SOUTH BEND – In a recent Washington Post analysis of the top 10 prospects for the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is ranked second.
Of special interest in the evaluations written by Post political reporter Aaron Blake is Buttigieg moving up from a prior analysis to be listed ahead of Vice President Kamala Harris, now No. 3. No. 1 of course is President Joe Biden. The incumbent president almost certainly wouldn’t be turned away by his own party if he seeks reelection.
Why was Harris dropped down a slot, with Buttigieg moving ahead of her? Because “it’s not at all clear” that Harris is using the vice presidency effectively as a launchpad and “she’s done little to change the perceptions that harmed her 2020 (presidential) campaign,” including messaging problems.
Because Buttigieg, who ran so impressively in ’20 with a background as South Bend mayor, would in ’24 have “more heft” as a Cabinet member, secretary of transportation.
The move of Buttigieg ahead of Harris was described as “not with any great conviction on our part.” But there also was this observation: “To the extent people don’t want Biden or Harris, he’s next in line just in terms of sheer plausibility.”
Well, I do hear from people who don’t want Biden. Also from people who don’t want Donald Trump as the Republican nominee. They just can’t believe that the 2024 presidential race could be a rematch. Believe! Not that it’s a sure thing, but that it’s quite possible.
It seems almost certain that Trump will run. Why wouldn’t he? With his solid base, the Republican nomination is his for the asking. Democrats are sinking in the polls, enhancing his chances. And he would love to reclaim the presidency to wipe away the ego-shattering “loser” stigma from the 2020 defeat he still pretends to have never happened. He could again command the attention of the world and get revenge on Republicans who wouldn’t fight to change the election results and Democrats he regards as mortal enemies.
On the Democratic side, who would have a better chance than the incumbent president? Maybe it’s somebody on the Washington Post list. And maybe not.
Biden was the only potential Democratic nominee last time who could have defeated Trump. The same could be true next time. While Fox News portrays any rambling by Biden as a sign he’s losing it, would he again come across as more stable, reasonable and likeable in a direct comparison with the rambling Trump?
Maybe Democrats will get their act together and fight to prevent another Trump term rather than fighting each other after they are trounced in the congressional elections this fall.
Some of those who can’t believe Trump will run again also once couldn’t believe he ever would be president. Some of those who can’t believe Biden will run for reelection also once couldn’t believe he ever would be the Democratic nominee.
Wishful thinking is involved. Some Republicans wish Trump would go away and their party would return to more traditional conservative principles and be less divisive. Some Democrats wish for a more progressive president who somehow could bring about another New Deal. That top 10 list of Democratic prospects offers quite a variety.
Included are No. !0, New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; No. 9, California Gov. Gavin Newsom; No. 8, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey; No. 7, Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio; No. 6, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper; No. 5, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; No. 4, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Then come Harris, Buttigieg and Biden.
It probably will be Biden. But if he doesn’t run, all the others on the list and quite a few more will be in a wild scramble for the nomination.  

Colwell is a columnist for the South Bend Tribune.