I continue to be supportive of President Joe Biden. I don’t hold him responsible for the current inflation, which has politically placed him way under water in the polls.
The current inflation is a result of three factors over which Biden has had virtually no control: 1) The mammoth expansionary monetary policies of the Federal Reserve, which began in early 2020 before Biden’s election; 2) the explosion in monetary velocity, which occurred after the end of the virtual national lockdown in early 2021; and 3) the Russian-Ukraine war, which resulted in an explosion in wheat and oil prices, two basic commodities.
Unfortunately for Joe Biden, in politics, perception always supersedes reality. The inflation has happened on his watch, and he will be blamed. This will result in the Republicans winning control of the House of Representatives this November, although the Democrats have a forty percent chance of retaining control of the Senate.
In the first two quarters of 2023, a recession is likely. This factor, plus the fact that Biden is approaching 80, will result in growing pressure on him not to seek reelection. As for Vice President Kamala Harris, she is proving to be politically at best ineffectual and at worst, counter-productive. That reaffirms my continuous 2020 judgment that Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer would have been a better running mate choice for Biden.
So to whom will the Democrats turn as their 2024 Presidential candidate if Biden bows out? A far left-wing progressive Bernie Sanders – type candidate, like Congresswoman from New York Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Massachusetts US Senator Elizabeth Warren is unelectable.
Fortunately, the Democrats have a list of prime presidential center-left, pragmatic progressive prospects, all of whom are eminently electable. They are as follows:
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, New Jersey US Senator Cory Booker, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Minnesota US Senator Amy Klobuchar, former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu, California Governor Gavin Newsom, Ohio US Senator Sherrod Brown, Connecticut US Senator Chris Murphy, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and an intriguing dark horse, with appeal to working class white voters, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear.
The voices you hear in the background are those of my social media philistine fascistic anti- intellectual critics. They are screaming, “Steinberg is nuts – how can he name two guys from New Jersey as presidential candidates?” And their language is somewhat colorful!
I have named both these individuals because I believe that they would both make highly effective presidential candidates. They each bring unique political and policy assets to the table. And if either tells me that they have given no real thought to the 2024 presidential race, I will not believe them!
First, Cory Booker.
I worked closely with Cory when he was mayor of Newark and I was Region 2 EPA Administrator. He was helpful to me, and I liked him personally. I felt that he was a poor administrator, largely due to his having picked an incompetent staff consisting largely of political hacks. My bottom line: Cory Booker was a celebrity mayor of Newark. Ras Baraka would follow him as mayor and prove to be as successful as Cory Booker was disappointing.
As a US Senator, however, Cory Booker has been a veritable giant. He has proven to be a master of both national policy and the politics of the Senate. As an orator, he is the finest to grace Washington, DC since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Unlike his Newark mayor tenure, he has picked a Senate staff of men and women masterful in the arts of both policy and politics. I have no doubt that a President Cory Booker would appoint a Cabinet of the highest competency and effectiveness. And he is a magnificent visionary, with a vision of both clarity and incisiveness.
Yet there is another characteristic of Cory Booker that makes him a supremely attractive presidential candidate. He has a unique appeal to both African-Americans and whites. Cory Booker could be an outstanding catalyst for interracial reconciliation in America at a time when the racial polarization has been most acute. He has the same interracial appeal to voters that Earvin “Magic” Johnson has to basketball fans and business customers.
In Washington, Cory Booker has become a figure of immense popularity. The media love him, and so do the continuing Washington cognoscenti, both of whom would immediately elevate him to top-tier status.
If Biden doesn’t seek reelection, there are two endorsements that Cory could obtain that would make him an early frontrunner. The first is Barack Obama, whose 2008 presidential candidacy featured Cory as an early supporter. The second is South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn, whose endorsement of Cory could assure him of a South Carolina primary victory and subsequent nomination frontrunner status.
So normally, my 2024 presidential endorsement, in the event of Biden withdrawal would be for Cory Booker. If Phil Murphy runs, however, I will have to make an agonizing choice between two New Jersey guys.
Phil Murphy also has genuine viability as a presidential candidate. If he runs, his emergence will begin during the “money primary” in the months that follow the 2022 midterm elections. Wall Street is a leading player in the money primary.
The money primary was the venue of Bill Clinton’s 1992 take-off to the Democratic presidential nomination. And since his days at Goldman Sachs, Phil Murphy has been a figure of major Wall Street admiration and respect. Armed with his own finance and the campaign donations he would raise during the money primary from Wall Street, Phil Murphy would begin the campaign as a top-tier contender by virtue of his war chest alone.
Yet as a presidential candidate, Phil Murphy is more than just a war chest. He also features an overwhelming resume.
Phil Murphy’s management of New Jersey’s health during the Covid crisis qualifies him as a superb crisis manager. He has been nationally the leading Democratic governor on such prime issues as gun control, environmental justice, and abortion choice. And Phil Murphy has expertise on an issue as to which few governors have any understanding: Foreign policy. As a former Ambassador to Germany, Phil Murphy has international issue competency that would make him more than a match for other candidates in foreign policy debates.
Finally, there is the current First Lady of New Jersey, Tammy Murphy. She would be a candidate’s spouse who would achieve non-controversial popularity of a magnitude of that of a Betty Ford, Barbara Bush, and a Laura Bush.
It remains to be seen whether either or both Phil Murphy and Cory Booker makes a run for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. To me, however, there is a humorous irony in New Jersey having not only one, but two most viable presidential candidates. Nearly sixty years ago, the Democratic Party passed up a New Jersey governor who would have been an excellent presidential candidate, Richard J. Hughes.
I’ve written before as to how if Hubert Humphrey in 1968 had selected Richard J. Hughes as his vice-presidential running mate, instead of Edmund Muskie, he would have defeated Richard Nixon. With Humphrey in the White House, the Vietnam War would have ended sooner, and there would have been no Watergate. And Richard Hughes would have succeeded Humphrey as president.
If nationally prominent Democrats keep this Richard Hughes history in mind, they will have an additional reason not to pass up Cory Booker or Phil Murphy for the 2024 road to the White House.
Alan J. Steinberg served as regional administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as executive director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.