[guest post by Dana]
[Gov.] Newsom wants the word to go forth: He’s not going to challenge President Biden for the Democratic nomination in 2024.
“I’ve told everyone in the White House, from the chief of staff to the first lady,” he recounted to me as we sat on the top floor of California’s now-ceremonial governor’s mansion on election night.
The governor insists he won’t run for president even if Biden doesn’t run — “the answer is no,” he said — but is less emphatic about 2028, when he’ll turn 61 and his children will be older.
President Biden just turned 80 years old. Last week, Nancy Pelosi (age 82) and Steny Hoyer (age 83) announced that they would not be seeking leadership positions again. One would think that might send a signal to Biden, as in make way for a younger generation. But at least one analyst doesn’t think the message will have any impact on Biden:
Allan Lichtman, distinguished professor of history at American University, said Pelosi and Hoyer stepping aside when the House flipped this month won’t stop Biden from running for another term.
“They are no longer in charge of the House. This was the perfect moment for them to step aside. I don’t think there’s any correlation between Hoyer and Pelosi stepping down on any decisionmaking for Biden,” he said. “Presidents have almost invariably sought reelection regardless of their age.”
For Democrats, Lichtman said, “The last thing you would want is Biden to step down and have an open seat.”
“Democrats do not want an open seat and don’t want a party fight for the nomination,” Lichtman said.
Anyway, I think Biden plans to run again, despite his poll numbers remaining underwater. If he doesn’t run, one is hard-pressed to see any party standouts for 2024. Surely not the temperamental and inarticulate vice president who made an early exit in the 2020 presidential campaign.
Note from the Los Angeles Times: As of Nov. 15, 40% of registered voters had a favorable opinion of [Kamala] Harris and 54% had an unfavorable opinion — a net rating of -14 percentage points, according to a Times average.
Also, in a recent post-midterm election poll, 42% of Democrats wanted Biden to be the nominee, compared to just 17% for Harris, and 12% for Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Another reason to think that Biden will be running again is the active courting of deep-pocketed donors:
The White House is cranking up its donor courtship, a strategy that’s most evident in a shower of social invitations for big-dollar supporters: this week’s state dinner for French President Emmanuel Macron, the arrival and lighting of the national Christmas tree, Biden’s Christmas parties and Vice President Kamala Harris’ Hanukkah celebration among them. They’re offering more policy briefings to longtime supporters, Zoom calls with top administration officials and White House tours, too.
The donors have taken notice and already are praising the change from a team they long complained was unavailable to answer questions in darker political moments for Biden, according to interviews with more than 20 people who have contributed to Biden, raised money for him or helped secure White House invitations for his supporters.
An expanded social calendar means “they are getting down the list a little further,” in terms of who gets face time with the president, said one White House official. And that could pay dividends for Biden if he runs in 2024.
Donor maintenance is a critical step for the administration should Biden seek re-election and even beyond, when he will likely want to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for a presidential library.
Names that have been bandied about as potential candidates (if Biden doesn’t run and excluding Gov. Newsom) include Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Cory Booker, and even Sen. Bernie Sanders (who is 81 years old). But remember, Biden has already proven that he can defeat Trump. And I think that, once again, this is what the next presidential election will be about…
Anecdotal: A still-sharp, nonagenarian relative from New York, who has been a lifelong Democrat and describes himself as being “to the left of Bernie Sanders,” told me last week that he doesn’t want Biden to run again because of his age and that he has concerns about his mental acuity. When pressed to name a Democrat with executive experience, charisma, and the ability to get Democrats to rally behind them in a national election, he said there were no real stand-outs to speak of.