President Joe Biden had an exceptionally good final quarter of 2022. His party did unexpectedly well in the mid-term elections. Inflation showed signs of abating. And, with his help, a federal budget crisis was avoided. As the new year starts, Biden appears as healthy and vigorous as he did a year ago. And his administration—the people he appointed to help him run the government—are ready for another four years. That is why Biden is expected to announce he will run for re-election in 2024.
This news scares me. Not because I would not welcome another four years of Biden, but because there are so many scenarios where something could happen that would throw the country into yet another crisis. Simply put, a Biden re-election bid, let alone a second term, is too risky. Running an octogenarian as your presidential candidate creates opportunities for too many things to go wrong. Things that could undermine the integrity of the electoral process or result in electing the wrong person as president in 2024.
What are some of the risks?
The most obvious scenario is Biden winning his party’s nomination in August of 2024 and then becoming incapacitated before election day. How would the Democratic party “re-do” the nomination process? Would Biden’s choice for vice-president, the not-so-popular Kamala Harris, inherit the nomination if Biden chose her as his running mate?
A second scenario is similar to the first, but potentially more disruptive: Biden announces his run for re-election in January as a means of discouraging potential challengers. Most potential challengers, perhaps the better ones, would defer to Biden, but others would not. That would mean that if Biden’s health took a turn for the worse, the normal nominating process would be turned on its head. A less-than-ideal alternative candidate may have won several primaries. If Biden’s primary wins were voided, the hands of the Democratic party could be tied. Democrats could be “forced” to nominate a weak or controversial candidate.
Even more scary is a scenario where Biden suffered a serious health issue during the primary season but declined to drop out of the race. Would the Democratic party tear itself apart debating whether to somehow force Biden to step aside?
Of course, if Biden ended his candidacy before the convention, the delegates he won could be “freed” to vote for another candidate. That is the most likely scenario, but will it result in an extreme candidate being nominated? Possibly. Think back to 2020. Had Biden withdrawn after he had won a sufficient number of delegates to secure the nomination, for whom would the “freed” delegates have voted? Elizabeth Warren? Bernie Sanders? Needless to say, the nomination of either Warren or Sanders could have resulted in Trump winning in 2020.
If the Democratic party determined a different approach would work better, it could also result in a “bad” nominee. The party could theoretically vote to set aside the primaries and adopt another means of selecting a candidate. But who could make that decision without creating major controversy? Who would the delegates be? The full process could turn into a “battle royale” likely to alienate many Democratic voters. Such a scenario would benefit the Republicans.
Republicans and others, including Democratic candidates who may have won primaries, would cry foul, suggesting that the nomination was “stolen” or that the Democratic nomination process was “crooked.”
Another scary scenario is the possibility that Biden runs and performs badly on the campaign trail. Remember the 2020 election? Before the South Carolina primary, Biden was not a strong candidate. His performance in 2024 is likely to be worse, despite the inherent benefit of campaigning as the incumbent. Unfortunately, a less-than-stellar campaign could result in Biden losing the nomination and creating the opportunity for an extreme left Democrat to win.
A Biden candidacy will not only affect how the Democrats’ nomination process will work but is also likely to influence who the Republicans nominate to run against him. If Biden were to prove to be a less-than-energetic candidate, the appeal of a younger, more articulate Republican alternative increases. That alternative could be Ron DeSantis, currently the most likely Republican nominee given Donald Trump’s legal and financial trouble, as well as his increasingly strange behavior. Biden’s nomination could make the race a choice between an octogenarian candidate and “youth.” Such a scenario could have a bad ending.
So, what would we like to see President Biden do? I am not sure. I may write next week on “What if Biden Doesn’t Run?” That scenario is also scary.
J.E. Dean is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant writing on politics, government, and other subjects.