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Updated Jun 28, 2024, 11:18am EDT
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Semafor Signals

The Democrats who could replace Biden if he exits the 2024 race

Insights from New York Magazine, The Economist, Politico, and The Washington Post

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President Joe Biden attends the first presidential debate hosted by CNN in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 27, 2024.
Marco Bello/Reuters
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As calls mount for US President Joe Biden to end his campaign for reelection after his lackluster performance in the first presidential debate, a shortlist of possible replacements has been circulating among political commentators.

What happens next isn’t clear, and so far, most Democrats have stayed mum on the thorny issue of a replacement. But among the possibilities being floated are Vice President Kamala Harris, Govs. Gavin Newsom and Gretchen Whitmer, and US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.

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Harris —though controversial — could be Biden’s best bet

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Sources:  
New York Magazine, The Economist, Politico

It’s high time pundits stopped speculating over fantasy tickets, and faced up to the obvious: that Biden has already chosen a replacement in Vice President Kamala Harris, a columnist argued in New York Magazine. Yet perhaps her “disastrous” track record for presidential campaigning is why Biden has so far been reluctant to bow out, The Economist wrote, lest the identity-conscious Democrats find themselves in the awkward spot of trying to bypass the first Black and first female vice-president — though that may not stop some of her rivals from trying. Besides, even if Harris secured the nomination, she’d need a vice presidential candidate of her own, a columnist noted in Politico.

This isn’t the first time Democrats have considered swapping out Biden

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Sources:  
Politico, The Washington Post

Chatter about replacing Biden, mostly over concerns about his age, started as soon as he began putting feelers out for his 2024 run. In 2023, key Obama operative and Democratic strategist David Axelrod posted on social media that Biden should reconsider his candidacy. Axelrod walked back his comments, which other top Democrats like James Carville seconded, and next-to-no elected Democratic lawmakers weighed in on the politically risky speculation. (Except for Rep. Dean Phillips, who said in August that Biden needs to step aside or risk a second Trump presidency.)

Even before the debate, voters were looking toward a replacement

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Sources:  
The New York Times, CNN, Flutter, PredictIt

Before either candidate took the stage, more than 60% of Democrats said they would prefer a different nominee. Trump didn’t come out of that poll unscathed — 54% of Republicans said the same of him — but Biden’s Thursday performance is likely to further widen the gap between the candidates. A CNN flash poll found 67% of debate watchers said former President Trump performed better, compared to 33% who said Biden won. And while polls tend to show which party or candidate voters would prefer to win, political bookmakers are backing their opinions with money, a YouGov pollster told Flutter: By the end of the debate, political betting market PredictIt gave Trump a 61% chance of winning, up from 53% at the start.

Why Gavin Newsom is so often mentioned

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Sources:  
Bloomberg, The Los Angeles Times, Axios

California Governor Gavin Newsom batted away speculation about switching from Biden as “unhelpful,” insisting he had the president’s back come rain or shine — but Newsom’s frequent appearances on cable news, aggressive take-downs of Republican bigwigs like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and trips to Israel and China mean he has often seemed to be running a “shadow campaign” as Biden’s backup, a columnist argued in Bloomberg. As a protégé of the Getty family, Democratic rivals have attacked Newsom for his wealth and connections, but a national network of donors and supporters could stand him in good stead for securing the nomination, and his name is already being bandied about for 2028, Axios noted.

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