Finley: Scramble will start soon to replace Biden

Here’s a very early prediction for the 2024 presidential race: Joe Biden will not be on the Democratic ticket. 

That may seem a no-brainer, given the president’s already advanced age — he’ll be 82 by the time his current term ends, and he’d be asking voters and himself to trust that his mental and physical capabilities will hold out through a second term 

Biden says he’s running, and presidents almost never opt out of a reelection bid. But there’s not much confidence he’ll be able to fulfill that pledge.

The betting market on the president’s political future opened this week, with the odds that Biden will run again (20%) less than those that he won’t be able to complete his first term (23%).

 Even if he seeks the nomination, he faces vastly diminished public support for his candidacy. A Hill-HarrisX poll last month found  61% of registered voters want Biden to stay out of the 2024 race, with just 24% wanting him to go for it.

The choice may not be left to Biden. If he’s unable to turnaround his dismal approval numbers, he will almost certainly face a primary challenge from his own party. Democrats aren’t going to sit and watch a hamstrung president hand the White House over to a Republican, and quite possibly a Republican who is former President Donald Trump. 

Normally, the vice president would be the natural pick as the party’s nominee should the president choose not to run. But Kamala Harris’ performance numbers are worse than Biden’s. At this point, she’d be a longshot for retaining the No. 2 spot on the ticket should Biden get the nomination.

So for Democrats, the presidency for all practical purposes will be an open seat in 2024.

That reality will ignite the ambitions of a lot of people. Starting very soon, expect to see quiet campaigns from a number of potential candidates seeking to raise their profile for a presidential run. 

If you believe the pollsters, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will be among them. Her name is included on every list of potential Democratic candidates whose appeal is being tested. 

So far, she’s barely registering, polling at just under 1% on a long list of potential candidates that includes most of the 2020 field, with the additions of folks like California Gov. Gavin Newsom, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Georgia’s Stacey Abrams.

But that’s in a very mediocre field in which no one is yet catching fire. It’s anyone’s game to win. And if Democrats wake up to the damage wokeness is doing to their election hopes, a moderate, midwestern female governor might get a better look.  

Since last year’s election, polls have swung in Trump’s favor in a potential rematch with Biden. The latest poll from the Hill had Trump ahead 48% to 45%.

Biden got the nomination in 2020 because he was perceived to be the only Democrat who could beat Trump.

If that perception wavers in 2024, it will be the first time since Lyndon Johnson in 1968 that a sitting president doesn’t get the chance to stand for reelection.

Twitter: @NolanFinleyDN

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Watch Finley on DPTV’s “One Detroit” at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays.

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