Here are the Democrat benchwarmers itching to itching to wrest that brass ring from Old Joe.

At this moment, in theory, Joe Biden is going to run for re-election.

That being said, there is a significant chance he will not. He could decide on his own not to, Dr. Jill could be charged with elder abuse for allowing him to run again, he could lose the TV remote and get permanently lost in the White House while muttering about damn fancy stupid gadgets, the decimal point on all of his prescriptions could be moved one place to the right, he could suffer a grave injury in a game of “pull my finger” that goes horribly awry, or China could just finish the job and invade before the election. The list goes on and on.

With these myriad possibilities floating in the political ether, the few dozen Democrats around the country thinking about having a go at the top spot can hardly be blamed for engaging in just a bit of pre-planning. Can you really fault the kids for stopping by the lawyer’s office first while they are driving dad to the home?

The majority of the people mentioned below are mostly in the “first impression” stage of meeting the national electorate. But much can be gleaned from even the glancing-blow candidacies now occurring, as those first impressions — even more so than policies and r?sum?s — are crucial to creating the framework of a successful campaign. Even having a presence that, while not actively horrible, is still just a bit off-putting can sink a politician, especially in a close contest.

It is possible that Biden will somehow cobble together the wherewithal to run (at the very least — like John Gill in the original Star Trek Nazi planet episode — be cobbled together by power-hungry staffers and such). If that occurs, the candidates will have to think long and hard about running. Remember, not even Teddy Kennedy could take out Jimmy Carter. But someone will try — guaranteed.

In no particular order — because none is particularly special — here are the Democrat benchwarmers itching to move up to The Show:

  • Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer — Midwest/Rust Belt base is helpful, but her “rules for thee, not for me” COVID activities and what should be a tough re-election campaign this fall are not helpful.
  • Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar — Relatively moderate and hung around long enough in 2020 to build a bit of credibility, but there is not much there there — policy or personality-wise — and reports of her “mean boss” ways are a problem.
  • New Jersey governor Phil Murphy — His proximity to the media centers in New York is an asset, as is his homespun-ish appearance, but his very, very close re-election (it was not at all supposed to be that way) is a dampener.
  • Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren — Raised her profile with a decent 2020 run, media darling, and somewhat politically astute (at least regarding her base). She will face the headwinds of being a shrill technocrat most recognizable to the public for being Fauxcahontas.
  • Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker — He’s rich, so there’s that, but he’s the opposite of telegenic and is presiding over a state government that manages to be simultaneously so incredibly corrupt and disarmingly incompetent that even the national media may actually notice.
  • New Jersey senator Cory Booker — Nah, not really. Seats on many, many corporate boards and foundations seem to be his future. Sorry.
  • Colorado governor Jared Polis — An intriguing liberal/Libertarian mix who would have cross-over appeal in the general election, and he’s gay, so that’s politically neato. Challenges in his home state and his party’s hyper-progressive primary voter base make his road to the nomination nearly impassable.
  • California governor Gavin Newsom — The Golden Boy from the Golden State, though, unlike medieval alchemists, he has managed to turn gold into lead. Polished, perfunctory, and pomaded, his shtick appeals to people of a certain class and mindset and repels most others.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris — She should have listened to her former boyfriend, Willie Brown, and held out for attorney general. At least in that job fewer people would have noticed what an utter train wreck she is.

An aside on Gavin and Kamala — they are, politically, the same candidate. They came up in a system in California that custom-makes coddled candidates who can thrive there but nowhere else. Like hothouse orchids, they are un-transplantable and destined to raise and then fail to live up to the hopes of their supporters and well-wishers and craven flacks outside the state. For a more in-depth look at this phenomenon, feel free to click here.

That being said, Newsom is one of the most likely folks to challenge Biden if he does run for re-election. Life — good looks, other people’s money, not too many questions asked — has always been easy for Gavin, so why, he thinks, would this be at al different?

Back to Murderers’ Row:

  • New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — The candidate who most keeps Republicans up at night — not in that way (despite her claims of being a siren/victim), but a good way nonetheless. If she wrangled the Democratic nod, it is quite possible that any Republican candidate could be the first person since George Washington to get every single Electoral College vote (and I’m not even forgetting about D.C.). But Republicans will have to wait for that delight, because she’ll be only 34 in 2024.
  • North Carolina governor Roy Cooper — Moderate, white, straight, Southern, male ice hockey fan? Yeah, good luck with that.
  • Hilary Rodham Clinton (no job title needed) — Ah, the woman scorned. Instant base, name recognition that is off the charts, access to boatloads of cash, and a burning desire to one-up Bill. Downsides? To start, she managed to lose to both Donald Trump and Barack Obama and nearly lost to Bernie Sanders — die-hard Democrats might notice that. Add that grisly track record to her many character and policy flaws, and even she might be in trouble. But she would still run, at the very least to jumpstart the fundraising grift of the family foundation (seems all those good-hearted billionaire oligarchs stopped giving after she stopped running — who’da thunk it?).
  • Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg — White, but gay, so that won’t hurt him too much. A technocrat, a beta male, unprepossessing. Women like him for his nesting tendencies, and he has not obviously completely blowtorched his current gig (such as it is). He was a bit of a “shiny new thing” in 2020 — not exactly true anymore, but he’s already beating Biden in the polling, so who knows? Not likely to run against Biden, but rather more likely to be the person chosen by the powers-that-be to replace him.

Oh, there are others — Tom Steyer (skin crawl), Tulsi Gabbard (is she still a Democrat?), Andrew Yang (definitely not still a Democrat), Eric “The Spy Who Loved Me” Swalwell, Gina Raimondo (if you don’t live in Rhode Island or follow the Commerce Department on Instagram, you’ll have to look that one up), greener-than thou Jay Inslee, etc. are possibly lurking but have no hope of making an impact.

But there are two others whom you will know by their first names alone — Michelle and Oprah. They might be the strongest candidates the Democrats have. God help us all, they would be tough to beat.

Thomas Buckley is the former mayor of Lake Elsinore and a former newspaper reporter. He is currently the operator of a small communications and planning consultancy and can be reached directly at You can read more of his work at

Image via Flickr, public domain.

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