Could a prominent Democrat actually challenge Biden? It’s not nice. | ET REALITY


Forty-four years ago tomorrow, the last serious primary opponent of a sitting Democratic president announced his campaign before 5,000 supporters in Boston.

But that challenge from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who ran against President Jimmy Carter for the 1980 nomination, offers few precedents for the legion of Democrats who worry about President Biden’s standing ahead of a likely 2024 rematch with the former President Donald J. Trump.

In panicked text message threads and during late-night bar sessions, Democrats across the political world have tossed out the names of ambitious rising stars in the party as potential primary challengers: Gretchen Whitmer. Gavin Newsom. JB Pritzker. Raphael Warnock.

But it is highly unlikely, given the time, planning and money a presidential campaign requires, that any of them will run against Biden at this time. Challenging a sitting president is widely seen as a career-killer in politics, and virtually every Democrat talked about as a possible alternative to Biden has endorsed him.

Modern Democratic politics have also deemphasized the traditional early states of Iowa and New Hampshire, where Senator Kennedy traveled after announcing his campaign, in favor of a diverse group of states where Biden was strong in the 2020 primary season. Biden, and before him Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, won the nomination largely because of their strength among black voters in the Democratic primaries.

There is also the matter of qualifying for the primary elections. Deadlines have already passed in Nevada and New Hampshire. Others are approaching Friday in Alabama, Michigan and South Carolina. Deadlines in delegate-rich California and Florida will come at the end of the month.

A theoretical challenger in the primary would also have to raise tens of millions of dollars to compete with the $90.5 million that Biden’s campaign committees and ally Democratic National Committee reported having in late September. The party’s major donors are effectively on par with Biden; a primary challenger would need to eliminate a significant proportion of them in a short time or be wealthy enough to finance a large portion of any campaign.

Pritzker, Illinois’ governor, is helping plan and finance next year’s Democratic National Convention. Newsom, the governor of California, has offered to debate second-tier Republican candidates on Biden’s behalf. Figures such as Whitmer, the governor of Michigan, and Raphael Warnock, the senator of Georgia, have shown few signs that they have cross-purposes to those of the White House.

And yet, Biden will turn 81 this month. If anything is lasting about his poll numbers, it is how weak his position is among the party’s core voters. But as the old saying goes in politics, nothing can beat something.

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