7 Democrats who could replace Biden if he drops his 2024 reelection bid

  • President Joe Biden’s reelection bid has the strong backing of most elected Democrats.

  • Biden is committed to the race, but there’s public speculation on whether he’ll stay in the contest.

  • In the unlikely event that Biden left the race, an array of Democrats would be in the mix to lead the party.

After President Joe Biden announced his reelection bid last April, the vast majority of Democratic leaders coalesced around his candidacy, which wasn’t surprising for an incumbent.

But Biden has one of the most unusual backgrounds of any president in US history: He’s been a fixture in Washington for more than 50 years as a Delaware senator, vice president, and now president. And if he’s reelected to a second term this fall, he’d be 82 years old at the time of his inauguration in January 2025 and 86 at the end of a second term.

Biden’s age has become a cause of concern among many voters, including some who are inclined to back him over former President Donald Trump. The worries were amplified after the special counsel Robert Hur released his report on the probe into Biden’s handling of classified documents, in which no charges were recommended, but the president’s acuity and memory were questioned.

Through it all, Biden has defended his reelection bid, argued that his age is an asset, pushed back against the special-counsel report, and articulated why he should be reelected — pointing to accomplishments such as the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the Inflation Reduction Act and touting the low national unemployment numbers.

What does this all mean? Biden is unlikely to leave the race, especially as he dominated the Democratic presidential primaries and is committed to a rematch with Trump. But speculation about whether he’ll bow out of the contest continues to swirl.

In the event that Biden does somehow bow out after winning the overwhelming majority of the 3,936 delegates needed to secure the Democratic nomination, a new nominee would have to be selected at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago this August. But it’d be a messy process given that the primaries are now completed.

Virtually every major Democratic governor or senator is behind the president’s reelection bid and long ago dismissed the thought of replacing him on the ballot this year.

But who could be a Biden successor if such a scenario were to occur?

Vice President Kamala Harris

Kamala HarrisKamala Harris

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy meeting with US Vice President Kamala Harris at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.WOLFGANG RATTAY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Harris, by many measures, would be a natural successor to Biden.

As vice president, she’s worked closely with Biden on things as varied as voting rights and foreign policy. She was previously a San Francisco district attorney, California attorney general, and California senator and is a historic figure in her own right as the first Black, Indian American, and female vice president.

And she has become the face of the administration’s challenge to the raft of GOP-crafted abortion restrictions following the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

But Harris previously launched a 2020 presidential bid that seemed promising but fell flat with voters over time. (She eventually ended her campaign before the start of the primaries and caucuses.)

As vice president, Harris has been heavily praised by Biden. But her office struggled with turnover and reports of dysfunction earlier in her term. She has also had to contend with less-than-ideal approval ratings, which have raised concerns among some Democrats about her electability as the party also looks to 2028 — when she’d be a potential frontrunner, given her positive marks with Black voters and young voters.

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California

Joe Biden and Gavin Newsom wearing caps.Joe Biden and Gavin Newsom wearing caps.

President Joe Biden with California Gov. Gavin Newsom during a visit to the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center and Preserve in Palo Alto, California, in June.AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Gov. Gavin Newsom, a former San Francisco mayor who was also California’s lieutenant governor, leads the most populated state in the country and, in recent years, has become one of Biden’s most prominent Democratic surrogates.

California is often used as a foil by national Republicans to contrast with the conservative policies of states such as Florida and Texas. But Newsom has been outspoken in not only promoting the Golden State but touting Democratic policy stances and legislative wins — and he’s not afraid to take his arguments straight to the GOP.

As governor, Newsom has taken on more moderate stances in recent years on issues involving labor and tackling homelessness in his state.

Newsom’s political trajectory could collide with that of Harris, his fellow Bay Area native, but they’ve long maintained a strong working relationship, and the governor has been highly complimentary of her work with Biden.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan

Gretchen WhitmerGretchen Whitmer

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan at the Riga Castle in Riga, Latvia.Gints Ivuskans/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the two-term governor of battleground Michigan, is accustomed to tough political fights. And over the course of her governorship, she has won a lot of those battles: Democrats in recent years have performed strongly in the Wolverine State, holding every top statewide office and flipping control of the state legislature in the 2022 midterm elections.

When Whitmer ran for reelection in 2022 against the Republican Tudor Dixon, she won by nearly 11 points, reflective of her broad appeal with the electorate in a state where the margins are often tight.

This fall, Michigan is expected to be one of the closest states in the country in the presidential race. And Whitmer, a former state lawmaker and ex-prosecutor, is set to be a critical voice for the Biden campaign across Michigan.

The governor has encouraged Biden to speak more forcefully about abortion rights, an issue that has galvanized many voters — but especially women — across the country after Roe was overturned.

In a potential field without Biden, Whitmer’s Midwestern background, strong alliance with organized labor, and moderate appeal could make her a strong contender. But she would also be a new face in a contest that will probably feature Trump on the GOP side.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota

Amy KlobucharAmy Klobuchar

Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Capitol Hill.Samuel Corum/Pool/AFP

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who’s served in the Senate since 2007, ran for president in 2020 and made a surprisingly strong finish in the New Hampshire primary — even outperforming Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts at the time.

But her campaign wasn’t able to get the sort of momentum it needed in the South Carolina primary for her to continue her bid, and she exited the race.

Still, Klobuchar would be a candidate to watch in an open field, as she boosted her national presence in the primary and could point to a long-standing record of bipartisan accomplishments representing Minnesota in the Senate.

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey

Cory BookerCory Booker

Cory Booker has served in the Senate since 2013.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Sen. Cory Booker also ran for president in 2020, ending his campaign in January that year.

But the former Newark mayor has been a national figure for years and is seen as a likely 2028 contender.

He could easily jump-start a potential 2028 campaign in South Carolina, as he campaigned throughout the state in 2019 and 2020.

In the scenario that Democrats would have to choose a candidate other than Biden, he would probably be a part of the conversation.

Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina

Roy CooperRoy Cooper

Gov. Roy Cooper speaks at an event with Biden in Greensboro, North Carolina, in April 2022.MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Gov. Roy Cooper isn’t a big name among Democratic voters outside North Carolina, at least not yet. The former state lawmaker, onetime North Carolina attorney general, and current two-term governor rose through the ranks of government and, along the way, navigated political divides that would bedevil most politicians.

In a GOP-leaning state where Democratic candidates have to compete on tricky terrain, Cooper, a moderate, has come out on top.

Democrats have not tapped a Southern governor as their presidential nominee since Bill Clinton in 1992. Looking to the future, probably in 2028, Cooper is someone who’s poised to be on the minds of many in the party.

Gov. Wes Moore of Maryland

Wes MooreWes Moore

Gov. Wes Moore is a combat veteran who served in Afghanistan.JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

Gov. Wes Moore, an Army veteran who’s also a Rhodes Scholar, was first elected to the governorship in 2022. He has focused heavily on tackling issues such as child poverty and housing affordability, two of the most vexing public-policy challenges for leaders on both the state and federal levels.

One of Moore’s major pushes is to reshape how patriotism is defined in politics, as he told Business Insider during his first gubernatorial campaign that one party or movement couldn’t claim the idea as their own.

“I refuse to let anybody try to wrestle that away,” Moore told BI in an October 2022 interview, “or claim that they have a higher stake or some higher claim to it than I or my family or people who I served with or my community members.”

The governor, seen by many as a potential 2028 contender, has been a strong political ally of both Biden and Harris.

While Moore may be relatively new to elective politics, his profile only continues to grow within the Democratic Party.

Correction: February 23, 2024 — An earlier version of this story misstated one of President Joe Biden’s arguments for why he should be reelected. He has touted low national unemployment numbers, not low national employment numbers.

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