Can We Just Stop Talking About 2024? Please?

[ Posted Monday, November 22nd, 2021 – 17:45 UTC ]

As we head into Thanksgiving week of 2021, it seems a lot of political chatter has already begun to focus on the presidential race of 2024. Yes, you heard that right -- three years in advance of the election, speculation is running wild on both sides of the aisle. To which I say: "Can we please just stop? I mean, seriously... isn't there anything else to talk about? Please?"

I'm not even going to link to anyone else's articles here today, because that would just be feeding the monster with mouse clicks. But there are plenty of them out there, if anyone feels the need to start weighing everyone's chances three years early.

On the left, the contest has been framed as a head-to-head showdown between Vice President Kamala Harris and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Joe Biden, everyone assumed, would be too old and decide to take himself out of the running.

This is ridiculous on any number of levels. President Biden countered all this rampant speculation with his own leak -- that he was still fully committed to running for re-election. Biden is trying to clear the field, at least for now. Both Harris and Buttigieg demur when asked, responding with some version of: "Who could even possibly be thinking that?" But such wide-eyed "Who, me?" statements are simply not believable, since both of them have indeed likely been weighing their own chances each and every morning when they look in the mirror (and see a future president looking back at them).

The most telling thing, perhaps, is that the stories all appeared in the first place. If one were particularly cynical, one might be tempted to think that one of these political camps or the other leaked the whole thing to the press in an effort to jump out ahead of the pack before there even was a pack, and the other camp shot back -- both trying to paint the other as less electable or less desirable for the party's chances in general. It will be interesting to watch the dynamics of these two going forward, but for now Biden's position that he is indeed going to run again will perhaps dampen down the entire subject for a while.

Of course, if Biden does decide to retire early, then there are a whole bunch of other Democrats who would likely also run -- just take a look at the field from 2020, and even if only half of them ran again we'd still be up to double digits. Elizabeth Warren would almost certainly run, to name just one. But I seriously doubt any of them would take Biden on if he does decide to run for re-election. They'd all decide to bide their time until 2028 instead.

Again, though, let's all keep a shred of perspective here -- we are still a year away from the midterm elections. And even a single year in politics is an absolute eternity.

No matter whether Joe Biden runs or not, one thing seems absolutely certain -- he will not announce his real decision before 2023 -- probably around halfway through the year (if he decides not to run). If Biden lets the "I'm going to retire" cat out of the bag before then, he will instantly have declared himself a lame-duck president that everyone will then begin to completely ignore. And Biden has been around Washington far too long to make such a gross political error.

Please remember that the last sitting president who decided not to run for re-election was Lyndon Baines Johnson. L.B.J. didn't make this decision until the end of March, 1968 -- the year of the presidential election. The primary schedule back then wasn't quite so front-loaded as it is now, and the first primary took place in New Hampshire on March 12th. Eugene McCarthy was challenging Johnson, and poured all his time and energy into the Granite State. In the end, McCarthy won 42 percent of the vote to Johnson's 49 percent; but he walked away with 20 of the state's 24 delegates to the Democratic National Convention, which was a shocking upset. Robert F. Kennedy soon jumped into the race, and Johnson decided to withdraw.

That was how late the last such a decision by a sitting president was made. Please remember this if you read any speculation along the lines of: "Biden decides not to run for re-election" in the punditocracy, from now until roughly the beginning of the summer of 2023. Even if it turns out to be true, there's just no way Joe Biden is going to tell anyone of his decision until at least then.

Over on the Republican side of the aisle, they have a similar problem. Technically, Donald Trump is not going to announce his candidacy until at least the day after the midterm elections. To do so any earlier would mean he'd have to accept a lot stricter rules on how he could raise and spend political money. In fact, Trump may even keep everyone guessing for as long as he possibly can, to enjoy the fruits of officially playing it coy.

Realistically, however, it's a dead certainty: Donald Trump is going to run for president again, if he is still drawing breath. Even if he is tried and convicted of some crime or another (take your pick, there are a lot of possibilities to choose from), he will still run from his jail cell (which is fully legal and has actually happened twice before). Call it an absolute guarantee, no matter what happens in the meantime.

Some Republicans still cling to the pipe dream that somehow someone will be able to talk Trump out of running. This is an absolute fantasy. It is moonbeams piled on fool's gold. It is downright denialism. Trump will run, no matter who tries to talk him out of it. He is absolutely convinced he is the best man for the job and he is absolutely convinced he will win, so no amount of logic or reasoning is going to deter him.

But some people are still pretending, while trying to set up a sort of "shadow campaign" -- you know, just in case Trump decides not to run. Again, you need look no further than the Republican field of 2020 to find a number of candidates still thinking they'd be the best man or woman for the job. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Mike Pence are the two most prominent of the shadow campaigners so far, but Chris Christie certainly sounds like he's throwing his shadow hat into this shadow ring as well. And there are at least a half-dozen others waiting in the wings as well.

The real question is who among this group will decide to run against Trump in the primaries? DeSantis probably wouldn't, unless Trump is seen as extremely vulnerable in a year's time. But Pence might -- he's been desperately trying to both distance himself from Trump (and the January 6th insurrection attempt) while still also trying to cling as closely to Trump and Trumpism as he can (so he doesn't lose huge swaths of the Republican base). Christie now also appears willing to take on Trump directly in the primaries -- he just wrote a book that can be summed up as: "The Republican Party needs to move beyond all these insane conspiracy theories and start talking about the future again." It's almost a statement of candidacy -- even if Trump is running.

Just like on the Democratic side, there are a whole passel of others who would almost certainly jump in if Trump decides to sit the race out, but it's highly doubtful whether people like Nikki Haley or Ted Cruz would attempt to take Trump on directly.

All of this -- for both parties, really -- has been true for the past year. Perhaps even more -- you could even say: "since the last primary season." Not all that much has changed on either side of the partisan aisle. No new players other than DeSantis have burst onto the scene, and the ambitions of those who ran in 2020 but failed to win their party's nomination have not noticeably diminished.

None of this is likely to change much, at least as long as both Biden and Trump stay healthy. That's about the only reason why anyone should waste any time speculating on any of it for the next year and a half, though. Because throughout all that time the basic dynamic isn't going to change -- the odds I would play in Vegas right now are that in 2024 we will see a rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Absent either a health scare or some unforeseen crisis, both men seem to have a lock on their party's nomination no matter who decides to run against them. What the chances are for either Biden or Trump to win are impossible to even begin to predict this far out, of course.

Which was my main point all along, and which is what I will end on. Can we all please just stop with all the breathless stories about who is the stronger candidate should Biden or Trump decide not to run? Because they are pretty meaningless, and probably still will be this time next year, too. We've got a midterm election season to get through between now and then. Isn't that enough to rampantly speculate about? One would certainly like to hope for such a realization, sometime soon.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


26 Comments on “Can We Just Stop Talking About 2024? Please?”

  1. [1] 
    SF Bear wrote:

    Chris, you were wrong to give so much credit for the BBB bill to Biden last Friday. By all accounts it was Nancy who got this done. Further, it is Nancy who is getting Joe and Kristin on board in the senate. She is the one they are listening to. She has been able to forge a cordial relationship with them despite their obvious differences and it is now bearing fruit. Nancy Pelosi will go down in history as the greatest speaker (of either sex) in the history of the House!

  2. [2] 
    andygaus wrote:

    Certainly there is enough speculation about the midterms, not even speculation, but firm predictions that the Democrats will lose at least the House. I prefer to live in hope that the Build Back Better act will pass, the economy will continue to improve, the pandemic will wind down, and by next year, it will be clear to the public that Democrats actually do things for them while Republicans do nothing but pick their pocket.

  3. [3] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    I hope Kamala runs, so I can see more maya Rudolph on snl

  4. [4] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    Irrespective of how many votes are cast for each party, the scotus has ruled that partisan gerrymandering is constitutional, so a gop win is a foregone conclusion.

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Yes, I'm gonna stop talking about the 2024 election, please and thank-you. Oops! Guess I just did, eh?

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    SF Bear,

    Chris, you were wrong to give so much credit for the BBB bill to Biden last Friday. By all accounts it was Nancy who got this done.

    You think Nancy got it done all by herself? Does she know the senate better than the president? I think you're wrong to give Nancy all of the credit. ;)

  7. [7] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Naw, neither Joe nor Nancy/Chuck deserved complete credit for this legislation. How could this be anything less than a group effort?

  8. [8] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Hey Michale why are you now showing your face down here in Weigantia?

    You lost your 2020 bets bigly, so did you pay off your bets with me and what's his name?

    Or have you been another typical Repug, all talk and no walk?

  9. [9] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Got news for you, Michale, Trump would have lost running against "a tuna fish sandwich" as that's how bad he sucked as President. No way he'd have ever gotten more than a fraction of the black/hispanic vote. But you wouldn't know that, watching your right-wing media.

  10. [10] 
    SF Bear wrote:

    Mtn Caddy -- An awful lot of people don't like tuna fish, I think it would be close race. Of course it was a group effort including the lowly scribes who wrote out 1001 versions of the damn thing. Nevertheless Nancy was the one indispensable player. If the COVID wiped out Joe and Chuck it would have still passed, but without Nancy it never would have happened.

  11. [11] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Yup, as much as a lot of Muricans don't care for tuna fish, said tuna fish sandwich would've still beat effing Trump. I mean, Michale, that's how bad Trump sucked.

  12. [12] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    As for me, Joe Biden rated about "#26" out of the 29 Dems running for the nomination last year. God bless you, Elizabeth, Joe has exceeded my expectations, bigly.

  13. [13] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    And yeth, you're right.

  14. [14] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    How could this be anything less than a group effort?


  15. [15] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    If the COVID wiped out Joe and Chuck it would have still passed, but without Nancy it never would have happened.

    Assumes facts not in evidence. And, in any event, it is an opinion that I don't subscribe to.

  16. [16] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Got news for you, Michale, Trump would have lost running against "a tuna fish sandwich" as that's how bad he sucked as President.

    Not only does that assume facts not in evidence, it ignores just how close the 2020 presidential election actually was.

  17. [17] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    yeah, donald made just about every possible campaign misstep he could have and STILL came within a hair's breadth of winning.

  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    I would even argue, contrary to popular belief, that only a candidate of the high caliber of someone like Joe Biden could have beaten Trump.

  19. [19] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Just saw a poll that says 39% of Americans approve of how Biden is handling the economy.

    Biden needs to fight back hard on that. The facts are on his side, for whatever that is worth.

  20. [20] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Remember the Republican cult of economic failure and that it predates Trump by a lot. Ahem.

  21. [21] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    I disagree. Trump was so awful -- and the country was so sick of him that 80 million Americans voted for Joe Effing Biden(!) I saw a poll that said 70% (or 56 million) were specifically voting against Trump. Tuna fish sandwich would have done just as well.

  22. [22] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Any polling 12 months ahead of the Midterms is to be taken with a boulder of salt. So much is going to happen between now and then, and nobody's going to even remember that Joe was not polling well back in 2021.

  23. [23] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Taking Joe's polling numbers today too seriously is like taking the current spike in inflation too seriously. Let's see if it is the same in a year (betcha it's down.)

  24. [24] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    perhaps it depends on the quality of the tuna fish.

  25. [25] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Trump almost won the 2020 presidential election. That is a fact. Deal with it, my friend. :)

    And, my note about the bad poll numbers for Biden Re. his handling of the economy was to point out that this sort of thing is nothing new. Mostly because Dems, in general and Biden, in particular never talk about the Republican cult of economic failure or push back in any substantial way on the horribly misguided notion that Republicans have always been the better economic stewards for a huge majority of Americans.

    History has shown time and again that the only thing Republican administrations are good for is leaving economic messes on an order of magnitude similar to that of the Augean Stables while Democratic administrations clean them up.

    My point was simply that Team Biden need to push back forcefully and NOW on these chronically bad economic polls or expect to lose big in the midterms.

  26. [26] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    And, to further make my point,

    ... seriously is like taking the current spike in inflation too seriously. Let's see if it is the same in a year (betcha it's down.)

    It probably will be down. And, it won't mean a thing unless Biden and the Dems start talking seriously about why the Democratic party has had and always will have the better economic policies. Which is amply demonstrable.

    You know who was the best guy when it came to explaining why Democrats are better at economic policy than Republicans? Former treasury secretary Timothy Geithner, that's who!

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