Who could replace Biden as the Democratic nominee?


Pressure is mounting on President Biden following his disastrous performance in last week’s debate as questions swirl over his viability as a candidate in the 2024 presidential race.

The president, for his part, has shown no outward signs that he plans to step aside. He reportedly assured staffers on a campaign call Wednesday that “I am running,” adding, “no one’s pushing me out. I’m not leaving. I’m in this race to the end and we’re going to win.”

But if Biden were to change his mind and drop out of the race against former President Donald Trump, many Democrats would see Vice President Kamala Harris as the logical choice to replace him at the top of the ticket.

“I’m going to be for Harris if Biden ain’t there,” Rep. James Clyburn, a Democrat from South Carolina and one of Biden’s closest allies in Congress, told USA Today on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Reuters reported that Harris is “the top alternative” to Biden, citing “seven senior sources at the Biden campaign, the White House and the Democratic National Committee with knowledge of current discussions on the topic.”

But pundits and party insiders are floating other names as well. Here’s the not-so-short shortlist of hypothetical Biden replacements — along with how they rank among voters in a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll conducted after the debate.

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at an event in New York City.Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at an event in New York City.

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at an event in New York City on June 21. (Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images)

Why Democrats might consider her: As the current vice president — and a former presidential candidate, U.S senator and attorney general of California — Harris, 59, is by far the highest-profile and most widely vetted candidate on the list. She is also the first Black woman to serve in each of those positions, and Black women have long been the party’s core constituency. Harris’s prosecutorial experience could serve her well in a contest against Trump, the first U.S. president convicted of a felony. And with her name already on the ticket, she’s the only candidate who could inherit the Biden campaign’s $91 million war chest. On the flip side, bypassing the president’s No. 2 in favor of a lesser-known alternative could spark the kind of internal conflict that Democrats can ill afford with only six weeks remaining before their convention.

Why Democrats might oppose her: Harris struggled during the 2020 Democratic primary contest, ultimately dropping out before the Iowa caucuses. She has not become more popular as vice president — a role in which she has been saddled with controversial assignments and plagued by high staff turnover. Some Democrats doubt whether Harris has the political chops to weather MAGA attacks.

What our postdebate polling says: When given a choice between eight candidates who could replace Biden as the nominee if he were to drop out, 31% of voters who identify as Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents select Harris. That’s up from 25% in February 2023 and roughly twice the number who pick the next-most-popular candidate. Harris performs especially well with Democrats under 30 (46%) and Black Democrats (48%).

Gavin Newsom speaks during a news conference in Los Angeles.Gavin Newsom speaks during a news conference in Los Angeles.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a news conference in Los Angeles on Jan. 3. (David Swanson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Why Democrats might consider him: Newsom, 56, is the telegenic, smooth-talking governor of the most populous state in the country. In recent years, he has also fashioned himself as a national figure — the leading mouthpiece for anti-Trump, anti-MAGA liberals at a moment when, in his opinion, much of the rest of the Democratic Party has been falling short. He has debated Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, his GOP counterpart; he has raised money for red-state Dems; he has appeared on Fox News. If the key to beating Trump is winning the attention war, then Newsom is a step ahead of his fellow White House hopefuls.

Why Democrats might oppose him: California isn’t exactly Middle America. Plagued by a high cost of living — and the nation’s worst homelessness crisis — the state would give the GOP plenty of grist in a national campaign. And the fact that Newsom infamously dined out at the luxurious French Laundry restaurant during COVID-19 lockdowns wouldn’t help his flyover country appeal. Newsom is also friends — or “frenemies” — with Harris, a fellow San Franciscan. He could strategically decline to challenge her, waiting instead for 2028 or beyond.

What our postdebate polling says: After Harris, Newsom is the next-most-popular alternative to Biden, at 17%.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks during a hearing in Washington, D.C., on May 9. (Tierney L. Cross/Bloomberg)

Why Democrats might consider him: The former mayor of South Bend, Ind., Buttigieg, 42, was the breakout star of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary contest; he even won the Iowa caucuses. Some of his rise stemmed from his pioneering identity: If nominated, Buttigieg might have become the first openly gay president in U.S. history. But the bigger factor was his ability to craft and articulate a clear, concise, consistent message. As Biden’s transportation secretary, Buttigieg has honed his rhetorical skills while gaining valuable government experience.

Why Democrats might oppose him: Buttigieg is still young, and he’s still been elected only to municipal office. It’s unclear, meanwhile, whether his time as transportation secretary — a job that has forced Buttigieg to deal with pandemic supply-chain problems, toxic train derailments and high-profile airline meltdowns — would help or hurt him in a national campaign.

What our polling says: Buttigieg places third, at 8%, well behind Harris and Newsom.

Whitmer delivers remarks at an event in Maryland.Whitmer delivers remarks at an event in Maryland.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivers remarks at an event in National Harbor, Md., on May 4. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Why Democrats might consider her: Whitmer, 52, enjoys the most buzz of any up-and-coming Democratic governor — a group of future presidential prospects that includes the next four entries on this list. In part that’s because she’s the only one of these governors who is a woman. In part it’s because she’s in charge of Michigan, perhaps the most important swing state. But mostly it’s about her tightrope-walking political success. In the 2022 midterms — typically a tough time for members of the president’s party — Whitmer won reelection over her GOP challenger, a conservative media personality, by more than 10 percentage points, helping Democrats flip the state legislature. She then signed progressive laws on climate change, gay rights, guns and unions and positioned herself as a leading post-Roe crusader for abortion rights — while maintaining one of the highest net approval ratings of any battleground governor.

Why Democrats might oppose her: Fear of the unknown. Democrats have never seen Whitmer campaign on the national stage — or come under fire from Trump & Co. — and they couldn’t be sure how she would respond. In a moment of maximum risk, with little time to ramp up, is the party really ready to gamble on a rising star?

What our polling says: Whitmer (6%) trails Harris, Newsom and Buttigieg; she also trails Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (7%), a two-time presidential candidate. But she’s ahead of more familiar names such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (4%), New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (3%) and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar (2%) — which is promising for someone who has yet to really make national waves.

Josh Shapiro speaks at his office in Harrisburg, Pa.Josh Shapiro speaks at his office in Harrisburg, Pa.

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro speaks at his office in Harrisburg, Pa., on Feb. 28. (Rachel Wisniewski/Bloomberg)

Why Democrats might consider him: Shapiro, 51, was elected governor in 2022. As the state’s attorney general, he led multiple successful lawsuits against the Trump administration during the former president’s attempts to subvert the results of the 2020 election.

Why Democrats might oppose him: He’s a first-term governor who has not been in the national spotlight for very long. And Shapiro, who is Jewish, has been outspoken about the pro-Palestinian counterprotests over Israel’s bombardment of Gaza after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at an economic forum in Montreal last month.Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at an economic forum in Montreal last month.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at an economic forum in Montreal on June 12. (Graham Hughes/Bloomberg)

Why Democrats might consider him: Pritzker — a billionaire scion of the family behind the Hyatt hotel chain, whose hometown of Chicago is hosting the Democratic convention — has not been shy about taking on Trump. He was one of the first elected officials to label the former president a “felon” following his conviction in the hush money case. “Donald Trump is a racist, a homophobe, a grifter and a threat to this country,” Pritzker, 59, said just minutes after the jury returned its verdict in May. “He can now add one more title to his list — a felon.” And the fact that Pritzker could largely self-fund his run wouldn’t hurt.

Why Democrats might oppose him: In just his second term as governor, he’s relatively inexperienced. And as Politico points out, Trump and Republicans would almost certainly go after Pritzker over the “well-trodden issue of crime in Chicago — despite a complicated picture of how crime rates have changed since he’s become governor — and how he’s dealt with the migrant crisis.”

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore speaks at a gun violence awareness event in Landover, Md.Maryland Gov. Wes Moore speaks at a gun violence awareness event in Landover, Md.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore speaks at a gun violence awareness event in Landover, Md., on June 7. (Andrew Harnik/Getty Images)

Why Democrats might consider him: Moore, a 45-year-old U.S. Army veteran, is first the Black person to be elected governor of Maryland and the third Black person to be elected governor in the country, ever — a distinction that would theoretically help Democrats with African American voters who may be considering voting for Trump.

Why Democrats might oppose him: Moore, who was elected governor less than two years ago, has had to raise taxes in the state despite vowing not to as a candidate.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear delivers his victory speech after winning reelection in Louisville, Ky., in 2023.Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear delivers his victory speech after winning reelection in Louisville, Ky., in 2023.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear delivers his victory speech after winning reelection in Louisville, Ky., in 2023.(Stephen Cohen/Getty Images)

Why Democrats might consider him: The popular Kentucky governor, 45, cruised to reelection in 2023, his second victory in a state that hasn’t voted for a Democrat in a presidential election since the 1990s. And his name has already been floated as a possible presidential candidate in 2028 or even as a running mate for Harris should she ascend to the top of the ticket.

Why Democrats might oppose him: There’s evidence his success in Kentucky might not translate to the national stage. Former Montana Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock won reelection in 2016 despite Trump carrying the state over Hillary Clinton by more than 20 points. But Bullock’s 2020 presidential bid flopped.

Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock speaks with reporters in Washington, D.C., in 2023. Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock speaks with reporters in Washington, D.C., in 2023.

Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock speaks with reporters in Washington, D.C., in 2023. (Alex Brandon/AP)

Why Democrats might consider him: Warnock, a Baptist minister, helped Democrats grab control of the U.S. Senate in 2020 when he and fellow Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff won in runoff elections over Trump-backed Republicans.

Why Democrats might oppose him: He is inexperienced and, as a Biden campaign surrogate, has been vocal in defending the president over his debate showing. “[There have been more than a few Sundays when I wish I had preached a better sermon,” Warnock, 54, said on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. “But after the sermon was over, it was my job to embody the message, to show up for the people that I serve. And that’s what Joe Biden has been doing his entire life.” Plus, if Warnock gave up his swing-state Senate seat, it would threaten Democrats’ narrow majority.

Former first lady Michelle Obama speaks during the opening night ceremony of the U.S. Open in New York City i =n 2023. Former first lady Michelle Obama speaks during the opening night ceremony of the U.S. Open in New York City i =n 2023.

Former first lady Michelle Obama speaks during the opening night ceremony of the U.S. Open in New York City in 2023. (Corey Sipkin/AFP via Getty Images)

Why Democrats might consider her: A post-debate Ipsos/Reuters poll found that the former first lady, 60, would trounce Trump 50% to 39% if the election were held today, making her the only Democrat on this list who would start the race with better-than-even odds of holding onto the Oval Office. That’s a testament to Obama’s enduring popularity — both her husband Barack’s, and her own.

Why Democrats might oppose her: Obama has no experience running for elective office. She has never been a political candidate. And more than that, she seems to despise the whole partisan process, having tried (and failed) to prevent her husband from running and subsequently “drilled into [her daughters] so early that you would be crazy to go into politics,” as Barack recently put it. The chances that Obama would sacrifice her hard-earned post-White House private life to mud wrestle with Trump are next to nil.

Cover thumbnail photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Gerald Herbert/AP, Ronda Churchill/AP



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