Once Joe Biden actually withdrew from Afghanistan, and didn't try to take his personal stamp off of the withdrawal even when it kind of went to shit (as all withdrawals by losing forces in war do), I started assuming he wasn't planning to run for election in 2024.
He'll be 81 in 2024, and he's doing (the Afghan withdrawal) and trying to do (the ginormous "infrastructure" boondoggles) the kinds of "burnish my legacy with things that may not be as popular as they are controversial right now, but that I predict, correctly or not, will look pretty wise 20 years from now") stuff that a guy not worried about the next election might try to do, while a guy worried about the next election probably wouldn't.
So, who do the Democrats nominate in 2024?
Kamala Harris is right out. Nobody liked her when she briefly ran for president in 2020, she probably cost the Democratic ticket votes in the general election, nobody likes her now, and nobody's going to start liking her. Being the sitting vice-president might give her some advantage in the primaries, but probably not enough to win it if she has any credible opponents -- and if she did she'd crash and burn against any credible Republican candidate in the general election.
There's some buzz around Pete Buttigieg, but I'm just not seeing it. He's not, as Erick Erickson would have us believe, "spectacularly unaccomplished," but he doesn't tick the usual "accomplishment" boxes -- sitting vice-president, sitting or former governor, sitting or former US Senator, or former victorious general -- that garner presidential nominations and general presidential election victories these days (Donald Trump excepted).
So, again, who?
If I was a Democratic strategist looking for a good horse to put in the race, I'd look for a Democratic governor who's won that office in either a usually fairly solid Republican state, or a "swing" state.
Specifically, I'd look at, in descending order of shininess:
- Jared Polis of Colorado. There's some debate over whether Colorado is still a "swing" state, but it's at least arguable, and Polis has a lot going from him. He's got a net worth in excess of $100 million, meaning he could self-finance early campaign work. He's got a back trail of political "accomplishments" besides his governorship to advertise, including five terms in Congress. He has cross-partisan appeal (he was the only Democratic member of the congressional "Liberty Caucus"). He has identity politics appeal if he wants to use it (he's gay and Jewish).
- Laura Kelly of Kansas. In a dark red state, she spent 14 years in the state Senate, and was then elected governor, as a Democrat.
- Andy Beshear of Kentucky. The state that routinely elects Mitch McConnell to the US Senate also elected Beshear as state attorney general, then as governor.