Could 2024 provide an unexpected political upstart in the race for the White House?

Outside of the odds-on favourites to occupy the Oval Office come January 20, 2025, there are a number of potential and declared candidates on both sides of the aisle who present an interesting – albeit, unlikely – case for next President of the United States. Photo credit: Getty Images/Scott Eisen


American presidential elections rival sporting events for sheer drama. With the 2024 Super Bowl of campaigns coming into focus, it may be a good time to take a breath, assess what has happened so far, and prepare for the election express to push itself front and centre on news sources across America. Most political party nomination fights end up being quite predictable. In the United States, this quadrennial pursuit has delivered some memorable matches, but fewer surprising results.

If Ronald Reagan had won the 1968 Republican nomination that would have been out of the ordinary. The same could be said if Reagan had upset the sitting president, Gerald Ford, in 1976. Or if Ted Kennedy had done the same to President Carter in 1980. While their campaigns left a lasting legacy, the favoured candidate prevailed. 

The rise of Jimmy Carter in 1976 may serve as a true grassroots candidacy that caught the press and most people off guard, but no real clear leader existed among Democrats in 1976, since Ted Kennedy remained reluctant to run because of Chappaquiddick. Some would argue that Barack Obama’s defeat of Hillary Clinton in 2008 and the populist ascent of Donald Trump in 2016 stand as unusual developments, proving the ability of politics, like sports, to provide upsets and to defy the odds. 

In part one of this column, I put forth a thesis that President Biden, for a variety of reasons, may not be the Democratic nominee in 2024. Thus, as it stands today, most observers would conclude four possible winners on November 5, 2024: President Biden, former President Trump, Vice-President Kamala Harris, or Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida. There are other announced candidates in both the GOP and Democratic fields, but Biden and Trump, at present, hold healthy leads. 

Like the competition for the Stanley Cup or the NBA Crown, betting favourites arise and often they end up winning. Nonetheless, a successful batter in baseball owns a 30-40 per cent success rate and that equates to a Hall of Fame career. If that percentage sets the standard for possibility in the upcoming presidential election, then unforeseen political developments do not seem far-fetched. Exploring three possibilities that could change the dynamic provides some fascinating grist. The first considers the front-runners. 

Both the President and the former president possess standing because of their titles, but both also own significant liabilities that create real risk. Joe Biden will be in his 82nd year during the election cycle. He already has shown himself vulnerable and thinking about an all-encompassing campaign could lead to any number of health problems. Many voters, including a lot of Democrats, do not want him to run again. Regardless of the advocacy on behalf of his acolytes, many simply believe he is too old. Reinforcing that bias will not take much – a fall, a health issue, a senior’s moment in front of the camera, and the calls for his ouster could become profuse. 

While Trump also bumps up close to 80, age does not seem to be his weakness, but legal difficulties could become so consuming that the candidate becomes too distracted and too burdened to remain at the head of the party. If he faces another sexual charge or more corruption surfaces, even the loyalists may begin to think about a dignified hand-off. 

The second appraises the challengers. On the Democratic side, there are two declared candidates and several who are jostling at the starting line, just waiting to hear if the president can’t or won’t run. They sit like spare goalies on the bench hoping for the opportunity to be called into the game and prove themselves worthy. The declared Democrats include the eldest son of a political hero, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and a second-round candidate, Marianne Williamson. 

The seriousness of these contestants aside, and acknowledging the front-runner status of Vice-President Harris if Biden falters, there will still be heavy competition for the nomination from governors like Newsome of California, Pritzker of Illinois, and Polis of Colorado. They have all either expressed interest or been suggested as possibilities and have national supporters who are ready to set up campaigns. The same is true of senators like Corey Booker of New Jersey, the ever-youthful Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. The party will have a full slate of potential nominees if Biden becomes unable to run. 

As for the GOP, the queue is getting long and it just welcomed the stiffest opposition to Donald Trump’s dream of a coronation. The field so far includes Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, two South Carolinians of colour, the former governor, Nikki Haley, and its present senator, Tim Scott, former Arkansas governor, Asa Hutchinson, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, and long-shot conservative talk show host, Larry Elder. Also expected to join include former Vice-President Mike Pence and former New Jersey governor, Chris Christie. 

Within these groups exist some pros and cons. If either Biden or Trump ends up sidelined for one reason or another, these men and women provide legitimate candidates of varied experience and substantial qualifications. 

Certainly, both sides will have a good slate to select from, but this takes us to a third consideration. Are there two potential leaders of excellent character and serious authority who could emerge? What would these contenders present in style and substance? 

I would propose that if Democratic officials hold influence over their constituents and use winning, competence, and generational change as qualifying or overriding criteria, then Governor Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania fits the bill. As for the Republicans, if the cage match of Trump v DeSantis bloodies them up so badly that the party remains too divided to heal, then a candidate of significant prowess resides in the governor’s mansion in Atlanta, Georgia. Brian Kemp’s conservative record speaks for itself and his fortitude during the aftermath of the 2020 election neutralizes the charges of ties to Trump or election denial. 

In my next column, we will examine these two men and what a match-up between the two could mean for America, a nation badly in need of a presidential clash fought on the merits, not the mayhem; on the issues, not the insults; on the character of the candidates, not the corruption.  

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