It is hard to remember which came first. In a recent poll, Vice President Kamala Harris scored a historically low approval rating of 28%. CNN also wrote an extensive article about the tension between Harris’s office and the West Wing staff. Panic among Democrats became visible in the media. Should President Biden fail to run for reelection, and most observers do not believe he will, Harris should be the nominee. All indications, including Harris losing to President Trump if he earns the GOP nomination, are leading Democrats to look for other options.
So far, it seems that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is a media favorite. They seem to be glomming onto him with the same kind of adoration that they gave Elizabeth Warren until she flamed out in the 2020 Democratic primary. The corporate media loves people who went to their schools, worked at the same consulting firm as their brother, and adopt an academic tone in their progressivism. The fact that Buttigieg is openly gay, married, and had the unmitigated gall to take two months of paternity leave during a supply chain crisis just endears him to the coastal elites in the media even more.
Politico sent reporter Alex Thompson to follow Buttigieg around for a few days. Just ten days after CNN’s reporting on “exasperation and dysfunction” inside Harris’s staff, Thompson reported:
While Buttigieg says he’s not contemplating the race to be Biden’s successor, inside the West Wing, others are imagining it for him. His name is sometimes discussed by aides as a natural Democratic presidential nominee in 2028 — or 2024 if the president opts not to run.
“Nobody in the West Wing shuts that down,” said one person with direct knowledge of the conversations. “It’s very open.” The chatter has frustrated some staffers of color who see it as disrespectful to Kamala Harris — the first Black woman vice president — and think senior officials should tamp it down. Some of Buttigieg’s former campaign staffers also question whether challenging Harris is feasible given how critical the Black vote is in any Democratic primary, and how Buttigieg struggled to attract those voters the last time around. But there is some existing infrastructure waiting in the wings.
Of course, everyone seems to forget that Vice President Harris struggled with black voters herself during the Democratic primary. Even Politico knew it in December of 2020 when she dropped out. At the time, the outlet noted:
A review of public polling and interviews with black strategists, activists and Democratic officials explains why African American voters have largely gotten behind non-black candidates: a medley of concerns about Harris’ and Booker’s electability, their authenticity and their campaign styles, all of which prevented them from effectively challenging Biden’s enduring — and, to some, surprising — strength among African Americans.
Buttigieg appears to be the “least-worst” in favorability among the current cabinet members right now. According to a Politico/Morning Consult Poll, Buttigieg has a favorability rating of 38%. The closest to him among the remaining cabinet is Janet Yellen, age 75, at 33%. The remaining members are 30% or lower. It seems for now that Buttigieg has done a better job deflecting responsibility for the supply chain crisis than Harris has avoiding responsibility for the disaster at the southern border. His appeal in a national election is not clear. He never won a statewide race in his home state of Indiana.
Another poll has Harris coming in second to former First Lady Michelle Obama to replace Joe Biden in 2024. To be clear, Obama has never indicated that she wishes to run for office and seems quite content to do paid speeches and hang out with Beyonce and Jay-Z. However, it makes you wonder why Democrats seem to be grasping for the party’s next leader. It also seems there are a lot of retreads in state-level races. The Texas gubernatorial race will suffer through Beto 3.0, and Georgia will get subjected to a second campaign for Stacey Abrams. These two prior losers threw their hat in the ring when the president’s job approval was -31 in Texas and -28 in Georgia.
Democrats have to tolerate former losers in new elections because they have no bench. During Barack Obama’s two terms, Democrats lost nearly 1,000 seats nationwide, including net losses in the House and Senate of 64 and 12 seats respectively. A net total of 13 governorships and 816 state legislative seats were lost, which is the most of any president since Dwight Eisenhower. While Democrats took the House back in 2018, they lost seats in 2020, and observers predict Democrats will lose the majority in 2022. The Senate is also in play.
Democrats may be looking at retreads and a former small-town mayor because they lost experienced politicians throughout the country early in their careers. However, Progressive Democrats are still willing to consider Warren, who will turn 75 in 2024, and Bernie Sanders, who is already 80. Among younger members, they see far-left Progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as the most prominent members and the party’s future. In reality, the Squad and the rest of the Progressive Caucus may be the only ones left with long-term service.
President Biden’s far-left agenda puts purple district and purple state congressional members at risk. The seats lost will be the more moderate members of the Democrat coalition. The districts Ocasio-Cortez and her coalition come from are deep blue and safe for Democrats no matter who the candidate is. Even Speaker Nancy Pelosi noted that the purple seats were more critical to the majority in 2018. Yet every time they get power, Democrats risk those seats with their progressive agenda. Only the most progressive members will remain, and the Squad’s agenda threatens their more moderate colleagues’ seats.
It is a vicious circle for Democrats and leaves a massive hole in the leadership ranks of their party. And a losing cycle in 2022 will only make it worse.