Whether they admit it or not, one big question has to be on the mind of pretty much every Democrat in the country: What happens if Joe Biden drops out of the 2024 race?
This is certainly a fair question. Earlier today, my colleague Nick Arama gave us another example of the President’s ongoing deterioration. More examples of such are legion. But what really has to be troubling for Democrats is this: If Biden drops out, they have no good candidate to replace him. Just this morning, RealClearPolitics’ Charles Lipson presented a great analysis of the problem Democrats face if this should happen.
The first part of the problem is the seeming lack of any activity in what should be an ongoing re-election campaign. The stage, in effect, is not being set.
Biden’s dismal poll numbers form a somber backdrop for his reelection campaign. That backdrop is even darker now that his health problems are so visible. These mounting problems may not prevent him from running, but they do lessen the chances. True, he keeps saying he is running. But, like all politicians, he may be deceiving the public or himself. The biggest “tell” is that Biden is avoiding the very things active candidates do. He’s not campaigning. He’s not attending a lot of small events with big donors. He’s not running ads. He’s not using the White House’s bully pulpit to address the nation on our challenges and his response to them.
But the second part of the problem should be much more concerning to Democrats, and that is the slate of candidates who might be able to, at this rather late date, enter the contest. Their prospects are, to indulge in a bit of understatement, pretty weak, and the one who may be weakest of all is President Biden’s vice president.
The second consequence of a Biden withdrawal would be a fight over the future of Kamala Harris. She is the least popular vice president in polling history, and for good reason. Voters think she’s incompetent, inauthentic, and inarticulate, an empty-calorie word salad without any policy achievements. She’s the living embodiment of the “Peter Principle,” where people keep getting promoted until they reach their level of incompetence. She has reached that lofty level, just as Dan Quayle did during George H.W. Bush’s presidency.
It’s important to point out that the reason voters think Kamala Harris is incompetent, inauthentic, and inarticulate is that Kamala Harris is incompetent, inauthentic, and inarticulate. She would be an utter disaster in a campaign, having only been chosen as Biden’s running mate to check the “historical first” check-box; to put it bluntly, she was chosen due to her skin color and plumbing, with no other positive traits to recommend her.
So, who besides Kamala Harris can step into the race at this point?
California’s Gavin Newsom has good national name recognition and apparently a pretty good war chest. But his track record as Governor of California is abysmal; it would be easy enough for any GOP candidate to hammer Newsom with California’s budget shortfall and the flight of productive people out of California for greener pastures in places like Texas and Florida. While he would superficially appear to be the best candidate, he has a lot of weaknesses. While he doesn’t seem to be taking any steps towards setting up a candidacy, his proposal to debate one-on-one with GOP hopeful Ron DeSantis has annoyed Democrats who see that as a way for Newsom to grab some of the national spotlight away from President Biden and his organization.
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker is making noises about running, but his name recognition isn’t all it might be, and Illinois’ track record on economics and business success is little better than California’s. Also, he is… somewhat lacking in the charisma and personal appeal departments.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is running, but a big part of his campaign seems to be throwing brickbats at his fellow Democrats, which won’t endear him to the national organization.
There are a number of Democrat Governors who could run; Colorado’s Jared Polis has been trying to cast himself as a moderate, which may appeal to some who object to the national party’s steady leftward drift. Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer has some broad national name recognition, but mostly due to her botching of Michigan’s COVID-19 program.
Who else do the Democrats have? Elizabeth Warren? Bernie Sanders? One of the shriekers from the Squad? None of them are viable candidates for the Presidency.
The Republican POTUS race has its own issues, given a pretty broad field contending with Donald Trump’s seemingly insurmountable lead. But at this (early) juncture, the GOP candidates should draw a little comfort from the fact that the Democrats’ best hope of holding the White House is to leave addled, dementia-ridden, inarticulate old Joe Biden right where he is.