Opinion: In 2024 it could be Biden Harris or Democrat collapse

WASHINGTON. More than a handful of Republicans are already sniffing around the 2024 presidential election.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Florida Senator (and former governor) Rick Scott, and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are just some of the Republicans who could apply for the White House if former President Donald Trump does not run for a second term. And some of them may take the plunge even if Trump seeks the nomination again in two years.

The Democrats, of course, have a very different situation. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are incumbents, so the party doesn’t have a long list of contenders for 2024.

Given Biden’s age and current position in the polls, and Harris’ mixed reviews, this is not an ideal situation for Democrats.

First, let’s deal with the obvious. If Biden wants his party to nominate in 2024, he is likely asking for it himself. Incumbent presidents are generally not denied reappointment.

The last major hurdle to renominate an incumbent came in 1980 when Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy challenged Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter. Kennedy won a dozen primaries, including those in Pennsylvania, New York, and California, but Carter rallied delegates to the Southern primaries and the first state conventions, easily winning renomination.

But Biden is not your typical incumbent seeking re-election. He will be 82 weeks after the 2024 election, and his job approval rates are terrible, primarily because inflation rates in the economy are terrible. Maybe he’s just riding off into the sunset (on an Amtrak train, I’m guessing).

If the Democrats lose the House and Senate during the midterm elections, as many expect, that could change the dynamic for 2024. The same can be said for Trump’s entry into the 2024 race.

Any turn of events could allow Biden to position himself as the defender of the political center from Trump, the January 6th insurgency and the right-wing populist Republican Party, which increasingly believes that the end justifies the means.

On the other hand, if Biden resigns, Harris will automatically become the top favorite for the Democratic nominee in 2024.

Harris’s performance rating is not much different from Biden’s. Each has a job approval of about 40%.

Whatever Harris’s shortcomings, it’s very hard to imagine her party surpassing her in the 2024 presidential nomination, especially given the party’s demographics and the appeal of being elected the first female president of the United States.

Harris certainly benefits from the fact that several Democratic officials come to mind who could beat her for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar performed well during her bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination, and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker has charisma. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg impressed some during his 2020 presidential run, as did Elizabeth Warren, who will turn 75 ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

California Governor Gavin Newsom is an obvious name to consider, as is Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer if she is re-elected in November.

But will any of them challenge Harris? And if they did, would they be able to raise enough money and have the breadth of appeal to poach Harris’s presidential nomination? This seems unlikely if the past is any guide.

So the Democrats appear to be stuck with Biden or Harris as the party’s nominee in 2024, while the Republicans attack education, the economy, inflation, crime, socialism and other topics that should benefit the GOP candidate.

None of this means the Republicans are locked in in 2024. But Biden and his party are clearly not where they once hoped to be.

Stuart Rothenberg wrote this for roll call. © 2022 CQ Roll Call. Distributed by content agency Tribune.