Dem Rising Starts Rally Around Biden 09/29 06:27
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Pennsylvania's Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro is set to
address presidential primary voters in New Hampshire on Saturday.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is working to strengthen Democratic parties
across the Midwest. And California Gov. Gavin Newsom was the Biden campaign's
surrogate during the second Republican presidential debate this week -- and
he's agreed to a one-on-one debate against a top GOP presidential contender.
As Biden faces concerns, including from voters in his own party, about his
prospects in a grueling reelection campaign, a new generation of high-profile
Democrats are fanning out for the 80-year-old president. Those close to the
ambitious Democrats insist they are focused squarely on the 2024 campaign when
Biden may face a tough rematch against Donald Trump.
But in building their national profiles, they're also positioning themselves
for what could be a contentious 2028 primary -- and giving the party something
of an insurance policy in case they are suddenly needed next year.
"We've got a lot of talent in our party, and that talent is unified behind
the reelection of President Joe Biden," Shapiro said in an interview. "And I'm
excited for the next couple of years, and for the future of our party. I think
we're in a strong position."
Biden announced his reelection bid in April and his allies insist that only
an unforeseen physical challenge could force him from the race.
He's taking all the usual steps to support a growing reelection effort,
including adding staff to his Wilmington, Delaware-based campaign that now
employs about 50 people. The campaign is also launching a spree of advertising
with the Democratic National Committee. The push includes a months-long, $25
million digital and television blitz focused on issues ranging from the
administration's economic policies to efforts to protect abortion rights. The
pieces are airing in battleground states such as Arizona, Georgia and
The administration has a record they're eager to run on, including signing
into law major investments in health care, climate change, pandemic relief and
the economy. Inflation is ticking down, while the unemployment rate and
economic growth remain strong. The GOP's efforts to roll back abortion rights
have repelled many voters, even in Republican-leaning states. And he's issuing
increasingly dire warnings about the implications of a Trump win for American
democracy, delivering a passionate speech on the issue on Thursday in Arizona.
"We should all remember, democracies don't have to die at the end of a
rifle," Biden said. "They can die when people are silent, when they fail to
stand up or condemn threats to democracy, when people are willing to give away
that which is most precious to them because they feel frustrated,
disillusioned, tired, alienated."
For now, such efforts haven't lifted Biden's weak approval ratings or
neutralized the political fallout from an evolving criminal case against his
son. And it's done little to address what may be the president's most potent
vulnerability: his age. Set to turn 81 in November, he would be 86 at the end
of a second term. About three-quarters of Americans -- 77% -- said Biden is too
old to be effective for another four years, according to a poll released last
month from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. That
view was held by 89% of Republicans and, notably, 69% of Democrats.
Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif. is a progressive leader who has already spoken to
New Hampshire's presidential primary voters three times this year. In an
interview, he warned Democrats against promoting a message of "triumphalism" in
2024 by simply touting Biden's accomplishments.
"The American dream has slipped away for too many Americans. The working
class has been shafted and there's still a lot of anger out there," Khanna
said. "We're trying to turn the ship, but it's it's gonna require bolder and
more focused action to help the working class."
The conversation among Democrats is blunter in private. On the sidelines of
a recent meeting of the National Governors Association in New Hampshire,
several senior Democratic aides were overheard by a reporter discussing the
type of candidate who could stand in for Biden if needed.
And at least one major political group aligned with Democrats is in the
process of formulating a contingency plan in the unlikely event that Biden is
not on the ballot, according to a top official with that group who spoke on the
condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning. The group is also
developing options for the possibility that Trump, the overwhelming
front-runner in the GOP primary, is not the Republican nominee.
The Biden reelection campaign said any group questioning the president being
on the 2024 ballot isn't aligned with anyone of consequence in the Democratic
"I don't have any indication -- it doesn't mean that it doesn't exist --
that the White House is thinking about not running," said veteran Democratic
strategist James Carville. "Having said that, every poll is worse."
The chatter is fueled by a lack of confidence among some donors and party
officials in Vice President Kamala Harris as a Biden successor. She has
struggled with weak ratings of her own.
In New Hampshire, Democratic officials still angry that Biden moved South
Carolina ahead of the state on the party's 2024 presidential primary calendar
have been increasingly willing to welcome would-be alternatives to the state.
Former state House Speaker Steve Shurtleff, a longtime Biden ally, is openly
encouraging the president to back out of the 2024 campaign. The Democratic
Party "absolutely" needs to have a contingency, Shurtleff said, adding that he
and other Democrats want more options beyond Harris.
"Something's got to be done. It can't be just that we'll anoint the vice
president if the president has to step down or something happens," Shurtleff
said. "I'm still hoping that (Biden) will say, 'I won't run after all.'"
Biden has long cast himself as uniquely positioned to defeat Trump.
Democrats united behind him in the 2020 campaign largely for that reason. But
after years in which the party struggled to identity and elevate future
leaders, Democrats now have one of their deepest benches in recent memory
thanks largely to a wave of high-profile governors finding success in last
fall's midterm elections.
Shapiro, 50, who stepped into the Pennsylvania governor's office just eight
months ago, will serve as the keynote speaker at the New Hampshire Democratic
Party's annual convention on Saturday. It'll be his first time in the state for
any political reason since 2015. He said he's eager to promote the pragmatic
"GSD" attitude -- short for "get stuff done" -- that guides his leadership in
the key presidential swing state.
"Right now, there's a cynicism that's gripped our politics. And much of that
cynicism is due to people not feeling progress, not seeing I should say
deliverables for them that make their lives better," Shapiro said in an
interview. "We're taking a different approach in Pennsylvania."
Asked about Biden, he said he was "proud" to support the president in 2024.
"I'll do the work that's asked of me to help him win reelection," Shapiro
In California, the term-limited Newsom was the Biden campaign's chief
spokesman at Wednesday's GOP presidential primary debate. He was given time on
each of the national television networks to respond to the Republican message
and held court with dozens of reporters in the post-debate spin room.
In an interview, Newsom acknowledged the strength of his party's rising
class of presidential prospects.
"The bench, it's next level, I mean, you're gonna have, I don't know, three
debate stages in the next presidential election. I mean, I don't know how the
heck they're gonna figure that out," he said.
The California governor also said "there's no question" Biden would be the
party's nominee in 2024.
"Let's just stop naval gazing about this. Let's go. As Democrats, let's
enthusiastically go," Newsom said of rallying behind Biden. "The real show is
around the corner and its time for us to show up now and stop these
conversations, these internal circular conversations about where we are
situationally, and make the case."
Yet Newsom, who leaves office at the end of 2026, is stoking questions about
his own presidential aspirations by agreeing to debate Florida Gov. Ron
DeSantis, who is a prominent Republican presidential candidate. Newsom said the
debate, to be hosted by Fox News' Sean Hannity, has been confirmed for November.
They have not yet set a location, but have agreed that the event wouldn't
take place in a key presidential primary state like Iowa or New Hampshire,
Biden has successfully fended off serious Democratic rivals in part by
keeping potential challengers close by. He's assembled a national advisory
board including Newsom, Shapiro, Khanna, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, New
Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Maryland Gov.
Wes Moore. Whitmer is serving as one of the Biden's national campaign
co-chairs. The campaign says that, while the goal is to further Biden's
reelection, it is also helping the president realize his promise of being a
"bridge" to a future generation of Democrats.
Many of the party's rising stars are building on their personal, political,
fundraising and organizing networks to promote the president, said Carla Frank,
director of the national advisory board and surrogate operations. She said
members "are going to speak to different communities in different ways, and be
able to put their unique voices to various issues."
"We have an opportunity to work with these leaders, integrate them into our
broad campaign structure and build a strong party with them," said Frank, who
is also a former White House deputy political director. "But, in return, they
are uplifting our message, which is the broad party message, rather than just
trying to get them in line."
Whitmer launched a political action committee, the Fight Like Hell PAC, in
June to help Democrats across the country while expanding her national
footprint. That same month, an aide shared an article on social media entitled,
"Why Gretchen Whitmer Has What It Takes for a White House Run."
In October, she'll headline a major fundraising dinner for the Minnesota
Whitmer spokesperson Bobby Leddy said the PAC would release its first series
of endorsements in the coming weeks as she works to raise money for the Biden
campaign and help "shore up the base in the Midwest."
"The governor laid out a pretty good blueprint for how you should engage
with voters in the Midwest in the last election," Leddy said, noting that
Whitmer made Biden's accomplishments "front and center" in her winning
Pritzker, Illinois' Democratic governor, is making moves as well.
Having just begun his second term, Pritzker is scheduled to headline an
upcoming fundraiser for Wisconsin Democrats. His team says he'll also continue
to seek out opportunities to boost candidates that defend abortion rights and
causes across the country as he stumps for Biden.
Pritzker is uniquely positioned to maintain a high profile for the party in
2024 as a leader of the state that will host the Democratic National Convention
next summer. And while he is presumed to be running for a third term in 2026,
Pritzker stoked speculation about his presidential ambitions by campaigning in
New Hampshire last summer on behalf of local Democrats.
In New Hampshire, which traditionally hosts one of the nation's opening
presidential primary contest, Shurtleff said he's looking forward to getting to
know the new generation of Democratic leaders.
"There are a lot of good qualified people -- governors, possibly members of
Congress -- who could possibly run," he said. "I don't look at Joe Biden being
a strong candidate. ... There's a lot of negatives here. And that's what people