Bernie Sanders Camp Eyes Ro Khanna 2024 Bid If Biden Doesn’t Run

California representative Ro Khanna. Photo: Shutterstock

Joe Biden has consistently said he will run for reelection in 2024, when he will be 81 years old. But as a recent Wall Street Journal poll showed, a lot of people just aren’t buying it. Fifty-two percent of registered voters surveyed said they didn’t expect Biden to run for another term, as opposed to just 29 percent who figured he would run. But since it’s considered disrespectful for those in the same political party as a president to write him off, potential successors to Biden as Democratic presidential nominee are keeping a low profile until he definitively rules himself out or in. That’s not to say there is no contingency planning going on more or less behind the scenes.

Unsurprisingly, it seems progressives who backed Senator Bernie Sanders’s two strong but narrowly unsuccessful presidential bids are thinking hard about 2024. There are no indications that Sanders, who is a bit more than a year older than Biden, is open to a third try in 2024 even if the incumbent hangs it up. But some of his key followers are, according to Politico, lining up behind a much younger potential candidate, California representative Ro Khanna.

“Jeff Weaver, Sanders’s former presidential campaign manager, and Mark Longabaugh, a senior adviser to Sanders during his 2016 bid, have both urged Khanna to consider a campaign in the event Biden declines to run again, according to a person familiar with their discussions,” Politico reports.

In other words, Khanna, a key supporter of Sanders in both 2016 and 2020 (and a campaign co-chairman during the latter campaign), is apparently being treated in Bernie-land as the “heir apparent” to the Vermont senator.

That would probably have surprised critics of Khanna during his first, unsuccessful primary campaign against veteran California representative Mike Honda back in 2014. Khanna was then widely perceived as representing the Silicon Valley district’s tech giants; some progressive groups regarded the young lawyer (who in a middle-echelon Obama administration job promoted technology exports) as a suspected neoliberal technocrat. After beating Honda in 2016, though, Khanna distinguished himself in Congress as a thoughtful (if sympathetic) critic of the biggest tech firms, as an antitrust law activist, and generally as someone determined to shape economic globalization in a manner that will address inequality. Politico reports:

The three-term congressman cuts a unique profile: The 45-year-old is a die-hard liberal who happens to also represent the startup paradise of Silicon Valley. He calls himself a “progressive capitalist” and envisions a future in which America’s eroding democracy is strengthened by spreading well-paying technology jobs across the heartland.

Khanna’s supporters believe that he would begin a presidential race with a significant portion of Sanders’ political infrastructure and likely become a top contender for progressive voters.

Khanna and his backers are making it very clear he will not challenge Biden if the president does choose to run for reelection. But if Biden doesn’t run, he has a potentially tricky situation involving Vice-President Kamala Harris, presumed to be Biden’s own “heir apparent,” since they share a California political and donor base.

Other than staking out largely hypothetical turf and enabling the quiet pre-vetting necessary for any presidential aspirant, the quiet Khanna ’24 effort provides Democrats some relief from the constant click-driven conservative-media speculation about Hillary Clinton either succeeding or pushing aside Biden in 2024. Anyone with a serious clue about Democratic politics considers the idea absurd, just as it was in the run-up to the 2020 election. But politics abhors a vacuum, and until other names emerge as possible 2024 Democratic candidates in the event of a Biden retirement, the HRC talk will persist. If for no other reason than that Democrats and political observers generally should welcome Ro Kanna to the ranks of the Mentioned.

More on Politics

See All
Sanders Camp Eyes Ro Khanna 2024 Bid If Biden Doesn’t Run