Democratic governors riding high on election results as 2024 looms

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NEW ORLEANS – As Democratic governors flocked to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel here for their annual winter meeting this week, the city’s reputation as a bacchanalia felt especially appropriate.

The chief executives were celebrating a recent string of victories across the nation – sweeping gubernatorial control in three states and fending off Republican challengers in key battlegrounds such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

A group of women in festive attire – bands of bells and flashing lights, sparkly dresses and red and green sweaters – asked New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (R) poses for a photo as he walks out of the elevator bank. Democratic Governors Association staff rearranged the schedule at the last minute to attend a party for governors and attendees to watch the United States take on the Netherlands in the first round of the World Cup knockout stage.

And on Saturday night, governors had plans to take part in a second-line parade during a blowout party at the Derbès mansion in which a six-piece band, more than 700 people were present – including staff, donors and lobbyists – and Mardi Gras beads made with DGA. pendant

The only pause, it seems, came when a handful of governors were asked at a news conference Friday afternoon who among their cadre would be the next Democratic president. The group laughed when Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro (D-Pa.) pushed Gov. Roy Cooper (DN.C.) in front of the lecture, and the Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.) pantomimed sneaking offstage right. .

“Joe Biden,” Cooper said as the tittering subsided. “Do.”

The tableau underscored the dynamics in the Democratic Party following their better-than-expected showing in November’s midterm elections. For months, donors and party operatives have worried quietly — and then publicly — whether President Biden should seek a second term, and whether there was a strong enough Democratic bench ready to take over if he steps aside and if it goes sideways.

But Biden’s current plan to run for re-election in 2024 – when he will be 82 years old – has been postponed The political ambitions of the future “generation of leaders” that candidate Biden promised to be a “bridge”. Nowhere is that more evident than among the top re-elected and newly elected Democratic governors, many of whom have succeeded Biden in states critical to winning the White House.

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“The bench is here, in my opinion,” said Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) in an interview because he resolutely rejected the idea that he would run for president himself. “I mean, there’s something to be said for executive branch experience. And it’s not just the politics of running the government. I think there are a lot of good people in our party who are governors.”

No Democratic governor has said they plan to challenge Biden should he seek reelection, as many fully expect. Instead, the governors — even the most ambitious — are pledging both publicly and privately to be full supporters of the Biden 2024 campaign.

At the same time, at least a half-dozen governors would seriously consider launching a presidential bid if Biden changes his mind — and some of the more prominent governors aren’t shy about expanding their donor base and looking for excuses to travel to key states presidential, according to conversations with more than two dozen governors, aides, donors and lobbyists at the meetings here. Vice President Harris, they say, would be far from a clear path to the nomination if Biden doesn’t run — and Democrats are expecting a crowded primary if Biden fizzles out.

Whitmer, fresh off a dominant re-election, attracted considerable buzz in New Orleans. Early Friday afternoon, as Whitmer whizzed by the hotel bar with his police detail, one labor leader leaned over and asked a fellow attendee if New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) had just passed them. When told it was Whitmer, he said, “I love her.”

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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D), the new chairman of the DGA who also heads the National Governors Association, was seen dining Friday night at the Herbsaint restaurant with his wife, top aides and James Carville, chief strategist of Bill Clinton’s 1992 Presidency. campaign. Murphy used his work at the DGA and NGA, as well as his PAC — chaired by his wife — to travel the country and continue to cultivate political relationships.

North Carolina Gov. is also considered. Roy Cooper (D), outgoing DGA chairman, as a possible presidential candidate. He is now serving his second term in a state that last elected a Democratic president in 2008 when it narrowly elected Barack Obama, and on Saturday morning, he played the role of elder statesman, moderating a breakfast panel of governors newly elected.

Democrats were also excited about the group’s new faces: Maryland Gov.-elect Wes Moore (D) — an Army veteran and Rhodes Scholar set to become his state’s first Black governor — and Shapiro impressed Democrats in private meetings. And while Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healy (D) – a lesbian group to become her state’s first female governor – has not traveled to New Orleans, party operatives have tapped her as a possible future leader.

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Then there are those who didn’t make the trip: California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who has branded his national profile as a vocal critic of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and other MAGA Republicans. Gov. Illinois JB Pritzker (D), whose personal fortune would allow him to quickly mount a presidential campaign, traveled to New Hampshire in June amid speculation of his presidential aspirations. And Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D), who was re-elected by just 19 points with an economic-oriented message, also jumped in a crowded primary.

The only disappointment for Democratic governors in the November elections was in Nevada, where Republican challenger Joe Lombardo defeated Democrat Steve Sisolak.

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As the governors and governors-elect discussed their successful campaigns, they all also previewed messages that could easily serve as stump speeches on a national stage.

“We’ve provided solutions, and that’s what the American people deserve,” Whitmer said during a news conference Friday afternoon. “They know that election denial does not help them pay their bills. They know it won’t be any easier for conspiracy theorists to put food on the table or gas in the car.”

In an interview, Shapiro cited Whitmer as one of the Democratic governors wanting “big things.”

“I’ve always been a believer that we need to stop looking to D.C. for all the answers and start looking to the states,” Shapiro said. “So it’s an exciting time to be governor, and I think we have a deep bench and we’re going to do good things together.”

And during the news conference, Moore offered a slightly different version of his original story, explaining that “one of the earliest memories I have in my life is when I was three years old, and I watched my father dying in front of me” because he did not have enough health care.

“Or being that 11-year-old kid who had handcuffs on his wrists because we grew up in over-policed ​​communities,” Moore continued. “Or being the person who – it wasn’t until I was 14 that my mother got her first job that paid her benefits.”

In an interview Saturday morning, Whitmer said her party could learn lessons from recent gubernatorial campaigns.

“Democratic governors have been very successful in midterms where everybody, you know, expected terrible results. And I think because we deliver, we want to get things done,” she said. “You know, inciting anger is a loser, getting things done is a winner and I think Democratic governors for the most part represent what people want and want to see out of government.”

Evers, her neighbor to the west in Wisconsin, summed up the mood of the conference: “It’s a good time for Democratic governors.”

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