Who could replace Biden as presidential candidate?

President Biden’s stumbling performance in the debate against former President Donald J. Trump has led some Democrats to raise the possibility of nominating an alternative candidate and considering a list of names. High on the list, of course, is Vice President Kamala Harris, whose status as Biden’s running mate may make her an easy candidate for delegates to turn to in a difficult moment. But there are also frequent mentions of a number of Democratic governors and other figures.

A candidate switch would most likely require Biden to drop out of the race, something his campaign says he has no plans to do. And the risks are real. Some of the highest profile potential stand-ins listed below have never passed the vetting and road test of a presidential race. There is a long list of candidates who looked great on paper and withered during the campaign.

“It’s not as easy as it sounds,” said Barbara Boxer, the former senator from California. “Being vetted for the presidency is like no other vetting. We don’t know how these people would do.”

Here are some of the contenders being discussed:

Vice President Harris, a former prosecutor and California senator, has at times struggled to define her role alongside Biden. Initially charged with tackling polarizing and intractable issues such as illegal migration and voting rights, she was seen by Democratic donors and supporters of Mr. Biden as a potential political liability. Although those concerns have diminished, they still bother her low approval ratings which are barely higher than the president.

Yet Ms. Harris has spent months rooting for the president as one of his top campaign surrogates. She has recently become the White House’s leading voice in support of abortion rights. In March, she met with abortion providers at a clinic in St. Paul, Minn., in what was believed to be the first visit by a president or vice president to an abortion clinic. And Ms. Harris, the nation’s first black vice president, has worked to reinforce Mr. Biden’s vulnerability among black and young voters.

Democrats have long worried about how she would fare against Mr. Trump, though Ms. Harris has stepped up her attacks on the former president in recent months — especially on abortion — in an effort to show that she stands against could keep him standing.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, the former mayor of San Francisco who also previously served two terms as lieutenant governor, has emerged as one of Biden’s top surrogates during this campaign.

He was almost the first to defend Mr. Biden’s performance in Atlanta. He brings some clear advantages: He is an experienced campaigner from a major state who has used his platform in Sacramento — and appearances on national television — to make the case against Mr. Trump and for the Democratic Party. He has not shown any reservations about Mr. Biden, but has waited on the sidelines in case Mr. Biden somehow doesn’t end up on the ticket and has at least openly considered running in 2028.

But – California. For starters, Mr. Newsom would be saddled with explaining the problems California has had over the past decade: homelessness, high taxes, escalating housing costs. He will probably never be able to escape his decision to have an expensive dinner with lobbyists at the high-end restaurant the French Laundry in 2021.

That said, should Biden decide to end his campaign, Newsom could benefit from the abbreviated campaign: Opponents would have less time to examine and magnify some of those potential shortcomings.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has quickly risen to become a national star of the Democratic Party, thanks in part to Trump antagonizing her as “that woman from Michigan.” Whitmer, a two-term governor, led a 2022 campaign that gave Democrats in the swing state a trifecta: full control of the Legislature and state government for the first time in 40 years.

She has used that mandate to implement a laundry list of progressive policies. Her national profile also rose during the pandemic, when she was lambasted by right-wing media and Republican officials for her lockdown measures. And Ms. Whitmer is vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, a top leadership position in the national party.

For all these reasons and more, she is near the top of almost every Democrat’s list of strong candidates for 2028, and she has recently given her nod post-Biden presidential ambitions. Most importantly, she comes from a swing state she likes: She won reelection with more than 54 percent of the vote in 2022.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the billionaire heir to the Hyatt Hotels fortune, has stood out as a Biden surrogate for his knife-twisting insults against Mr. Trump. When the former president was convicted in his criminal trial in New York, Mr. Pritzker broke with the carefully worded talking points of most Democrats and hammered the former president as a thug, a racist, a homophobe and a fraud.

That fiery attitude and his caustic attacks on Mr. Trump have earned Mr. Pritzker plaudits as he fronts Mr. Biden in the Midwest. He also has one important progressive record As a two-term governor, he has won notable victories on abortion rights and gun control, and has moved the state’s Democratic Party far from its traditionally center-left politics.

Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro, the state’s former attorney general, is known as a measured leader who has emphasized bipartisanship and focused largely on non-ideological issues during his tenure.

Mr. Shapiro, who won the 2022 gubernatorial election, had a 64 percent approval rating in a recent study, with just 19 percent of registered voters in the key state saying they disapprove. In contrast, 41 percent of respondents said they would vote for Biden in November.

Mr. Shapiro often talks about his Jewish faith and has found himself in a sharp split within the Democratic Party over pro-Palestinian student protests. He passionately defends his support for Israel and has called some recent demonstrations anti-Semitic.

But here’s the most important thing you need to know about Mr. Shapiro: He’s the governor of Pennsylvania. And if there was such a thing as a must-win state for any Democratic challenger to Trump, it would be Pennsylvania. Mr. Shapiro defeated his 2022 Republican opponent, Doug Mastriano, with 56 percent of the vote, a figure that will surely be at the top of the agenda for Democratic delegates making these kinds of decisions.

This list is not exhaustive; The kind of chaos that could ensue at the Democrats’ convention in Chicago if Mr. Biden withdraws opens up all kinds of possibilities. The conventional ones include: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. All three have previously run for president and are known to Democratic voters.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, up for re-election in 2023, has also garnered national attention for his unlikely success as a Democrat in a red state where Mr. Biden is deeply unpopular. Mr. Beshear defeated his Republican opponent, Daniel Cameron, by five points, while other Democratic candidates lost by overwhelming margins in statewide races.

And finally, two people who have already lived in the White House: Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama. Former President Barack Obama, while they still have a fairly high polling rate among registered votersis excluded from running for a third term due to constitutional deadlines.

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