WASHINGTON EXHALED THIS WEEK as Joe Biden, just two months into the job, won the signature issue of his presidency — enactment of a massive Covid relief package that could produce a red-hot economy by summer.
WHAT’S LEFT? Biden has other objectives — starting with an infrastructure bill, which probably will pass by late fall. And he has other issues to confront, headed by immigration. But Biden’s main goals — crushing Covid and enacting a hugely expensive liberal wish-list — have been accomplished; these probably will be his legacy.
THIS BEING WASHINGTON, speculation has immediately shifted to the political implications of Biden’s victory. Republican opposition to the Covid bill was limp and ineffective; Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, 79, is widely viewed as losing a step or two.
TIME STOPS FOR NO ONE: Biden, 78, has sent mixed signals on whether he wants to run for re-election in 2024. He could win; his job approval ratings are mostly in the mid-50s — good but not great, much better than Donald Trump’s numbers.
BUT DOES BIDEN REALLY WANT A SECOND TERM? He could bask as the economy accelerates this year and next, but by 2024 the big economic issues could be inflation and the surging budget deficit — which almost certainly would require spending cuts, monetary restraint and tax increases, a trifecta that Biden might prefer to avoid.
SO WHAT DO THE ODDSMAKERS SAY? The Las Vegas and London bookies have a pretty good track record, so we indulged a guilty pleasure this morning and looked at their predictions.
THE WINNER OF THE 2024 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION will be Kamala Harris, most oddsmakers say. She’s considered the logical successor to Biden, perhaps in part because there are few blockbuster challengers to her in either party. For investors, it’s worth noting that Harris is well to Biden’s left on many issues, including fracking and national health insurance.
WHO’S NEXT IN LINE? Some oddsmakers place Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez first. The New York firebrand, who would be barely old enough to serve as president, would electrify the party’s progressive base but could she win a general election? We doubt it. If Biden doesn’t run, several other Democrats could challenge Harris: Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker, etc.
ON THE REPUBLICAN SIDE, the oddsmakers make Donald Trump the favorite to win the 2024 nomination (but not the presidency). Trump will have his hands full with indictments in the next couple of years, but in a crowded field he could win the nomination, as he did in 2016.
THE ODDSMAKERS LIKE Nikki Haley but GOP voters are cool to her after she ripped Trump. Mike Pence has also lost altitude but almost certainly will run. The hottest Republicans right now are Ron DeSantis, the controversial Florida governor, and Kristi Noem, the mask-hating South Dakota governor. Mike Pompeo has some grass-roots support.
FOUR OTHER FIERCELY AMBITIOUS REPUBLICANS are likely to run — Sens. Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz. The latter two may never recover from their role in the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill.
MUCH WILL HAPPEN BETWEEN NOW and the next presidential election — including re-districting, which will change the Electoral College makeup. The old cliché that “a month is a lifetime in politics” surely will apply; after all, just a year ago Andrew Cuomo and Gavin Newsom were the Democrats’ rising stars — and today they couldn’t get elected dog-catchers.
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