There's no more pretending that President Joe Biden may not be the Democratic nominee come 2024. Almost 11 months in, the Biden presidency has been catastrophic. The polls are not only finding Biden underwater when it comes to his approval rating, but that even a plurality of Democrats don't want him to run. Other options then may be Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Vice President Kamala Harris, as Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Sean Sullivan wrote for the Washington Post on Saturday.
They weren't even coy in their headline, which read "Harris and Buttigieg under the spotlight amid uncertainty over Biden’s future."
Most of the piece discusses Harris and Buttigieg and their roles in the administration. Biden, who is still the president and has not yet ruled out a run for 2024, is mentioned very little, which is certainly telling.
Still, he does receive some mentions:
For now, at least, Harris and Buttigieg, barrier-breaking Democrats who failed in their initial White House bids, are the highest-profile prospects to succeed Biden at the top of the Democratic ticket in 2024 or 2028, although other promising candidates are all but certain to emerge. Biden has said he plans to run for reelection, but as he nears his 79th birthday, even some of his allies are not sure he will.
As the sitting vice president and a historic figure, Harris is likely to remain at the center of the conversation about Biden’s successor. But many Democrats increasingly see Buttigieg, the country’s first openly gay Senate-confirmed Cabinet secretary, as part of that conversation as well.
“I expect [Biden] to run again,” said Steve Westly, a California investor and top Biden fundraiser in 2020. “If he doesn’t, I think Harris is clearly the favorite. But I think we’ve got a deep bench. I think people like Secretary Buttigieg. … He now has additional seasoning in a position as secretary of transportation, with a national profile.”
The piece doesn't shy away from the particularly dire situation Harris is facing. She's incredibly unpopular. There's reference made to a Fox News poll from last month which shows Harris with a 45 percent approval rating and a 53 percent disapproval rating.
Not included is a more recent poll from USA Today/Suffolk. That one has Harris with a 28 percent approval rating, and a 51 percent disapproval rating, with 21 percent unsure.
One suggestion offered throughout the piece is that Harris has not been given the right portfolio, as Bakari Sellers, a former member of the South Carolina legislature who endorsed Harris in her failed presidential bid, suggested.
"I have a problem with her portfolio, mainly because of the way the president engages on those issues," he said. "You know it’s hard to pass voting rights with the president being mute on the filibuster."
It may seem that Buttigieg is in the better position, but he's had his own issues in this administration:
Many Democrats see Harris’s and Buttigieg’s political fortunes as diverging in the first 10 months of Biden’s presidency. While Buttigieg has become a visible advocate for the administration’s top legislative achievement, Harris often has been associated with its biggest trouble areas, including immigration and voting rights — and, in the past week, U.S.-French relations.
But some Democrats said Buttigieg’s lane is not without its own hazards, especially as Republicans attack the administration for the current backlog of seaborne goods destined for the United States. “It’s not like he’s having a rosy time. He’s having to figure out the supply chain issue,” Sellers said.
It's worth reminding that during Biden's first press conference on March 25, which came after he had already been in office for 64 days, he indicated to reporters he was going to run in 2024. "My plan is to run for reelection. That’s my expectation," Biden said, though he did get testy about it and caused some confusion.
The president got even weirder as the press conference went on. This is from the White House transcript:
Q You also just made some news by saying that you are going to run for reelection.
THE PRESIDENT: I said, “That is my expectation.”
Q So is that a “yes” that you are running for reelection?
THE PRESIDENT: Look, I — I don’t know where you guys come from, man. I’ve never been able to travel. I’m a great respecter of fate. I’ve never been able to plan four and half, three and a half years ahead for certain.
Q And if you do —
THE PRESIDENT: It —
Q If you do run, will Vice President Harris be on your ticket?
THE PRESIDENT: I would fully expect that to be the case. She’s doing a great job. She’s a great partner. She’s a great partner.
Q And do you believe you’ll be running against former President Trump?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, come on. I don’t even think about — I don’t — I have no idea. I have no idea if there will be a Republican Party. Do you? I know you don’t have to answer my question, but, I mean, you know, do you?
In hindsight, it was likely a preview of bizarre antics to come.