Public Media for Central Pennsylvania
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Meet the Democrats seen as potential contenders for the new open 2024 race

These are some of the prominent Democratic leaders who are viewed as potential future presidential contenders, clockwise from top left: Vice President Kamala Harris, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro.
Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images; Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu via Getty Images; Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images; Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images; Tierny L. Cross/Bloomberg via Getty Images; Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
These are some of the prominent Democratic leaders who are viewed as potential future presidential contenders, clockwise from top left: Vice President Kamala Harris, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro.

Updated July 22, 2024 at 10:20 AM ET

For more on Biden's decision and the now open 2024 race, head to the NPR Network's live updates page.


President Biden announced Sunday that he will not continue his 2024 reelection bid, after a flood of Democrats called on him to exit the race amid dismal poll numbers.

The pressure campaign began after Biden's disastrous debate performance at the end of June, with many Democrats calling on Biden to "pass the torch" to a younger candidate.

Biden has thrown his support behind his vice president, Kamala Harris, to be the new nominee. Some Democrats have said they want an open process — though many prominent elected leaders in the party have already endorsed Harris, too.

The bombshell decision came just 107 days before Election Day, and just weeks before the Democratic National Convention, where a candidate will be formally chosen. Until then, Harris is not guaranteed the job.

Vice President Harris gives remarks at a White House event on conflict-related sexual violence on June 17, 2024.
Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images
/
Getty Images North America
Vice President Harris gives remarks at a White House event on conflict-related sexual violence on June 17.

Here are some of the nominee names being floated — though some of them have already said they're backing Harris for the job.

Vice President Kamala Harris

Already number two on the ticket, many Democratic leaders have said Harris is the obvious, and only, choice to replace Biden. Harris, 59, has a national profile and name recognition that other contenders wouldn’t have time to build before November.

She’s been a consistently high fundraiser for Biden and the party. She has also been traveling more for the campaign, with events aimed at engaging with voters of color, younger voters and women — especially on issues of reproductive rights, a focal point for the Biden campaign since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling in 2022.

Harris, like Biden, has struggled with low approval ratings. Early on as vice president, she stumbled in her handling of the root causes of migration. But she has built up her foreign policy chops.

“I am honored to have the president’s endorsement and my intention is to earn and win this nomination," Harris said after Biden dropped out. "Over the past year, I have traveled across the country, talking with Americans about the clear choice in this momentous election. And that is what I will continue to do in the days and weeks ahead."

California Gov. Gavin Newsom

A former mayor of San Francisco, Newsom, 56, is in his second term as governor — surviving a recall election in 2021. He is known for his progressive policies, including prisoner rehabilitation, public safe drug-use clinics for overdose patients and new legal strategies to promote gun control.

Newsom has long been an adversary to conservatives, debating Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis last year in a primetime debate on Fox News. He has worked to raise his profile with trips around the country, as well as to Israel and China.

There have been some scandals in his political career dating back before his first gubernatorial run in 2008, but he remains a top party leader who has remained loyal to Biden, and helping raise money for the campaign. After the presidential debate in Atlanta, Newsom was in the spin room for the Biden campaign, defending the president.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom campaigns for President Biden in South Haven, Mich., on July 4.
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images / Getty Images North America
/
Getty Images North America
California Gov. Gavin Newsom campaigns for President Biden in South Haven, Mich., on July 4.

He quickly endorsed Harrison social media, saying "no one is better to prosecute the case" against Trump.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Whitmer, a co-chair of the Biden campaign, gained national attention during the COVID-19 pandemic with strict lockdown guidelines. Three men were later convicted for supporting a plot to kidnap her because of her COVID policies.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer applauds President Biden during a visit to a United Auto Workers phone bank in Detroit on Feb. 1, 2024.
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images / AFP
/
AFP
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer applauds President Biden during a visit to a United Auto Workers phone bank in Detroit on Feb. 1, 2024.

As governor of a critical swing state, Whitmer has championed gun safety legislation, electric car manufacturing and abortion rights. Whitmer, 52, has repeatedly pledged her support for Biden in 2024. Her political memoir, “True Gretch,” was released this month, and may boost her national profile further.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore

Moore, 45, is the only sitting Black governor, and the third ever to be elected in the United States. He has been described as a “rising star” in the Democratic Party.

Moore recently gained national attention for pardoning 175,000 low-level marijuana convictions in his state. He and Biden shared a close working relationship after Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed earlier this year.

Moore was pressed into action in the aftermath of Biden’s debate, doing a series of interviews to defend the president while on a tour across Wisconsin to try to energize Black voters. And in the weeks before Biden dropped out, he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that he was not intending to to seek the DNC nomination.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore speaks about the response to the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 29, 2024, in Baltimore.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images / Getty Images North America
/
Getty Images North America
Maryland Gov. Wes Moore speaks about the response to the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 29, 2024, in Baltimore.

He endorsed Harris on Monday in a post on X.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg

Buttigieg, 42, is the former mayor of South Bend, Ind,, and a one-time candidate for chair of the Democratic National Committee. He became more well-known after he ran for president in 2020.

In the Biden administration, Buttigieg has gone after airlines and railways. But he has also taken on culture war issues like LGBTQ rights. Buttigieg is the first openly gay man confirmed to a cabinet position.

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg speaks at a press conference on Thanksgiving holiday air travel on Nov. 20, 2023.
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images / Getty Images North America
/
Getty Images North America
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg speaks at a press conference on Thanksgiving holiday air travel on Nov. 20, 2023.

He threw his support behind Harris on social media, saying she was "the right person to take up the torch" and that he would do "all that I can to help her win this election."

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro

Shapiro, 51, attracted attention during his 2022 gubernatorial race against Doug Mastriano, a right-wing, Trump-backed candidate who promoted Trump’s lies about election fraud in 2020.

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro speaks at an event in Philadelphia with President Biden on Dec. 11, 2023.
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images / AFP
/
AFP
Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro speaks at an event in Philadelphia with President Biden on Dec. 11, 2023.

He released a statement on X on Sunday endorsing Vice President Harris to be the party's nominee. In the statement, Shapiro called Harris "a patriot worth of our support."

"The best path forward for the Democratic Party is to quickly unite behind Vice President Harris and refocus on winning the presidency," the statement reads. "I will do everything I can to help elect Kamala Harris as the 47th President of the United States."

Shapiro, who previously served as the state’s attorney general and is popular in the critical swing state, has been discussed as a potential running mate if Harris is the nominee.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at an April 12, 2023, event announcing Chicago as the host city for the 2024 Democratic National Convention.
Scott Olson/Getty Images / Getty Images North America
/
Getty Images North America
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at an April 12, 2023 event announcing Chicago as the host city for the 2024 Democratic National Convention.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker

Pritzker, 59, has been governor since 2019, and is currently serving his second term. He is a progressive — and a billionaire — who has aggressively attacked Trump over his legal woes.

Pritzker released a statement Monday throwing his support behind Harris.

"Vice President Harris has proven, at every point in her career, that she possesses the skills, strength, and character to lead this country and the vision to better the lives of all Americans From protecting women's rights to defending American workers and strengthening the middle class, Vice President Harris is a champion of the American values we hold dear," the statement reads. "She represents our Party’s best chance to defeat Donald Trump in November, and I will work my heart out to help her do that."

Loading...


Copyright 2024 NPR

Deepa Shivaram
Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.
Lexie Schapitl is a production assistant with NPR's Washington Desk, where she produces radio pieces and digital content. She also reports from the field and assists with production of the NPR Politics Podcast.