The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The top 10 Democratic presidential candidates for 2024, ranked

President Biden said he intended to run for reelection in 2024 following the 2022 midterm elections. (Video: The Washington Post)
8 min

The GOP presidential race has begun in earnest thanks to Nikki Haley; the Democratic one will apparently have to wait awhile longer — if it ever truly becomes a race.

President Biden has signaled he intends to run and that a presidential announcement could be imminent. His State of the Union speech earlier this month appeared to set the stage, and news of an apparently clean bill of health on his physical exam last week would seem to clear the way for the 80-year-old to take the plunge.

At this point, it seems safe to assume he’ll get in. The questions at that point become: Will anybody else? And will Biden lock it down over the next year?

Biden’s candidacy presents some different dynamics from the GOP primary. Fewer Democrats want him to be their 2024 nominee than Republicans who say the same of Donald Trump. But Biden is also the incumbent, making it a more fraught exercise to jump into the campaign against him. Democrats are also simply better at being team players in the Trump era.

For now, basically everyone of substance is saying they wouldn’t do it. But that’s also the smart answer right now. What happens when 2024 approaches, nobody else gets in, and you’re still staring at a primary in which only 37 percent want Biden to run at all? Politics abhors a vacuum. And it’s easy to see Democrats fretting — they are good at that — about whether they’re putting forward their strongest candidate against not just Trump, but say, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

All of which is to say it’s not just about whether Biden gets in and then whether others join him; it’s also about how the party is feeling as the year progresses. It’s good to be unified, but it’s better to make sure you’re unified behind the right candidate before it’s too late.

With that said, below are our bimonthly rankings of the top 10 Democrats most likely to be the 2024 Democratic nominee. (You can find our last one here.) As usual, this takes into account both their likelihood of running and their potential strength if they do.

Others worth mentioning: Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu, Rep. Ro Khanna (Calif.), North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, Sen. Mark Kelly (Ariz.), Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (Ga.), Julián Castro

10. J.B. Pritzker

Few on this list would seem to be telegraphing their presidential desires — at least in a race without Biden — as strongly as the Illinois governor. His recent state of the state address had a decidedly nationalized feel, and he has focused intently on going after the likes of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). “It’s an ideological battle by the right wing, hiding behind a claim that they would protect our children — but whose real intention is to marginalize people and ideas they don’t like,” Pritzker said in the speech this week. “This has been done in the past, and it doesn’t stop with just snuffing out ideas.” (Previous ranking: 10)

9. Josh Shapiro

There’s a new conventional wisdom forming that it’s not so much that Democrats have a weak bench — it’s just that the strong part is relatively new, as Politico’s Jonathan Martin writes. And the new Pennsylvania governor is perhaps at the head of that class (which also includes Sens. Mark Kelly and Raphael G. Warnock and Maryland Gov. Wes Moore). That doesn’t mean he can turn around and run for president just months after winning his first term — that would be very difficult — but it does mean it’s worth keeping a keen eye on how he’s faring in the Keystone State. (Previous ranking: 9)

8. Bernie Sanders

The Vermont senator has kept his options open despite at one point indicating the 2020 campaign was very likely to be his last run for president. But now he’s got a chairmanship he surely coveted, on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. That job will give Sanders great influence over issues he cares about — particularly health and labor. For now, the 81-year old is not committing to seek reelection in 2024, and he suggests he’s very much focused on legislating. “The purpose of elections is to elect people to do work, not to keep talking about elections,” he told the Times. (Previous ranking: 7)

7. Amy Klobuchar

Speaking of having a reason to focus on the Senate: The Minnesota senator not only has a reelection campaign in 2024, but just became the No. 4 Democratic Senate leader. That’s not necessarily the marker of someone expecting to run for president again, but perhaps she assumes Biden will. Either way, a congressional leadership track would seem to be a good fit for Klobuchar. (Previous ranking: 5)

6. Gretchen Whitmer

Whitmer has said she won’t run even if Biden doesn’t, but there would surely be pressure after her big 2022 reelection win in that case. Not only has the Michigan governor won two elections by about 10 points in a swing state, but Democrats took both chambers of the state legislature for the first time in about 40 years. Of course, that means Whitmer can really get some things done now — which might make it difficult for anxious Democrats to coax her into joining the field. (Previous ranking: 8)

5. Gavin Newsom

The California governor has embarked on a quest to make his party more aggressive. Not content to only go after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), he has also in recent days attacked GOP policies and proposals in Arkansas, Missouri, Texas, Virginia and, of course, Florida again. “Democrats need to wake up. We’re not on the offense,” Newsom told David Axelrod recently. “We’re sitting here playing defense, saying, ‘Perhaps we are too woke.’” Newsom still claims he won’t run for president even if Biden doesn’t, but we’re among those skeptical that he would be able to resist. (Previous ranking: 6)

4. Jared Polis

Perhaps the one thing that strikes us most about the Colorado governor is his concerted effort not to cede talking about certain issues to Republicans. A good example came in his recent state of the state speech. “We want secure, accessible elections for every voter in our country, not just Colorado voters,” he said. “And, of course, we must secure our borders and fix our inhumane, broken immigration system.” Polis also offered an interesting response to the idea of Biden running again: “I’ll be enthusiastic if he’s enthusiastic.” (Previous ranking: 4)

3. Kamala D. Harris

It’s generally not a good sign when the chatter turns from your own presidential prospects to whether the president will even keep you on the ticket if he runs. But Harris has now repeatedly been asked about that (thanks in part to a few tough recent profiles, and perhapsthe awkward answer on the subject from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren). It’s difficult to see how Biden would ever change his running mate, so this really does feel like what Harris dismisses as “chatter.” But there’s no question the sitting vice president isn’t looking as strong as Democrats would prefer if Biden doesn’t run again. (Previous ranking: 3)

2. Pete Buttigieg

The transportation secretary keeps the second spot, but his day job has turned into a slog thanks to a series of crises — the most recent among them being the train derailment in East Palestine. What we do know is that Buttigieg apparently won’t be running for Senate; he rejected that possibility after Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) announced her retirement in his adoptive home state. (Previous ranking: 2)

1. President Biden

Despite his continued weakness on the question of whether Democrats want him to run again — which is very unusual — Biden has to feel a little better about where things stand, given the results of the 2022 midterms. The 2022 election was good for Democrats, inflation is easing, and it’s looking like Republicans will spend the next year engaged in an ugly nominating contest (Trump is already lodging very ugly allegations about DeSantis, for instance). Another factor to keep in mind here: Democrats are attempting to move South Carolina, Georgia and Michigan ahead in the primary process, and all three are good states for Biden. That’s no coincidence, and it also has to color — at least somewhat — the calculus of anyone who might decide to run against him. (Previous ranking: 1)

2024 presidential candidates

Several major Republican candidates and three Democrats have officially declared they are running for their party’s 2024 presidential nomination, and plenty of others are making moves. We’re tracking 2024 presidential candidates here.

Republicans: Top contenders for the GOP 2024 nomination include former president Donald Trump, who announced in November, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Here is The Post’s ranking of the top 10 Republican presidential candidates for 2024.

Democrats: President Biden has officially announced he is running for reelection in 2024. Author Marianne Williamson and anti-vaccine advocate Robert Kennedy Jr., both long-shot candidates, are also seeking the Democratic nomination. Here is The Post’s ranking of the top 10 Democratic presidential candidates for 2024.