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.
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. And the GOP’s efforts to roll back abortion rights have repelled many voters, even in Republican-leaning states.
But that hasn’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.”
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 said.
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.
Peoples reported from Los Angeles.
Steve Peoples And Will Weissert, The Associated Press