The top 10 Democratic candidates for president in 2024, ranked
But that scenario seemed increasingly likely, so we decided to include Biden on the list as well. The reason: There may come a time when the incumbent is not the most likely candidate next time around, for whatever reason. And his own 2024 maneuvers were suddenly worth evaluating in real time.
He’s still the most likely candidate, and he still sends the signal that he really intends to run again. But everything seems much more tenuous than three months ago.
A poll this week showed 26% of Democrats want Biden as their nominee in 2024, while 64% prefer “someone else.” As Biden’s approval rating has plummeted, he’s also seen an erosion of that issue — to the point where the only analog we can find in modern political history is Jimmy Carter.
People like the idea of a hypothetical alternative, often much more than the real, imperfect ones. It’s entirely possible that the president’s numbers will pick up if inflation goes down. But many — in fact, most — Democrats, who still like Biden personally, would prefer someone else on the ballot in 2024, at least right now. And this is very unusual.
The main question from there would seem to be whether anyone will challenge Biden for the party’s nomination – a la Reagan versus Ford in 1976 or Kennedy versus Carter in 1980; so far, almost everyone is insisting they will postpone, as CNN’s Edward-Isaac Dovere recently recapped.
But the more immediate question is whether current conditions prompt Biden to ultimately decide not to run at all — and, more immediately, prompt the party to push the 79-year-old in that direction. Modern elections are about grassroots mobilization, after all, and the only way Biden seems likely to get strong grassroots turnout is if Donald Trump or someone else the Democratic base hates is the Republican nominee. Even then, it seems like a big gamble to place someone Democratic voters are so lukewarm on.
With that as a backdrop, here is our latest list of the 10 most likely Democratic candidates of 2024. As usual, this list takes into account both the likelihood of running and the likelihood of winning if they did run.
Others worth mentioning: Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Sen. Cory Booker (DN.J.), Stacey Abrams, Mitch Landrieu, Rep. Ro Khanna (California)
10. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Remember how we mentioned that almost everyone indicated they would defer to Biden (whether or not he ultimately did)? Well, the congresswoman from New York is the big name who didn’t quite make it. She recently declined to say whether she would support Biden in 2024, citing the fact that he is not running yet. But that fact didn’t stop others from saying they would support Biden. Ocasio-Cortez, of course, is very young. And we shouldn’t necessarily take this posture for a ride; she also has a vested interest in ensuring Biden is addressing his wing of the party, after all. (Previous ranking: 10)
9. Roy Cooper: The North Carolina governor is the potential hopeful pushed by a set of Democratic strategists who think the best solution is to nominate a Southern governor with proven crossover appeal (which Cooper certainly has). Whether he has running plans is another matter. The longtime former state attorney general must have been convinced to run for governor in 2016, after all. So does he really have the desire to take the next, much bigger step? It’s a very valid question: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) was one of the top prospects in 2020 before he decided he didn’t have the guts on fire. Cooper can make a point few on this list can, having won multiple times in a state carried by Republican presidential candidates, including in the same election. (Previous ranking: 6)
8. Gretchen Whitmer: The Governor of Michigan ticks many boxes as a tried and true commodity in a swing state. And if she can win her 2022 re-election race — not an easy proposition in this environment, but one aided by the GOP’s voting woes — she’ll likely bump up that slate. Interestingly, Whitmer recently passed up the opportunity to say whether she would urge Biden to run again: “You know, I’m not going to comment on whether he should run,” he said. she said, adding: “If he shows up, he will have my support. (Previous rating: N/A)
7. Gavin Newsom: Perhaps no one makes as many early and interesting games these days as the Governor of California. He recently ran ads in Florida aimed at Governor Ron DeSantis (R), the second most likely 2024 GOP nominee in our ranking. And Newsom offered some not-so-subtle criticism of how his party pursues the national political debate. We still don’t know that a former San Francisco mayor is really what Democrats are looking for, but it’s more evident than ever that Newsom is moving towards something, no matter how downplayed he is. (Previous ranking: 9)
6. Bernie Sander: Shortly after our last ranking, something interesting happened: Sanders’ 2020 campaign released a memo stating that Sanders could run again, if Biden doesn’t: “In the event of a presidential primary an open Democrat in 2024, Senator Sanders has not ruled out another run for president, so we advise answering all questions about 2024 with that in mind,” the memo told supporters. The 80-year-old independent Vermont senator previously said it was “very, very unlikely” he would run again, which at the time removed him from that list. After the memo was made public, Politico reported that Sanders himself endorsed it. (Previous ranking: N/A)
5. Elizabeth Warren: The senator from Massachusetts has carved out some of her space in the post-Roe vs. Wade debate, proposing a crackdown on crisis pregnancy centers which she says are often “deceptive” efforts to “harass or scare pregnant people into getting abortions.” She has often said that she is running for re-election and not for the presidency – but in this current way, that does not specifically rule out that changing in the future. (Previous ranking: 4)
4. Amy Klobuchar: Best hope for Minnesota senator may be that Biden recovers but decides not to run anyway; his political profile is somewhat similar to Biden’s — that of a more traditional, pragmatic politician who isn’t necessarily going to wow anyone. It didn’t work out for her in 2020, but without Biden in the race and potentially with Trump as an alternative, perhaps the Democrats might be tempted by a recipe similar to the one won in 2020. (Previous rank: 5)
3. Kamala D. Harris: Historically, vice presidents have been able to create somewhat distinct images of the presidents they serve. But Harris has seen his image decline alongside that of Biden. Just as Biden appears to be the most unpopular president at this point in his first term since Harry S. Truman, she is one of the most unpopular modern vice presidents at this point. She has a taller pedestal than anyone on this list in the event of a post-Biden race. But the way things are right now, she would need to differentiate herself somehow. And it’s not an easy trick when you still have your day job. (Previous ranking: 3)
2. Pete Buttigieg: The Transportation Secretary continues to carve out a potentially attractive space for himself in Democratic politics, regardless of his Cabinet duties: as the guy who can go on Fox News and fight right-wing talking points in a calm and regular. Most recently, he did so during a protest by Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh at a steakhouse. Similar to Newsom, if Democrats place a premium on being able to get a message across against Republicans — a not insignificant consideration in modern politics — Buttigieg makes a lot of sense. (Previous ranking: 2)
1. President Biden: Biden has almost always framed his 2024 plans as saying he “intends” to run, which leaves some wiggle room. But the Washington Post’s Tyler Pager and Michael Scherer recently reported that it wasn’t just gossip: that Biden’s political operation is doing what you’d expect to herald a re-election campaign next year. Biden also offered a heated response to the aforementioned poll this week, saying, “Read the polls, Jack. You are all the same. This poll showed that 92% of Democrats, if I ran, would vote for me. That’s right, and he still narrowly led Trump 44-41 in a 2020 rematch, but that’s all in the general election. And polls show far fewer Democratic primary voters say they would vote to advance him in that contest. (Previous ranking: 1)