Dem 51
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GOP 49
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If Not Biden, Then Who?

By now you have almost certainly seen calls everywhere to replace Biden. All of the articles say that if Biden wants to continue running, no one can stop him. It would take a concerted effort by insiders, especially Jill Biden and Barack Obama, to get Biden to throw in the towel even if 60% of the voters, most of whom are Republicans, want him out. Obama has reminded Biden of his own disastrous first debate with Mitt Romney in 2012, yet he went on to win easily. Obama said: "Bad debate nights happen. Trust me, I know."

Nevertheless, serious news outlets are presenting lists of alternatives in the (unlikely) event that Biden withdraws. Here is the top-five list from Axios. Each candidate has pros and cons. None of them are perfect. No politician is perfect. That also holds for people who are not politicians.

Kamala Harris (59):

Pros: As the sitting vice president, she is the heir apparent. She is very widely known and wouldn't have to waste time introducing herself. She has a strong résumé, including California AG and U.S. senator before getting her current job. Black women, the Democrats' most loyal constituency, would largely walk over broken glass barefoot to vote for her. She knows enough to be capable of doing the job. She could run a campaign based on abortion, abortion, abortion, and maybe also abortion. She has been under the big microscope already and there probably aren't any scandals yet hidden.

Cons: Many people think Trump was a reaction by many voters to the very idea of a Black man as president. We suspect those folks would go absolutely ballistic over the prospect of a Black woman as president. Some voters who could tolerate a Black man might not be able to tolerate a Black, Yellow, Red, Green, or Purple woman. Also, her 2020 campaign was so bad that she dropped out before the Iowa caucuses. Furthermore, her approval rating is worse than Biden's.

Gretchen Whitmer (52):

Pros: The two-term Michigan governor is a bright new face and a rising star, She has all but declared her 2028 candidacy for president. We have oft-noted that the northern route is easier for the Democrats and she is a popular governor of one of the three states there and is a neighbor of one of the others (Wisconsin). If she can hang onto those two and win Pennsylvania plus the normally blue states of Maine, Virginia, and Nevada, she's in. Since the Democrats won the trifecta in Michigan, she has signed over 1,000 bills covering jobs, taxes, infrastructure, education, free breakfasts and lunches for public school students, child care, health care, public safety, guns, LGBTQ+ rights, and much more, all without raising taxes. She also turned a budget deficit into a $9 billion surplus. She has basically covered nearly all of the national Democrats' wish list in her state. Trump hates her. She is practically the Democrats' ideal candidate.

Cons: The sexists won't embrace her, although she is a lot more relatable than Hillary. Also, she is not well known outside the Upper Midwest, but that would change in an instant if she became the nominee.

Gavin Newsom (56):

Pros: He is already running for the 2028 nomination. In fact, he has already had his first presidential debate, against Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). He is an excellent debater and can think fast on his feet. He would go for the jugular and tear Trump to shreds in a debate. Every sentence would contain either "rapist," "convicted criminal," or "liar." If any job in the country prepares you to be president, it is being a two-term governor of California, which has the fifth-largest economy in the world, after the U.S., China, Germany, and Japan (being the supreme commander of an army that defeats the Nazis is also pretty good prep, but that job is currently not open). He's relatively young and vigorous and is well known nationally.

Cons: Republicans would call him a communist, socialist, and left-wing radical. They would show videos of homeless people in San Francisco and L.A. and blame it on him. They would also turn his stupid dinner at the French Laundry restaurant during the pandemic into the biggest news story since Hillary's e-mail server. Finally, he's got an overabundance of the slick, city-boy vibe. In that way, he's the anti-Bill Clinton.

J.B. Pritzker (59):

Pros: He is the governor of a big state (Illinois) in the Midwest, which could help pull in Michigan and Wisconsin. He is also worth about $3.5 billion, although he inherited it all (his family owns the Hyatt Hotel chain). Still, it could impress some people who like rich businessmen and he could easily dump a few hundred million into his campaign to bootstrap it. He is extremely aggressive and would lambast Trump in no uncertain terms. In fact, he is already doing it. Here's an eX-Twitter post from him after the debate:

JB Pritzker's post on eX-Twitter after the debate

Cons: He is not well known nationally the way the top three are and doesn't give off a vibe of being young and dynamic the way Whitmer and Newsom do. He's Jewish, which would put his views on the Middle East front and center. This is not a great time for that, politically.

Pete Buttigieg (42):

Pros: He's young and smooth and could run as the second coming of Jack Kennedy. He also has run for president before. In fact, he won the Iowa caucuses in 2020. He was put under the big microscope after that and handled himself well. As secretary of transportation, he has been in the news as a result of the East Palestine train derailment, the Southwest Airlines winter meltdown, the bridge collapse in Baltimore, and the crisis at Boeing. He handled himself well.

Cons: Being secretary of transportation and small-town mayor is a weak résumé for being president. He's also married to a man. Not all voters are going to like that when they find out.

We wouldn't have put Buttigieg on the list. He doesn't have the experience or gravitas—yet. We don't count him out for the future, just not in 2024. If we had to pick a #5 for the list, it would be Gov. Josh Shapiro (D-PA). He is also Jewish, like Pritzker, but has the enormous advantage that he could easily win Pennsylvania, which is a must-win state for any Democrat. He is also more moderate than the others and that could make it easier for disaffected Republicans to vote for a Democrat, just this one time.

If the next round of polling shows Joe Biden taking a big hit as a result of his poor performance in last week's debate, we could be approaching the Goldwater moment—when some Democrat(s) tell Joe Biden the show is over and he has to exit stage left. The most likely person to play the role of Barry Goldwater (who told Nixon to resign or be impeached and convicted) is Barack Obama. Biden knows him extremely well and respects him enormously. If Obama says that Biden can't win, it will put Biden under enormous pressure to throw in the towel. But for the moment, Joe thinks he is the comeback kid, and Obama appears to think so, too.

But suppose new polls show that Trump has gained significantly on Biden and the president decides to take one for the team and drops out. Then what? What the Democrats don't want is a messy convention that goes to 48 ballots with supporters of Harris, Whitmer, Newsom, and maybe Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) clawing each other to death. One way out would be to have a single round of ranked-choice voting for all the nominees. At a certain point in the process, there would be only two people left, probably two among Harris, Newsom, and Whitmer. Then those two could have a televised debate at the convention moderated by a couple of respected television journalists, who ideally will actually moderate.

After the debate, the convention would pick one of the two. The nominee would then pick the veep, possibly the runner-up, but not necessarily. An all-female ticket of Harris & Whitmer would probably be a bridge too far, so the nominee should make that call based on his or her instincts. Is this procedure a good idea? It is probably better than a repeat of 1924, in which it took 103 ballots over 16 days to nominate John Davis. He won every state in the South and lost every state not in the South. Calvin Coolidge won the election with 382 electoral votes to Davis' 136 and 13 for Robert La Follette, who won his home state of Wisconsin. Nobody wants a repeat of that. (V)

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