llinois Governor JB Pritzker moved to New Hampshire last weekend to rally Democrats for abortion rights. Allies of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy launched a federal super PAC and a non-profitwho have aired $2 million in TV ads about Murphy’s efforts to fight inflation.
And California Governor Gavin Newsom has named himself Democratic boxer chief, calling his party too timid and joining Donald Trump’s social media platform, Truth Social, to challenge Republicans on their own turf.
Let it be said: President Joe Biden has made clear he plans to run again† But the 2024 parlor game has intensified anyway, as Democrats privately voice concerns about his age (soon to be 80), his polls (about half that), and the prospect of a mid-term defeat in November.
Amid the will-he-won’t-he speculation, Democratic governors are positioning themselves as the party’s future flag bearers.
Seated in front national press interviews and chatting with donors across the country is the kind work associated with reelection campaigns† But it’s also exactly the kind preparations behind the scenes marking the early stages of considering a presidential bid — whether that be in 2024 or 2028.
If Biden pulls out, Democratic governors could be in a good position to step in and reap the benefits of state leadership: established brands, barring a damaged national party; state-level policy successes, such as addressing tougher gun laws or protecting access to abortion; and some beating separation from their national counterparts are likely to suffer in November.
Interviews with more than a dozen Democratic strategists and agents yielded a long list of potential presidential candidates. Aside from Pritzker, Murphy, and Newsom, there’s North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, who won the state just as Trump had the upper hand there. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who achieved national fame during the search for Biden’s vice president, is also frequently mentioned.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis, who approached the pandemic differently than many fellow Democrats, is said to be a history-making, openly gay candidate. Stacey Abrams, who plays in a rematch against Georgian Governor Brian Kemp, is already a party star with a huge national fundraising base.
“For governors, especially those in 2022, you’re building an operation now, but you could also use it again in 2024 or 2028 — and for those who can win in 2022, they’ve got a really good story to tell that keeps them separated.” of the national Democratic brand,” said Corey Platt, former political director of the Democratic Governors Association — who added that he is a Biden supporter and believes the president is the Democrats’ most likely and best candidate in 2024.
“It’s happening in the lightest of ways for all the obvious reasons, including the need to set up a national fundraising operation,” Platt added. “But if you want to be president one day, it won’t happen overnight.”
Governors face major hurdles when running for national office. Chief among these is increasing their brand awareness and building a national donor network while not stepping on the White House’s toes.
“If Biden isn’t going to run, but makes that decision very late, as is his custom, there won’t be much time to introduce yourself to the country. So that’s for the benefit of the candidates who have already applied and it could favor candidates who already have resources, like Pritzker and Murphy,” said David Axelrod, a longtime Democratic strategist and former adviser to former President Barack Obama, as he scrutinized two governors who are independently wealthy. are a little bit more free to go out because they’re not based in Washington, but also because the need is greater for them to get into those national conversations.”
By contrast, the Democrats who ran for president and lost in 2020 wouldn’t have to do as much to restart their operations, but they’re even closer to the incumbent president. Should Biden not run for another term, Vice President Kamala Harris has already received the nod from House Majority Whip Jim Clyburnthe most important endorsement for Biden in South Carolina in 2020. Clyburn told The Wall Street Journal that “Right now I’m for Biden, and secondly, I’m for Harris.”
Many candidates for 2020 have maintained their relationships in the early states with visits such as: Harris headlines a fundraiser for Democrats in South Carolina earlier this month. sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) was also to be seen during a democratic dinner in New Hampshire last March. sen. Cory Booker (DN.J.) did the same during a fundraiser in New Hampshire in December 2021. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also have ready-made basic networks to tap into.
Assistants to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote a memo earlier this year saying he hasn’t closed the door to a third presidential run, a move approved by the senator himself. But Sanders has said that “Biden will probably run again, and if he runs again, I’ll support him†
“What’s stopping people from doing something active is Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders,” said a Democrat who advises a former 2020 presidential candidate and grants anonymity to speak candidly on the matter. “There’s a chance someone on the left will be bullish enough to run in 2024, but they won’t go for Bernie, and there’s even less chance someone off the center will go for Biden. Between those two factors, that suppresses most activity.”
“But everyone [from 2020] kept a toe inside,” the person noted.
Even for the governors looking to grow their national profile, they do it in subtle ways, all informed by the common assumption that Biden is running for reelection — but that the responsible course is to bolster their political operations just in case.
Pritzker’s tour of New Hampshire also included a series of East Coast stops, including a rally for Maine Governor Janet Mills and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who is running for governor. He is made abortion rights at the heart of his own campaign – as do the Democrats who receive donations from Pritzker’s considerable personal wealth. Last week, he also met with DNC leaders about Chicago hosting the 2024 presidential convention, according to a Pritzker spokesperson.
For his part, Pritzker said his trip to the northeast was about “help”[ing] Democratic governors are elected,” when he… asked about speculation in 2024† “All I can tell you is that I love the job I have and that’s why I’m running for re-election for governor of this state,” he added.
But his visit to New Hampshire introduced him to a number of voters who are likely to play important roles in the presidential selection process for years to come.
“I think Joe might decide to rejoin in 2024, but I’ll tell you what — JB has a future in the Democratic Party and I think it’s higher than the governor of Illinois,” said Bill Shaheen, a DNC member from New Hampshire who attended Pritzker’s speech at the state party’s convention last weekend.
In New Jersey, Murphy and his wife launched a super PAC and nonprofit, Stronger Fairer Forward, which now runs ads in New Jersey, praising Murphy’s record. This week, the group launched a $2 million ad purchase for a month, featuring Murphy explain what he does to fight inflation and focus on its own personal story growing up in a family that “has struggled to make ends meet”.
Murphy won re-election last fall by just over 3 percentage points in a state that Biden won by nearly 16 points in 2020. The tight result was a taste of the unforgiving mid-term environment Democrats will face this fall.
“I don’t think it’s a secret that Governor Murphy sees an opportunity to run for president,” said former New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat. “I know they’ve raised money and that’s the first sign of interest. Whether he runs or not, who knows, but there is a clear interest.”
In California, Newsom is leading the way on a number of issues that matter to Democratic voters: abortion and guns. He’s leading the way an attempt to codify Roe v. Wade in the California Constitution, calling out the National Democratic Party for not acting, saying, “Where the hell is my party?”
He also supports a range of gun control measures being pursued by the California legislature, including: a bill That allows residents to sue gun manufacturers and sellersinspired by the Texas abortion law that does the same for abortion providers.
It’s the kind of material you might imagine in a Democratic presidential stump speech, should the opportunity arise.
“I think there is at least a reasonable suspicion that” [Biden’s age] will eventually make sure he doesn’t run,” Axelrod said, “so it’s natural for politicians to think about the ‘what if’.”