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  • Milly Owen

Is It Time To Go Joe?: The Top Contenders for the Democratic Party Leadership

By Milly Owen

After being elected to the Senate in 1972 it has been a long and turbulent political career for President Joe Biden. His term as President is undoubtedly impressive with multiple bipartisan bills passing in an increasingly divisive America, including the $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal (following years of deferred needs) and the recent $61 billion of aid to the Ukrainian fight. After a reasonably successful first term and a strong victory against Trump in the 2020 election, proving a staunch opponent to the formidable Trump machine, to some Democrats he was the obvious choice. He returned after Thanksgiving after discussing it with his family, deciding at 81, he will fight for another Presidential term. However, in recent appearances concerns have arisen regarding Biden’s age and cognitive ability, he fell on stage during an Air Force graduation and appeared to be frozen, staring vacantly, as he had to be moved off by Barack Obama during a campaign fundraiser in LA.

This all came to a crescendo during the first televised debate of the 2024 election, where Joe Biden gave a worrying performance, where he trailed off and appeared to lose his train of thought in multiple questions. The quote from Trump that summed up the night and lingered on media replay was “I really don’t know what he said at the end of that sentence. I don’t think he knows what he said, either.” Emergency talks are now in place to replace the Presidential candidate, with multiple names being raised. He said in a recent speech to supporters, ‘I am running’, but consistent leaks say crisis talks are taking place at the highest points of the Democrat Party. I’ll take you through these potential candidates, their legislative history and the likelihood that we will see them as the 47th President of the United States.

Kamala Harris

She is the current Vice President and globally the most high profile potential candidate, but is clearly not the most popular. Currently, her approval rating is 37% compared to the 41% of Donald Trump. She has not found her footing within the Biden Administration, heavily contrasting the strength that Biden projected as VP under Obama. The public believe she is strong on issues such as abortion, but is weak in areas such as immigration. Overall, Kamala remains more unpopular than Biden, and she continues to staunchly defend the performance of Biden throughout his Presidential race. She remains the most likely candidate to replace Biden.

Gavin Newsom

A character Brits are unlikely to be aware of, the Governor of California who has gained national recognition through a televised debate with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, in which it was widely agreed he had won. He mirrors the strong legislative record of the other candidates within their states, being an early advocate for gun restrictions and same sex marriage. Additionally, he has made a point to travel the country, assisting in the campaign of other Democrat candidates, which some have called a ‘shadow election campaign’, as well as doing the media rounds appearing on late night TV shows. He is currently polling at 34% to Trump's 38% when compared, and has had a decreased approval rating within California, and consistently refutes claims as a potential Presidential Candidate as ‘nonsensical speculation’.

J B Pritzker

Another Democrat Governor, this time of Illinois. Pritzker, part of an influential family owning a chain of hotels, would be the richest candidate of the campaign. He also has a legislative record to be boastful of, having codified the right to abortion in Illinois, calling the state a ‘sanctuary’ to those seeking abortions. Within his time as Governor he has also introduced strong gun control and has legalised recreational marjuana. His approval rates are currently sitting below Trump (37% v 29% according to Ipsos), but it could be argued that with the opportunity to be viewed as a Presidential candidate on a national scale, those figures could change. 

Gretchen Whitmer

The Governor of Michigan is one of the only female candidates currently in serious contention. She made it onto Biden’s shortlist for VP in 2020, and has produced a very strong bi-partisan legislative record within her state, signing over 1000 bills and producing 5 balanced budgets. There has been a lot of chatter online about her being a potential replacement, even the slogan ‘Draft Gretch’ being coined, but she has strongly denied being behind this and claims to be completely backing Biden. Her approval rating sits at 32% to Donald’s 38%, a reasonably strong performance compared to some of the other candidates being speculated, but not enough to deliver a decisive blow.

Michelle Obama

Whilst this is a choice largely rooted in wishful thinking, Michelle Obama is the highest polling of all of the prospects, sitting at 47% to Trump’s 35%, we haven’t seen numbers like that in the entire electoral process. Whilst a White House correspondent claims it is ‘not outside the realm of possibility’ that Michelle may have been motivated by Biden’s slip in the polls, the former First Lady has repeatedly refuted calls for her to take office. She has proved to be highly popular throughout the decades, repeatedly polling above her own husband throughout his Presidency. She, however, continually voices her support for Biden, whilst the current whispers around Washington believe she could be swapped with Harris as a VP pick. However, with such hard denial from the Obama camp, this is rather unlikely. 

Overall, the feeling in the US is that it is time for Biden to move on and provide a realistic alternative for the Presidential candidacy. However, as highlighted, there is no obvious front runner, leading us around in a circle to the beginning; could it really be anyone else than Biden?

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