president you get all of the downside without being able to take credit for the accomplishments.”
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg
The transportation secretary was one of the most sought-after surrogates for the national Democratic Party during the recently passed midterms. Buttigieg is also responsible in his official capacity for doling out money from the administration’s $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package.
The dual roles have served to raise Buttigieg’s profile after his own 2020 presidential bid fizzled out after winning the Iowa Caucuses. Although Buttigieg has denied talk of another White House run, his political action committee has resurfaced in recent months to endorse candidates for state and federal office this cycle.
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Buttigieg’s candidacy could face serious obstacles, though. The transportation secretary is like to face a GOP congressional investigation next year over how infrastructure money has been spent. Republicans are also eager to look into Buttigieg’s efforts at mitigating a national rail strike and shoring up the supply chain crisis.
The transportation secretary has also faced criticism for taking parental leave last year, while the White House was trying to secure passage of its infrastructure law and dealing with the supply chain crisis.
Sen. Bernie Sanders
Although older than Biden, the 81-year-old Sanders has kept his political operation going after having made two unsuccessful White House bids. The self-described democratic socialist from Vermont was active on the campaign trail in 2022 and has a new book out geared toward younger voters.
While few expect Sanders to make another presidential run, the lawmaker has a deep base of support within the left wing of the Democratic Party. Those grassroots supporters helped propel Sanders to several upsets in his 2016 and 2020 campaigns. It also provided the senator with the fundraising efforts needed to mount a campaign, but without being reliant on big-money donors.
Sanders struggled to reach older African American voters, a core constituency for the Democratic Party, in both of his national campaigns.
“Sanders has a high floor and a low ceiling,” said Strother. “His irreverence has turned into grouchy old man yelling at the neighborhood kids to get off his lawn. He’ll raise money and make noise, but he has no path.”
Rep. Ro Khanna
The California Democrat has been traveling the country in recent months touting his book on dignity in the digital age. Khanna has even put consultants onto his payroll within the early 2024 Democratic nominating contests.
While the lawmaker has ruled out running against Biden, he has made no effort to hide his interest in a White House run in the future. Khanna is little known outside his California district, however.
Democratic Governors Newsom, Whitmer
Outside the national government, Democrats have several popular governors that could mount an effective campaign should Biden rule out another term.
In the swing state of Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer won re-election this month by more than 10 percentage points, despite facing a spirited challenge by Republicans. Whitmer also has strong ties to labor unions, a core group that was instrumental in Biden’s campaign for the 2020 Democratic nomination.
Outside the Mid-West, California Gov. Gavin Newsom is seen as a potential White House aspirant. Newsom, like Whitmer, was just re-elected by a large margin to a second term.
Newsom has also been active in needling red-state governors over their abortion policies. The governor has spent money in Florida and Indiana in recent months pitching businesses to move to California if they oppose new restrictions on abortion.