Who We’re Watching as the Jockeying Begins to Replace Joe Biden

YESTERDAY’S CATASTROPHIC INFLATION REPORT simply reinforced the likelihood that President Biden faces a likely challenge for the 2024 presidential nomination (if he runs). No Democrat will signal a run yet — poor form, this early — but the jockeying has begun.

AMONG INSIDERS IN THIS TOWN, A DARK HORSE has already emerged — Roy Cooper, the moderate governor of North Carolina, who got an important entry on his resume yesterday: CNBC crowned North Carolina as the most pro-business state in the nation.

EVEN BEFORE THE AWARD, COOPER was on the radar screen. A moderate, pro-business governor is just what the Democrats need; they remember Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, two center-left governors from the South who won the presidency.

COOPER MAY HAVE PLENTY OF COMPANY: The most visible challenger, assuming Biden doesn’t run, will be California’s charismatic leftist Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has been very visible this year, asking a question shared by many Democrats: “Where the hell is my party?”

NEWSOM HAS RIPPED INTO FLORIDA GOV. RON DeSANTIS, the increasingly clear favorite to win the GOP nomination; the two could become fierce rivals. But Newsom has a serious flaw — while California has the fifth largest economy in the world, he presides over a state where crime is the dominant issue, a factor that may doom another Democratic governor, J.B. Pritzker, who presides over Illinois’ out-of-control gun violence.

THE WHISPERING IS GROWING LOUDER IN WASHINGTON about who’s running and which potential candidates have already lined up fundraisers, polltakers, campaign managers, etc. Much of the focus is on who Kamala Harris may sign up. She’s widely viewed as a disappointment, but it’s too early to rule her out because if Biden doesn’t run, she would automatically be on the short list.

WHO ELSE IS ON THE LIST? Plenty of other governors, including Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, the very wealthy Phil Murphy of New Jersey, Andy Beshear of Kentucky, and Jared Polis of Colorado. If she wins her race in Georgia this November, the fiercely ambitious Stacey Abrams could join this list.

THERE ARE ANOTHER DOZEN NON-GOVERNORS who are itching to run; they include Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren. The latter could wrap up the Democrats’ left wing (and then lose to DeSantis).

NEWSOM, WITH HIS PERFECT HAIR and fierce social populism, has another option — he could take Dianne Feinstein’s seat; she’s 89 and in failing health. Newsom could then become a major power in Washington, waiting to run until 2028, without having to challenge Biden.

IN ANY EVENT, we anticipate an enormous field if Biden announces late this year that he’s not running. Watch the governors — especially Roy Cooper, who can make a convincing case that he could actually win in a general election.

TOO MUCH MEDICINE? We argued last year that Washington was applying so much fiscal and monetary stimulus to the economy that the patient could suffer an inflation overdose. Now, with gasoline prices falling and recession fears rising, the risk has flipped — too much fiscal and monetary restraint could spook the markets.

THE FEDERAL RESERVE may consider a “shock and awe” hike of 100 basis points later this month, but our guess is that Chairman Jerome Powell leans toward a 75 basis point move. Powell has prepared the markets for that, and he still holds out hope that the Fed can avoid a recession.

Related: The Hapless Federal Reserve, Wrong Again

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