- Two ex-Sanders advisors have quietly pushed for Rep. Ro Khanna to launch a 2024 presidential bid if Biden doesn’t run.
- Per a Politico report, Jeff Weaver and Mark Longabaugh have thrown out the idea to Khanna.
- Khanna, a progressive Democrat, told the news outlet that he fully supports Biden’s 2024 plans.
Top aides from Sen. Bernie Sanders’ former presidential campaign are privately pressing Rep. Ro Khanna to launch a presidential bid in 2024 if President Joe Biden declines to mount a reelection bid, according to Politico.
In promoting the progressive California Democrat, the figures from the Sanders camp are seeking to influence the future of the party as its liberal wing has become more ascendant in Congress and in local positions across the country, from mayors to district attorneys.
Jeff Weaver, who managed Sanders’ presidential campaign during the Vermont independent’s first White House bid in 2016 and served as a senior advisor in the senator’s second campaign in 2020, along with 2016 consultant Mark Longabaugh, have both asked Khanna to consider running in the event that Biden opts out of what is expected to be a bruising campaign.
Former President Donald Trump — who lost to Biden in the 2020 election — has been angling to launch a third White House campaign, but has not officially declared his candidacy, which has effectively frozen the field of likely GOP contenders.
And Democrats have been tight-lipped about a potential open seat, especially given Biden’s indication that he fully intends to run in 2024 with Vice President Kamala Harris as his ticketmate once again. Harris, who also hails from California and served as the state’s junior senator from 2017 to 2021, had been long thought of as Biden’s heir apparent in 2024 or 2028, but her rocky start to the vice presidency made some party members take a wait-and-see approach while looking at other candidates who could assemble a coalition needed to win a national election.
Biden’s numbers have been largely stagnant since the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan last year, although recent polling has indicated a bump in support for the president, fueled by his handling of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
However, the former Sanders staffers remain committed to cultivating a next-generation leader who could take over the reins of what the Vermont senator started in his unsuccessful presidential bids.
Longabaugh sang Khanna’s praises as a lawmaker who could connect with ordinary Americans, but reiterated that he was only promoting a 2024 candidacy if Biden chose not to run for reelection.
“I think Ro would be a very effective candidate,” he told Politico. “This guy has a message that’s very powerful. … Ro is basically saying, ‘Is there a way in which we can reconstruct the economy so that all of the wealth is not just being generated on the East Coast, West Coast, or out of my congressional district?'”
Khanna told The Washington Post last November that Biden should expect strong backing from progressives in 2024.
“President Biden will enjoy strong support from many progressives when he runs for reelection,” he told the newspaper. “He will certainly have mine.”
In a recent interview with Politico, Khanna dismissed talk of a 2024 campaign, but did not rule out a 2028 race.
“I’m not running in 2024,” he told the outlet. “I fully expect the president to run and intend to support him strongly. If for some reason he didn’t, that would be very disappointing, but there are a number of other candidates who I think I could get behind who would make sure that the Democrats beat Donald Trump.”
The congressman — who represents the Silicon Valley-anchored 17th congressional district that includes Cupertino, Santa Clara, and parts of San Jose — added that “after the ’24 cycle will be a time where America will start to look to the future.”
‘The next generation of progressive leadership in America’
While serving as a national cochair of Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, Khanna spent a good deal of time in early-voting states, likely gaining invaluable contacts along the way.
In February, he released the book “Dignity in the Digital Age: Making Tech Work for All of Us,” holding virtual and in-person events to promote the publication, which outlined his vision for tackling the country’s technological divide.
In a recent interview, Democratic consultant Joe Caiazzo told Politico that Khanna represents the future of the party’s left-flank.
“It’s crystal-clear that Ro Khanna is a part of the next generation of progressive leadership in America,” he told the outlet.
Khanna, who attended the University of Chicago and Yale Law School and describes himself as a “progressive capitalist,” wants to see the US economy buttressed by tech jobs in Middle America.
Weaver said that Sanders would likely start a presidential bid with the strong backing of many progressives, who have long yearned for concrete action on issues ranging from student-loan debt to climate change, only to see more conservative Democrats stymie many of the party’s boldest initiatives like the Build Back Better Act. He also reiterated that his comments about a 2024 Khanna campaign are only applicable if Biden declines to run for a second term.
“I think he would have tremendous appeal among people who supported Bernie. I do, absolutely, 100 percent,” Weaver said to Politico regarding Khanna. “He has a thoughtful take on the economy, which I think a lot of working-class people that Democrats have had difficulty reaching would hear.”