This week there were primary elections in a large number of states in the US for the upcoming presidential election in November 2024 and it turned out that likely the two major candidates will be Joe Biden and Donald Trump. If one of them gets elected, it will be the oldest US president ever.

For the Republican primaries there were a number of candidates and they were discussed in the media. For the Democrats I haven't really read much in the media about alternative candidates. Democratic voters in primaries also didn't seem to vote for alternative candidates a lot, sometimes they voted uncommitted, which however didn't clearly indicate who else should maybe candidate.

Did Democratic voters ever, in polls, indicate who they would consider most worthy as an alternative to Joe Biden in the upcoming election? Something like: if only X would candidate I would most likely vote for that candidate instead.

I find it a bit hard to believe that in such a large country with such a large party nobody else exists whom voters would trust with their vote. A candidate field of size one doesn't sound very democratic and additionally it also doesn't sound like the one candidate is overly loved by the voters currently making it even stranger. Couldn't have voters simply have chosen somebody else if they wanted to? Or didn't they want to?


1 Answer 1


If you were in a running race, would you run when there was one athlete who was given a long head-start, and which, if you didn't win you'd never be allowed to run again?

It is very rare that a sitting President faces a significant opponent in the primaries. The incumbent President has already won an election (unless it is Gerald Ford) and so clearly has popularity with the party and the country. They clearly have a significant number of supporters, and everyone knows that party splits make it harder for that party to get its candidate into the Whitehouse.

So there are plenty of Democrats who could hope to become President (Harris, Buttigieg, Shapiro, Polis...) But for any of these, running against Biden now would be seen as the worse kind of disloyalty: the kind that lets Trump win. So there is very little for them to gain from standing, and a lot to lose. They will bide their time and wait for 2028 (or 2032, etc) That would give them a much greater chance of success.

As for "Democratic": well there will be more than one candidate in the General Election. Primary elections are an odd feature of US politics. Nobody in France would expect to hold elections to decide who the En Marche Candidate. Nobody in the UK would expect the Leader of the Conservative Party to be selected by non-members.

  • I understand why candidates may be rare but the observation seems to be that the one athlete with the head start isn't cheered on a lot currently. Therefore the question if there are polls about to whom the crowd cheers really go to. In other words, from the people you mentioned (Harris, Buttigieg, Shapiro, Polis) or others but except Biden who would currently be the most favorite for US president with Democrats. Are there any polls about that? Mar 6 at 22:31
  • 3
    There was Democrats running. You can find their poll numbers. This isn't uncommon; Trump had the same advantage in his primary when he was the incumbent.
    – bharring
    Mar 7 at 0:23
  • @NoDataDumpNoContribution I think the only realistic way for an alternative candidate would have been if Biden had made a clear statement that he was not going to run again. There were calls for him to do that both because he is quite old and because he is rather unpopular but it didn't happen.
    – quarague
    Mar 7 at 9:23
  • According to Wikipedia, Biden's main opponent is "Uncommitted", which has received 5.0% of the popular vote and 1.2% of the delegates. The other competitors are Marianne Williamson (3.2% of the popular vote, but no delegates), and Jason Palmer (who won the American Samoa caucus). Biden has an overwhelming lead (85.5% of popular vote, 98.6% of delegates), but he's technically not running unopposed.
    – dan04
    Mar 8 at 18:00

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