Amid will-or-not speculation, Democratic governors are positioning themselves as the party’s future standard-bearers.
Sitting down for interviews in the national press and hanging out with donors across the country is the kind of work that accompanies re-election campaigns. But it’s also exactly the kind of behind-the-scenes preparations that mark the early stages of considering a presidential bid — whether in 2024 or 2028.
If Biden bows out, Democratic governors could be well-placed to step in, reaping the benefits of state leadership: established brands outside of a damaged national party; political successes at the state level, such as fighting tougher gun laws or protecting access to abortion; and some degree of estrangement from the beating their domestic counterparts will likely suffer in November.
Interviews with more than a dozen Democratic strategists and operatives revealed a long list of presidential candidates. Besides Pritzker, Murphy and Newsom, there is North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, who won the state even as Trump prevailed there. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who rose to national prominence during Biden’s VP search, is also frequently mentioned.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who has taken a different approach to the pandemic than many fellow Democrats, would be a historic and openly gay candidate. Stacey Abrams, who is in a rematch against Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, is already a party star with a huge national fundraising base.
“For governors, especially those who are in place in 2022, you are building an operation for now, but you can also use it again in 2024 or 2028 – and for those who can win in 2022, they have a very good story to tell. it separates them from the Democratic national 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 likeliest and best candidate. Democrats in 2024.
“This is happening in the lightest of ways for all the obvious reasons, including the need to build a national fundraising operation,” Platt added. “But if you want to run for president one day, it doesn’t happen overnight.”
Governors face major hurdles when running for national elections. Chief among them is increasing their name awareness and building a nationwide network of donors, all while stepping on no feet in the White House.
“If Biden is not going to run, but he doesn’t make that decision until very late, as is his custom, there’s not a lot of time to run in the country. So that favors candidates who run. are already being presented and that may 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, checking the names of two governors. Rich.”Governors are a little more free to go out because they’re not located in Washington, but also because it’s more imperative for them to be part of these national conversations.”
By contrast, Democrats who ran for president and lost in 2020 wouldn’t have to do as much to restart operations — but they’re even closer to the incumbent. If Biden doesn’t run for another term, Vice President Kamala Harris has already gotten the green light from House Majority Whip Jim ClyburnBiden’s key endorsement in South Carolina in 2020. Clyburn told the Wall Street Journal that “right now I’m for Biden, and second, I’m for Harris.”
Many 2020 candidates have maintained connections in early states with visits, such as Harris headlining a fundraiser for South Carolina Democrats earlier this month. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) was also featured at a Democratic dinner in New Hampshire last March. Sen. Cory Booker (DN.J.) did the same at a fundraiser in New Hampshire in December 2021. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also have out-of-the-box base networks to operate.
Helpers of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote a memo earlier this year saying he did not close the door on a third presidential race, a move endorsed by the senator himself. But Sanders said “Biden will probably run again, and if he does run again, I will support him.”
“What’s keeping people from actively doing anything is Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders,” said a Democrat who advises a former 2020 presidential candidate, on condition of anonymity to speak candidly on the matter. “There’s a chance that someone on the left will be optimistic enough to run in 2024, but they won’t go ahead of Bernie, and there’s even less of a chance that someone in the middle will choose Biden. Between these two factors, it removes most of all activity.
“But everyone [from 2020] kept one toe,” the person noted.
Even for governors looking to raise their national profile, they do so in subtle ways, all informed by the general assumption that Biden is running for re-election — but that the responsible path is to bolster their political operations just in case.
Pritzker’s stint through New Hampshire also included a series of stops on the East Coast, including a rally for Maine Governor Janet Mills and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who is running for governor. . He has placed abortion rights at the heart of his own campaign, as have Democrats who receive donations from Pritzker’s vast 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 “helping[ing] Democratic governors get elected,” when asked about 2024 speculation. “I can’t tell you anything other than I love the job I have and that’s why I’m running for re-election. as governor of this state,” he added.
But his visit to New Hampshire introduced him to a set of voters likely to be instrumental in the presidential selection process for years to come.
“I think Joe might decide to run again in 2024, but I’ll tell you what – JB has a future in the Democratic Party and I think he’s higher than the Governor of Illinois,” said Bill Shaheen, DNC member from New Hampshire. who attended Pritzker’s speech at the state party convention last weekend.
In New Jersey, Murphy and his wife started a super PAC and non-profit organization, Stronger Fairer Forward, which now runs ads in New Jersey touting Murphy’s record. This week, the band launched a $2 million month-long ad buy, in which Murphy explains what he’s doing to fight inflation and highlights his own personal story growing up in a family that ” struggling to make ends meet.”
Murphy was re-elected last fall by just over 3 percentage points in a state Biden won by nearly 16 points in 2020. The tight result gave a glimpse of the brutal mid-term environment in which the Democrats face this fall.
“I don’t think it’s a secret that Governor Murphy is looking for an opportunity to run for president,” said former New Jersey Senate Speaker Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat. “I know they have raised funds and this is the first sign that there is interest. Whether he runs or not, who knows, but there is an obvious interest.
In California, Newsom is leading the way on two issues that matter deeply to Democratic primary voters: abortion and guns. It is the spearhead of a codification effort Roe vs. Wade in the California constitution, while calling out the National Democratic Party for not acting, saying, “Where the hell is my party?”
He also supports a series of gun control measures passing through the California Legislature, including a bill which allows residents to sue manufacturers and sellers of firearms, inspired by the Texas abortion bill that does the same for abortion providers.
It’s the kind of material one might imagine hearing in a Democratic presidential speech, given the opportunity.
“I think there is at least a fair guess that [Biden’s age] will eventually prevent him from running,” Axelrod said, “so it’s only natural for politicians to think about the ‘what if’.