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Opinion | Who Should Lead the Democratic Ticket? Six Columnists Weigh In.

Opinion | Who Should Lead the Democratic Ticket? Six Columnists Weigh In.


With President Biden’s candidacy in question, we asked six New York Times Opinion columnists: Who would you like to see as the Democratic nominee? Read their answers below. Or listen here:

00:35 Lydia Polgreen on Vice President Kamala Harris

06:33 Nicholas Kristof on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan

09:42 Ross Douthat on Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia

13:55 Pamela Paul on Gov. Wes Moore of Maryland

18:10 David French on Gov. Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania

23:57 Charles Blow on President Biden

I’m Lydia Polgreen, Opinion columnist for The New York Times. Like many of my colleagues, I think it’s time for Joe Biden to bow out. And I believe that the best person to replace him is Kamala Harris.

She didn’t make it that far in the primaries, and that might make you think: This is someone who has tried and failed to become president — why would she be good on the national stage? But I think it’s important to remember that running in the primaries and running for the general election are actually two very different things.

In the primaries, you’re essentially running against your peers — in many cases, your fellow politicians from your party — and you’re arguing with them over smaller differences than the big differences that separate our politics in this very polarized time. And where gender and race actually play a huge role in terms of how people are perceived and where the showing of emotion or anger or other feelings play very differently, depending on whether you’re a woman, depending on whether you’re a person of color — that primary environment, I think, is actually quite complicated.

Those same dynamics can be at play in a general election, as well, but they’re actually much different in this particular general election, because Donald Trump is a very particular kind of politician.

I think one of the things that makes Kamala Harris really compelling in this environment is that we’re dealing with a bully. And she is a person who does very well in going up against bullies. She has a demeanor, she has a way of speaking that very much comes from her experience as a prosecutor that plays very well when dealing with someone who really is kind of outside the bounds of the law.

One of the things that was most troubling about the debate between Biden and Trump was that, unsurprisingly, Trump just spouted lie after lie after lie, The thing that was so devastating was that Joe Biden just seemed completely unable to counter those lies. And it’s just impossible to imagine that Kamala Harris, who is really a very successful debater, wouldn’t be able to just methodically come in and counter, point for point, every single thing that came out of Donald Trump’s mouth.

The Biden administration has put Kamala Harris front and center on the messaging about abortion rights, and rightfully so. Everyone knows that Joe Biden is not a great messenger on this issue. He has had a long history of ambivalence about choice. He is a devout Catholic, and I think it’s fair to say he does not feel particularly comfortable speaking in strident terms about a woman’s right to choose.

That is not a problem for Kamala Harris. She is a lifelong believer and fighter for this cause and would be an eloquent and powerful spokesperson for the issue as the nominee, just as she has been on the campaign trail as part of the ticket.

I think there are really two separate questions we need to ask ourselves. One question is: Would Harris be a good nominee? I feel, based on what we’ve seen in the past week, that actually she could make a pretty compelling case for herself as a strong candidate. Then there’s another question, which is: Would she make a good president? And in an abstract world where we weren’t weighing her against Donald Trump, that’s an interesting conversation to have.

One of the criticisms of her when she was a primary candidate was that there wasn’t a clear and compelling reason that she could give for why she should be president. What was her vision? And I don’t think that she solved that problem. But I think it’s important to remember that circumstances dictate who the right person is at any given time.

What is the need of the hour? The need of the hour is to somehow find a way to ease Joe Biden out of the presidency, somehow find somebody to take on Donald Trump. And so for me, the case for Kamala Harris is that she is the right person for that first part of the job. Which is, frankly, the most important part of the job.

This is an existential crisis. We cannot survive another Trump administration. Preventing Trump from winning the presidency, I think, has to be the paramount goal. I’m not saying that I don’t think that Kamala Harris would be a good president. She might very well be a great president. I have no idea. But I don’t think that that’s a question that we, frankly, have the luxury to ask right now. Because we know that Donald Trump would be a catastrophic president.

In order to have a vacancy, in order to have an opportunity to run another candidate, President Biden has to decide not to run. And that, ultimately, is his decision to make. And it’s going to be an excruciating and very hard decision.

And to me, part of the reason that anointing Kamala Harris, who is his vice president, is an easier thing to do than simply throwing it open to a brokered convention is that this is a natural order of things. You choose a vice president because you might not live through your entire term. That’s true of any president. I think it would be easier and less damaging for the party for President Biden to simply say, “You know what? I think my time is up. It’s time for me to pass the baton to the person you, the voters, voted into office as part of my administration to carry us forward.”


I’m Nicholas Kristof, and I’m here with a case for Gretchen Whitmer, the governor of Michigan.

I’m rooting for Whitmer because the job of the nominee — and especially at a time when the stakes are so high, when Donald Trump is the opposition — the job of the nominee is to win. I do think that Governor Whitmer is particularly well placed to get votes in the handful of states that are in play.

For starters, Michigan is an absolute must-win state for the Democrats, and Whitmer has won it handily in both her races for governor. That suggests that she will also do well in nearby states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and I think her pragmatism will also play well with centrists in states like Arizona and Georgia.

I think a Michigan governor is well positioned to ride the anti-incumbent, anti-elitist mood that we see among voters in the U.S. and also just to generate excitement as a fresh face on the national scene, somebody from a new generation. And boy, I would just relish seeing how a dynamic younger candidate can force Trump on his heels and make him defend himself as the old guy with dubious mental acuity left in the race.

I’ve been following Whitmer ever since she was a state senator and in 2013 gave just an extraordinary speech for abortion rights that put her on the national map.

Audio clip of Gretchen Whitmer: I rise for my “no” vote explanation, as the Republican male majority continues to ignorantly and unnecessarily weigh in on important women’s health issues that they know nothing about​.

Toward the end of that speech, she put down her notes and disclosed something that she had hidden from most people that was intensely personal.

Clip of Whitmer: Over 20 years ago, I was a victim of rape. And thank God, it didn’t result in a pregnancy, because I can’t imagine going through what I went through and then having to consider what to do about an unwanted pregnancy from an attacker.

She was emotional, raw, powerful and persuasive. And that speech marked her as a politician to watch.

Look, there are lots of uncertainties ahead. I have no idea what Whitmer’s foreign policy would be. But I do know that she’s a good speaker, that she has shown she can win over centrist voters and also that she was only 1 year old when Biden was elected to the Senate. So in my view, Gretchen Whitmer is the best Biden alternative. Keep an eye on her.


I’m Ross Douthat, and I’m a columnist for The New York Times. I’m here to make the case that the Democrats should nominate the senator from West Virginia Joe Manchin.

Much of the Democratic Party and many of my friends in the media are convinced that this election has almost existential stakes for the United States of America. And if that is the case, there is a reasonable argument for the Democratic Party to nominate someone who is as close to the center of American politics as you can get, with a long record of voting for Democratic causes. So, Manchin 2024.

I’ve thought Joe Manchin should run for president for a while. In 2023, I made the case that he should run as an independent. I thought, as a moderate Democrat, Manchin was well positioned to run, basically, I argued, a kind of test-the-waters campaign.

But the reason to think of him as a plausible third-party candidate is also the reason to think of him as a plausible nominee for the Democrats — if their absolute goal is to defeat Donald Trump, no matter what.

Manchin is a guy who successfully managed to get elected to the Senate from West Virginia over the course of multiple election cycles where West Virginia was being transformed from a reliably Democratic state into a reliably Republican one. And his strategy always seemed to be: Pull a given piece of Democratic legislation more toward the middle (or toward the middle as he understood it), but be willing to vote for it when push came to shove.

He was more socially conservative in various ways on issues ranging from abortion to immigration. He tended to be more skeptical of large spending bills of all kinds, climate change legislation in particular. He did a lot of things, especially in the Biden era, that made more ideological Democrats incredibly frustrated with him. At the same time, he remained a pretty reliable vote for Democratic causes and programs and judicial nominations and everything else.

In imagining him as a Democratic nominee, you’re picking someone who in a different kind of era would have been the leader of probably a pretty big centrist faction in the Democratic Party. And so nominating him wouldn’t require the Democratic Party to radically shift its positions on almost any issue. It would be a unique signal to the country that the Democrats were willing to make a major ideological compromise, which is the kind of signal that, if you are determined to win the election at all costs, you want to be sending.

I think Manchin’s biggest challenge in the incredibly unlikely event that he was the Democratic nominee, is that because he is a moderate who is despised by key activist groups in the Democratic coalition, most Democrats are just not going to turn out for someone who spent the Biden years trying to make Joe Biden’s agenda more moderate and sometimes contributing to derailing it.

That’s always the problem with trying to nominate the most moderate candidate: You risk alienating your own base. But I think in this scenario, given the lateness of the hour and Donald Trump as the presumptive Republican nominee, that what you would gain among swing voters would outweigh what you would lose in the party’s base.

Both political parties have nominated candidates for president who are broadly unacceptable to the middle 30 percent of Americans, and it would probably be useful for the country if one of the two parties tried to nominate someone who was much more acceptable to Americans in that middle ground.


I’m Pamela Paul, an Opinion columnist for The New York Times, and I’m here to make the case for Wes Moore as the Democratic candidate for president.

Wes Moore is the first-term governor of the State of Maryland. So, relatively inexperienced in politics but with a broad range of experience before coming to politics. He has served in the military, including serving at war in Afghanistan. He’s worked in the private sector in investment banking. He has foreign policy experience and expertise, and he’s published five books, including books for young people.

As the former editor of The Book Review, I’ve been aware of Wes Moore for a long time as an author, and that’s how I often thought about him. I first met him out at Stanford University, where he was participating in a conference about revitalizing American institutions. He and Gov. Chris Sununu, Republican of New Hampshire, did a panel together in which they had a really lively, interesting conversation.

Audio clip of Chris Sununu: I’m absolutely honored to be here and to be with Wes who I consider a great friend. He’s a great governor.

And the thing that struck me most about their conversation is that they were friends, even though they are from very different sides of the political spectrum.

Chris Sununu, as the more experienced governor, has given advice to Wes Moore, and Wes Moore called him his best adviser as a governor.

Clip of Wes Moore: When I think about some of the governors who are the most helpful to me, as I made the transition, because I’d never run for office before I became governor. People can think about “It’s this governor, that governor, which political party.” The reality is, you’ve been one of the most helpful governors to me in this transition. And that’s a Republican governor.

And I thought that was remarkable because, as we all know, we live in a hyperpartisan time.

And something that really came out in their conversation was that, as governors, you need to get things done. You need to balance a budget. You cannot just not vote. You cannot just slide by. It’s not like the Senate. And one of the reasons I think that Governor Moore is one of the best-equipped people to assume the presidency is that as a governor, he has better experience than many people who have served in Washington for a long time.

I think his relative youth could shake up a campaign that no one is happy with between two geriatric candidates. He could energize the electorate. I think that he could win and govern well and he could really usher in a new era of leadership for Democrats. I mean, how have we gotten into a situation where we have an 81-year-old man who’s been in politics his entire life as being our candidate when it’s clear that Americans are not happy with how things are going and with the current direction of this country?

The No. 1 thing people will say about Wes Moore is that he doesn’t have the experience necessary, that it’s not his time yet. But first of all, I feel very frustrated with the “it’s his time” or “it’s not his time” thinking because when Biden was running, everyone thought, “Oh, it’s his time. He deserves it.” When Bob Dole was running, “Oh, it’s his turn. He deserves it.” This is a way to lose a campaign.

This is not about making someone feel better. This is about what’s doing right for the country. And Wes Moore, though he may not have a lot of governmental experience, he certainly has a lot more experience than Donald Trump did coming on.

And in fact, I think his relative inexperience would work in his favor because people are looking for someone to bring a new perspective who is not afraid of change, who can draw from a wide range of experience outside Washington and who’s shown that he knows how to solve problems and lead.


I’m David French. And I’m here to make the case that Josh Shapiro should replace Joe Biden on the top of the Democratic ticket.

Until 2016, I was a Republican. I’m still conservative. I’m a conservative in the Reagan conservative mold. So it is very unusual for me to be giving any kind of advice to the Democratic Party. However, I am of the belief that Donald Trump needs to lose in 2024 for the health of the country, for the health of our Constitution and for the health, honestly, of the Republican Party and the conservative movement. And so I want to see the best possible Democrat face Donald Trump in 2024.

Josh Shapiro is the first-term governor of Pennsylvania, a former attorney general of Pennsylvania and a former member of the State House of Pennsylvania.

I think there are multiple reasons Josh Shapiro would be a very good pick. And we can start with ideology, we can go to temperament, and then we can end with location, location, location.

So, ideology. Josh Shapiro is a more moderate or centrist Democrat. There are a number of initiatives, for example, in the State of Pennsylvania that he has broken with his party, at least to some degree, to move toward the center. For example, he has advocated for lowering corporate tax rates in Pennsylvania, the kinds of things that Republican voters would either appreciate or at least see that this person is not an ideological extremist, somebody who’s willing to reach out across the aisle.

He’s somebody who ideologically is much closer to the exact kinds of voters who helped give Joe Biden the presidency in 2020, a lot of these suburban voters and college-educated women and others, many of whom voted Republican in the past. He seems to be much more in line with the bulk of the American people than somebody who’s more on the left side of the Democratic Party.

And then let’s talk about the really important aspect of temperament. This is a guy who really, by and large, has a pretty measured tone, an ideal way of confronting someone like Donald Trump, who really needs to be meticulously rebutted in all of his falsehoods. Dismantling these wild statements that Donald Trump has made and doing so in a calm and measured way, I think, is exactly what the doctor ordered for the public square. It would, in many ways, be a restoration of the way we think about the presidency, that we’re not just electing a vehicle for an agenda but a human being that we could actually have a degree of trust in.

And then finally, he has the advantage of location, location, location — the three most important things in real estate. He’s a popular governor in a key swing state. This is perhaps the key swing state in the 2024 election. And this is something that’s really important not just for the sake of Pennsylvania but other swing states. I think there’s some real possibility there that he’s actually a good cultural fit for some of these swing states.

And there’s one other thing I didn’t mention: He’s relatively young. He was born in 1973. He’s a Gen X-er. And this contrast between a Gen X candidate who’s reasonable, who’s sober, who’s sharp as a tack, against a 78-year-old man who physically is able to sort of cover up his decline but cognitively is capable of the exact kinds of word salads that we saw come out of Joe Biden’s mouth in the debate — the contrast, I believe, would be very real and very obvious and exactly the kind of contrast that the American people are looking for.

And so these are all things that I think speak strongly in his favor, but I’m not going to pretend that it’s just a no-brainer of a decision. There are also some downsides that come with Josh Shapiro. Nothing major or glaring, but there’s two right away that you can think of. One, he’s a first-term governor. He’s not had a complete term as a governor., and so there would be some questions about experience. It also has to be acknowledged that nobody knows who he is. If you’ve tuned into this and you know who Josh Shapiro is, before you tuned in, you’re either a Pennsylvanian or a political nerd. And nothing against political nerds — I’m one of you — but it’s just part of the challenge that you have when you’re trying to introduce yourself to the American people.

But on balance, when you’re talking about the identity of a candidate: Is he a man for the moment? It’s not simply the case that you can say people want anyone not named Donald Trump. That’s not where the American people are. They’re wanting a choice that they can feel unambiguously good about. And the debate performance, I think, robbed Biden of that message now and for the rest of the campaign.

Here is a different candidate people can be voting for, as opposed to purely voting against Donald Trump.


I’m Charles Blow, an Opinion columnist at The New York Times. And while a lot of my colleagues are making the case for replacements for Joe Biden, I’m making the case that Joe Biden should not be forced off the ticket.

I assume that most people who want to replace Joe Biden want the exact same thing that I want, which is to prevent Donald Trump from being re-elected as president of the United States.

If that is the goal, then you have to go with the person who has the best chance of defeating him. And I think that for right now, that person remains Joe Biden.

There is no evidence that any of the other candidates who have been proposed as possible replacements for Joe Biden would do better than Joe Biden. There is no F.D.R.-, Barack Obama-like candidate waiting in the wings who everyone knows and who is going to galvanize the Democratic Party.

The people in Louisiana do not know the governor of Michigan. The people in North Carolina do not know the governor of California. And we are saying that somehow in a brokered convention at the end of the summer with only three months to go, you could put forth a virtually unknown person to the country and that somehow that would be better than sticking with a person who we already know.

In addition to that, a brokered convention would mean that the voters would not have a say in who the candidate is. There would be no direct voting for the person the Democrats put forward. These would be delegates. Some of them are elected officials, and I guess you could say that elected officials are kind of secondhand representatives of the people. So people did vote for the elected officials, and if they vote for the candidate, maybe that makes you feel a little bit better.

But delegates are also party leaders. No one voted for these party leaders. These are just people who have participated and won favor and people like them. Those are the people who would pick the candidate? That is not democratic. That doesn’t feel like the business that the Democratic Party would want to be in, which is having the candidates produced not by the voice of the people but by the voice of the insiders.

This has become an election about people who are for democracy and those who are not for it. It has nothing to do with the individual people and the individual characters and their individual competency.

So I’m not trying to convince anyone that Biden is your best candidate, he’s a fantastic person, shooting on all cylinders and full of verve. I’m just saying that as it stands, he is likely your best option to prevent catastrophe. None of these candidates are people that I’m going to say, ‘Oh, I’m just jumping up and down because this person is so electric and magnetic.”

I’m simply saying, “Do you want to keep a country or not? Where’s your best chances of keeping the country that you know and you love and that will have a chance to fight again one day with different candidates who may be younger, may be more to your tastes?”

I am convinced that people are not scared enough yet. I don’t think that people will be turning out for Biden. They’ll be turning out against Donald Trump.

I don’t need a champion in the White House this cycle. What I need is someone to hold the White House and to hold the country in its current customs, in its current structure, so that the next cycle, maybe we have better options that we can be excited about.

Joe Biden is already strapped to the rocket. At this point, he remains the best option.

Thoughts? Email us at theopinions@nytimes.com.

This episode of “The Opinions” was produced by Jillian Weinberger, Vishakha Darbha, Derek Arthur and Sophia Alvarez Boyd. It was edited by Kaari Pitkin, Alison Bruzek and Annie-Rose Strasser. Engineering by Sonia Herrero, Isaac Jones, Pat McCusker and Carole Sabouraud. Mixing by Sonia Herrero, Pat McCusker and Carole Sabouraud. Original music by Carole Sabouraud, Isaac Jones, Efim Shapiro, Sonia Herrero and Pat McCusker. Fact-checking by Kate Sinclair and Mary Marge Locker. Audience strategy by Shannon Busta and Kristina Samulewski. Our executive producer is Annie-Rose Strasser.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.

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