Chimney Sweep

Who’s operating for president of the US in 2024? This is your information to the candidates

The 2024 US presidential election race is well and truly underway.

President Joe Biden is seeking re-election and has the backing of his party establishment, leaving him in a strong position to ward off rival Democrats who might believe they’re better placed than the 80-year-old incumbent to take on an energised Republican Party.

On the other side, former president Donald Trump’s early announcement and diehard supporters have propelled him to the top of the GOP list, but there’s a host of potential rivals, such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, seeking to break his stranglehold on the party base.

Here’s who’s seeking the White House, who’s already bowed out, and who might yet surprise us in the lead-up to the 2024 US presidential election.

Declared: Donald Trump

Former US president Donald Trump during a campaign event at the South Carolina Statehouse on Saturday, January 28, 2023.()

Background: Former president of the United States, real estate mogul, former reality TV host

Home state: Florida/New York

Age on election day 2024: 78

Former president, reality TV star and real estate mogul Donald Trump is seeking to return to the White House after being defeated in 2020 by Joe Biden after a single term.

Mr Trump’s presidency alienated many Americans but energised and transformed the Republican base. His four years in office were marked by a return to a more protectionist trade policy, a shunning of traditional diplomacy in favour of personal relationships with world leaders, and the installation of a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

They also saw a hollowing out of the public service, an abandonment of the democratic and ethical norms surrounding the presidency, and a reliance on “acting” officials to fill cabinet-level positions for increasingly long periods of time.

After refusing to accept the result of the 2020 election, culminating in the January 6 riot at the US Capitol, Mr Trump became the first president in history to be impeached twice, although he was acquitted both times in the Senate.

He has since been indicted on a wide range of criminal charges, relating to a 2016 hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, his alleged storage of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, his alleged attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, and his alleged attempts to pressure public officials to overturn the results in Georgia specifically. He was also found liable by a jury for sexually abusing advice columnist E Jean Carroll in the mid-90s.

Far from sinking his campaign, his legal woes seem to have propelled him to a massive lead over his primary rivals, making him the clear frontrunner for the GOP once again.

Declared: Ron DeSantis

A middle-aged man with brown hair in a blue suit gestures emphatically while speaking behind a lectern outside. Florida governor Ron DeSantis speaks after being sworn in for his second term outside the Old Capitol in Tallahassee, Florida, on January 3, 2023.()

Background: Governor of Florida, former congressman, former military lawyer

Home state: Florida

Age on election day 2024: 46

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis staked out his position as Mr Trump’s biggest political threat in 2022 with a huge electoral win at home, trouncing Democrat Charlie Crist by 15 points and further reddening what was once considered a swing state.

He quickly became the go-to candidate for those hardcore conservatives who were ready to move on from Mr Trump, having achieved right-wing policy wins in Florida while also showing a flair for the kind of culture-war skirmishes that animate the GOP base (think inquiries into trans health services and legal battles with “woke” Disney).

Supporters cited his ability to pick his battles better than the former president, hoping he could essentially offer the same policies and fighting spirit in a younger, less abrasive package — the elusive “Trumpism without Trump”.

Mr DeSantis’s much-hyped White House run, however, got off to a rocky start, beginning with a campaign announcement hosted on Elon Musk’s Twitter that was marred by technical glitches.

He’s since struggled to connect with voters, robbing him of vital momentum needed to catch up with Mr Trump’s substantial polling lead and leading him to replace his campaign manager in August.

The governor is travelling the country and playing up his successes by calling Florida a “blueprint for the nation”, and is beginning to test the waters with increasingly direct jabs at Mr Trump.

But the question remains whether he has what it takes to win a head-to-head contest with his fellow Floridian, who has the air of incumbency and doesn’t play by the rules when it comes to taking on political rivals.

Declared: Vivek Ramaswamy

A young man of Indian descent in a blue suit gestures as he speaks under a bright light in a crowded room. Vivek Ramaswamy speaks to reporters at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2023, on Friday, March 3, 2023 at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, United States.()

Background: Biotech entrepreneur, author, political activist

Home state: New York/Ohio

Age on election day 2024: 39

Dubbed the “CEO of Anti-Woke, Inc.” by The New Yorker, Vivek Ramaswamy announced his candidacy for president on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show ahead of the 2023 CPAC conference.

Already a successful businessman in the asset management and biotechnology sectors, Mr Ramaswamy has forged a second career as a conservative activist and author since 2020, focusing on opposing ESG investing (environmental social and governance) as well as the broader social justice, diversity and environmental movements.

The son of Indian immigrants, his platform includes shutting down the FBI and the federal Department of Education, “declaring independence” from China, and using military drones to eliminate Mexican drug cartels.

It’s an approach to presidential politics he openly credits to Mr Trump.

“I think I’m best positioned to advance our America First agenda, take it even further than Trump did, but also unite the country in the process,” Mr Ramaswamy told public broadcaster PBS.

At 39 on election day, he would be the youngest president ever elected.

Fun fact: He once moonlighted as a rapper named Da Vek while studying at Harvard, telling student newspaper The Crimson his life’s theme song was Eminem’s Lose Yourself.

Eminem has since asked Ramaswamy to stop using his music on the campaign trail.

Declared: Mike Pence

An older white man with bright white hair speaks into a microphone while seated. Former vice-president Mike Pence speaks to students at Georgetown University in Washington on Wednesday, October 19, 2022.()

Background: Former vice-president of the United States, former governor of Indiana, former congressman

Home state: Indiana

Age on election day 2024: 65

After four years serving as a quiet, faithful vice-president to Mr Trump, Mike Pence adhered to convention and oversaw the certification of the 2020 US election result, ensuring Mr Trump’s presidency came to an end and avoiding a constitutional crisis.

He has strongly defended his actions in doing so, but has otherwise largely avoided criticising his former boss’s time in the White House, suggesting he is keen to avoid alienating Mr Trump’s base as he makes his own White House run.

“I’m persuaded that no one could have defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 except Donald Trump, but I think we live in a different time and it calls for different leadership,” he told the Associated Press in the lead-up to his declaration.

On paper, a staunchly conservative former VP with evangelical bona fides should be a strong candidate in a GOP primary, with high name recognition and the credibility needed to bring together a broad right-wing coalition.

In reality, hardcore Trump supporters could be heard chanting “Hang Mike Pence” during the Capitol riot, and even his supporters acknowledge his political instincts are lacking.

His position on abortion — he wants to make it not just illegal but “unthinkable” in all circumstances — is popular with large parts of his party but will be a tough sell in a general election, with a post-Roe America still grappling with the consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision to return the issue to the states.

Declared: Tim Scott

A middle-aged, bald black man in a suit speaks in front of an American flag. US senator Tim Scott speaks during a news conference about inflation on February 16, 2022.()

Background: Senator for South Carolina, former congressman, former state representative, insurance agent

Home state: South Carolina

Age on election day 2024: 59

South Carolina senator Tim Scott’s formal announcement ended a months-long testing of the waters that included a “listening tour” with stops in Iowa and the establishment of an exploratory committee in April.

Popular with his constituents and colleagues, Senator Scott’s early rhetoric has been different from that of his fellow Republican candidates, telling supporters they can choose “victimhood or victory”, and emphasising that the party’s nominee should be able to display “compassion for people who don’t agree with us”.

As the GOP’s only black senator, as well as a self-made businessman who grew up poor in a single-parent household, he already has a significant national profile with a compelling story to boot.

He’s backed it up with significant spending in early primary states, launching some of the largest ad buys yet in Iowa and New Hampshire to run across both broadcast and digital platforms.

He entered the race with more cash on hand than any other presidential candidate in US history, due to a leftover $US22 million ($33 million) from his 2022 Senate campaign.

Declared: Nikki Haley

A middle-aged woman with long dark hair speaks in front of a giant American flag. Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley speaks during a town hall campaign event at Ankeny, Iowa on Wednesday, May 17, 2023.()

Background: Former ambassador to the United Nations, former South Carolina governor

Home state: South Carolina

Age on election day 2024: 52

A former South Carolina governor and Mr Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley announced her run for the presidency via a video on Twitter emphasising her determination to fight back against bullies.

The daughter of Indian immigrants, she became her home state’s first female and first non-white governor in 2010 at the age of 38.

Ms Haley kept her head down during the Trump years and exited the administration in 2018 with her reputation relatively intact, but there’s no indication her time working for the 45th president won her the favour of any of his supporters.

The fact that she had previously said she wouldn’t run against her former boss in 2024 is also unlikely to help in that respect.

On the issues, Ms Haley is a frequent critic of China, a supporter of the death penalty, and has attacked Florida Governor Ron DeSantis from the right on social issues.

But it’s how she navigates the waters of her relationship with Mr Trump that could well determine the success, or otherwise, of her campaign.

Declared: Doug Burgum

An older white man with glasses and an angular face claps on stage in front of a red and white backdrop. North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum speaks to delegates at the Republican State Convention in Grand Forks, North Dakota, on April 7, 2018.()

Background: Governor of North Dakota, former software executive, former chimney sweep

Home state: North Dakota

Age on election day 2024: 68

An outlier in the Republican field, North Dakota governor Doug Burgum is known more for his earnest policy positions than for battling Democrats.

The former software executive runs a deep red state but has flirted with moderate positions during his time in office, including labelling the 2020 party platform “divisive” when it came to LGBT issues.

However, he hasn’t hesitated to sign conservative bills into a law, including a number of anti-trans bills and a near-total abortion ban.

Mr Burgum makes no secret of the fact that he prefers to focus on energy policy, including his goal for North Dakota to become carbon-neutral by 2030 (albeit through carbon capture and storage, with continuing subsidies for the fossil-fuel industry).

Prior to announcing his candidacy in the Wall Street Journal, Mr Burgum shared a video highlighting his rise from a small town boy to a self-made entrepreneur, and a governor who has cut red tape and taxes.

He’s also well aware that his low profile outside his state makes his 2024 run a long shot, telling an interviewer: “There’s a value to being underestimated all the time.”

It puts into perspective the efforts he took to make it onto the first debate stage, appearing without painkillers despite tearing his Achilles tendon the day before, and achieving the debate’s 40,000-donor threshold in part by offering people $US20 gift cards in exchange for $US1 donations.

Declared: Chris Christie

A heavy, middle-aged man with greying hair and wearing a suit speaks in front of a sandstone building. Republican presidential candidate and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie speaks with reporters in Kyiv, Ukraine on August 4, 2023.()

Background: Registered lobbyist, former governor of New Jersey, former US attorney

Home state: New Jersey

Age on election day 2024: 62

Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie was once considered the poster boy for loud, aggressive Republicans — until Donald Trump came along.

Ideologically a moderate, Mr Christie was happy for his governorship to be defined by heated verbal arguments with voters and political clashes with the Obama administration.

But it ended in scandal after he was implicated in the “Bridgegate” saga, in which several people close to him were found to have purposefully closed lanes to cause traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge as retribution against a Democratic mayor.

Mr Christie last ran for president in 2016, making some waves in early debates before bowing out after a lacklustre showing in New Hampshire. He then briefly led the Trump presidential transition team before being pushed out by Mr Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

He’s now casting himself as the only person with the guts to take on Mr Trump directly, launching his campaign with a flurry of personal attacks on the former president, who he described as a “lonely, self-consumed, self-serving mirror hog”.

“We can’t dismiss the question of character anymore, everybody. If we do, we get what we deserve, and we will have to own it,” he said.

Mr Christie criticised the loyalty pledge candidates were required to sign before they could appear on the first debate stage, which committed them to supporting the party’s eventual nominee in the general election.

He’s made it clear he won’t be supporting Mr Trump in a general election — but said he did what he needed to do to get onstage.

Declared: Asa Hutchinson

An older white man with thin white hair wears a blue suit. Former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson speaks during an interview with the Associated Press on December 13, 2022.()

Background: Former governor of Arkansas, former DEA administrator

Home state: Arkansas

Age on election day 2024: 73

Asa Hutchinson says he is running for president because he is convinced Americans want leaders that “appeal to the best of America, and not simply appeal to our worst instincts”.

He served two terms as Arkansas’s governor from 2015 to 2023, winning his second term in a landslide with more than 65 per cent of the vote.

Prior to that he spent time in the George W Bush administration, firstly as the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration and secondly handling border security in the then fledgling Department of Homeland Security.

Mr Hutchinson left the governor’s office with a conservative record, but has shown a willingness to split with his party on occasional issues in the past — including vetoing a bill that would have banned gender-affirming medication for minors (a veto his party later overrode), and praising the Biden administration’s “depoliticising” of the government’s COVID response.

More recently, he’s said Donald Trump should drop out of the race following his criminal indictment in the state of New York.

Mr Trump, for his part, calls Mr Hutchinson “Ada Hutchinson” — “because of certain reasons or others”.

Declared: Larry Elder

A middle-aged black man in a suit holds a microphone as he speaks at a public event. Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder speaks after the polls close on the recall election in Costa Mesa, California, United States on September 14, 2021.()

Background: Conservative radio host, California gubernatorial candidate, lawyer

Home state: California

Age on election day 2024: 72

Talk radio personality Larry Elder is a relative political novice, despite having built himself into a national brand in conservative media since he first began hosting The Larry Elder Show in 1993.

The former attorney ran his first political campaign in 2021, when he took on Gavin Newsom in a recall election effort that the blue-state Democrat won easily.

Mr Elder is, like many others on this list, a staunch right-winger — opposing minimum wage laws, environmental legislation and the Black Lives Matter movement, and supporting school choice programs and physical barriers along the border with Mexico.

He announced his candidacy for the presidency on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program, telling the TV host his decision was in part motivated by the fact he’s the only member of his family who hasn’t served in the military.

Mr Elder said he had met the criteria required to attend the first Republican primary debate, but organisers disagreed — prompting him to declare he would sue the Republican National Committee.

Declared: Will Hurd

A middle-aged black man in a suit with glasses speaks while seated in front of an intricate wooden backdrop. US Representative Will Hurd questions witnesses during a House Intelligence Committee impeachment inquiry hearing in Washington, DC, on November 21, 2019.()

Background: Congressman, cybersecurity consultant, former CIA agent

Home state: Texas

Age on election day 2024: 47

A self-acknowledged “dark horse candidate“, Texas congressman Will Hurd sticks out from the Republican field in more ways than one.

The 47-year-old moderate was a CIA operative for nine years in the 2000s, spending time mostly in Washington but also serving in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

He represents a nearly 70 per cent Latino district which runs for 820 miles (1,319 kilometres) along the Texas-Mexico border, which has elevated his voice as he has called for a calmer, solutions-based approach to the country’s border issues.

He has also called Mr Trump a “lawless, selfish, failed politician … who lost the House, the Senate and the White House”.

“If Donald Trump is leading in the polls, and he’s your opponent, then kissing his butt is not going to help you win,” he told his fellow GOP candidates in August.

Along with Chris Christie, Mr Hurd spoke out against the Republican Party’s requirement for candidates to sign a loyalty pledge to support the eventual nominee before they were granted access to the first primary debate stage.

Declared: Ryan Binkley

A middle-aged white man with dark hair and wearing a blue suit points as he speaks behind a lectern in front of a blue curtain. Republican presidential candidate Ryan Binkley speaks at the Republican Party of Iowa’s Lincoln Day Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, on July 28, 2023.()

Background: Pastor, businessman

Home state: Texas

Age on election day 2024: 56

Ryan Binkley is aiming high with his first political campaign.

The Dallas businessman and non-denominational pastor is bringing an overtly religious message to the campaign trail, promising a country that is “strong, unified and reconciled to God and each other”.

He’s focusing his message on Iowa, where he recently landed a coveted speaking slot at the state party’s Lincoln Dinner.

Mr Binkley is campaigning on immigration reform, reducing the national debt, urban education, and — in a sign of how prominent the issue has become in conservative circles as much as liberal ones — taking on the pharmaceutical industry.

But despite already having invested more than $US1.7 million ($2.64 million) into his own campaign, he’s failing to show up in most early polls — if he’s included at all.

Declared: Perry Johnson

An older man with dyed hair in a blue suit walks onto the stage at CPAC. Perry Johnson enters the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland on March 2, 2023.()

Background: Businessman, author, Michigan gubernatorial candidate

Home state: Michigan

Age on election day 2024: 76

A businessman known primarily for his work in quality control, Perry Johnson announced his 2024 presidential bid during conservative gala CPAC, where he came in third in a straw poll behind former president Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

His previous attempt to run for office didn’t go so smoothly, having been disqualified from Michigan’s 2022 governor’s race once fraudulent signatures were found on his nominating petition.

An avid bridge player, Mr Johnson lists among his accomplishments five National Bridge Championships and an eighth-place finish in the 1998 World Championship in Lille, France.

Like Larry Elder and Miami mayor Francis Suarez, Mr Johnson said he had met the criteria required to attend the first Republican primary debate — but organisers disagreed.

Possible: Kristi Noem

A middle-aged white woman with long dark hair and blonde highlights speaks behind a lectern in front of a bright background. South Dakota governor Kristi Noem speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, on February 25, 2022.()

Background: Governor of South Dakota, former congresswoman, farmer

Home state: South Dakota

Age on election day 2024: 52

South Dakota governor Kristi Noem is increasingly becoming part of the conversation when it comes to the 2024 Republican field.

The 51-year-old second-term governor connects well with her party’s base, telling the story of how she had to leave college early as a young woman after her father died in a farm accident.

Ms Noem earned a reputation as a Trump loyalist during his time in office, and has been spoken about as a possible running mate.

However, she has stood up to the former president on occasion, notably calling out his trade war with China for “devastating” her state’s economy — not to mention denying him a spot on Mount Rushmore.

When asked in early 2023 if she had considered running for president, she said she’s “not convinced she needs to”.

Possible: John Bolton

An older white man with white hair, glasses and a prominent mustache rests his chin on his hand. US national security advisor John Bolton during a visit to London on August 12, 2019.()

Background: Former national security adviser, former ambassador to the United Nations, former Fox News commentator

Home state: Maryland

Age on election day 2024: 75

A well-known foreign policy hawk, John Bolton cut his teeth during the Reagan administration before being appointed as an undersecretary of state and then ambassador to the United Nations by George W Bush.

A committed advocate for the war in Iraq, he was later an uncomfortable presence in the Trump White House during his year-long tenure as national security adviser, and has spoken openly of his alarm at Mr Trump’s haphazard approach to foreign policy in the years since.

He says he’s seriously considering challenging the former president, calling Mr Trump’s 2024 campaign “poison” for the GOP.

A debate clash between Mr Trump and Mr Bolton would be something to witness. Mr Trump could barely hide his disdain for Mr Bolton when they were working together, and reportedly told advisers “the moustache is a problem” when considering him for a cabinet post early in his presidency.

Declared: Joe Biden

Joe Biden gestures with his thumbs at a lectern in front of a large American flag. US President Joe Biden delivers the 2023 State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.()

Background: President of the United States, former vice-president of the United States, former senator for Delaware

Home state: Delaware

Age on election day 2024: 81 

The incumbent president has formally declared his intention to seek a second term, accompanied once again by Vice-President Kamala Harris as his running mate.

A senator for 36 years before becoming Barack Obama’s vice-president in 2009, Mr Biden has so far had mixed success when it comes to implementing his first-term agenda.

However, he’s fallen short when it comes to protecting voting rights and following through on other major campaign promises, such as raising the minimum wage.

Mr Biden’s age — and how he navigates it as an issue — will also play a significant factor in whether or not he can pull off a successful re-election campaign.

Already the oldest president in history at 80, he’ll be 82 by the beginning of his second term, and will have to convince voters he’s fit to serve up until he leaves the White House at 86.

Declared: Robert F Kennedy Jr

An older, cleanshaven white man in a grey suit waves with his right hand in front of some green trees. Robert F Kennedy Jr, nephew of former US president John F Kennedy, waves as he attends a demonstration against COVID-19 vaccines in Mmilan, Italy on November 13, 2021.()

Background: Environmental lawyer, anti-vaccine activist, author

Home state: New York/Massachusetts

Age on election day 2024: 70

Robert F Kennedy Jr, the son of popular former senator and 1968 presidential candidate Robert “Bobby” Kennedy, will contest the 2024 primary as a Democrat.

An environmental lawyer by trade, Mr Kennedy is more widely known as an outspoken conspiracy theorist and anti-vaccine campaigner dating back to well before the COVID-19 pandemic.

His most recent book offering is The Real Anthony Fauci, in which he argues Dr Fauci, the scientist who spearheaded America’s pandemic response, worked “in tandem with his long-term partner, billionaire Bill Gates” to suppress hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin as COVID treatments in favour of vaccines.

In response, Dr Fauci called Mr Kennedy “a very disturbed individual”.

Mr Kennedy’s anti-vaccine statements have elicited strong rebukes from other members of the Kennedy family in the past — as well as from his wife Cheryl Hines, an actress on Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm.

He’s nevertheless managed to pull together a number of notable endorsements, including from Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, and recorded double-digit showings in early polls that will irritate Democrats who believe the party needs to quickly unite behind Mr Biden.

Declared: Marianne Williamson

A slim, older woman with long brown hair in a grey suit speaks into a microphone in front of a blue and pink backdrop. Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson speaks at the Faith, Politics and the Common Good Forum at Franklin Jr High school in Des Moines, Iowa, on January 9, 2020.()

Background: Self-help author, spiritual and progressive activist

Home state: California/Texas

Age on election day 2024: 72

Self-help author Marianne Williamson was the first notable Democrat to challenge Mr Biden for the party’s nod in 2024.

Once known as “Oprah’s spiritual adviser” due to her frequent appearances on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show, Ms Williamson has backed progressive causes throughout her career, including anti-poverty campaigns, support for HIV/AIDS charities and the establishment of a US Department of Peace.

But she’s perhaps most well-known for her unsuccessful run for the Democratic nomination in 2020, during which she initially polled high enough to be included in the first round of primary debates.

Her campaign was short-lived, but still made headlines due to her overtly spiritual approach to politics, as she told voters she would “harness love for political purposes” and take on Donald Trump’s “dark psychic force”.

Ms Williamson says she’s challenging Joe Biden because she believes she can “contribute to harnessing the collective sensibility that I feel is our greatest hope at this time”.

Unlikely: Gavin Newsom

A middle-aged man with grey, slicked-back hair and wearing a suit gives a speech outside. California governor Gavin Newsom speaks to victims’ families and local leaders after a mass shooting in Half Moon Bay, California, on January 24, 2023.()

Background: Governor of California, former lieutenant-governor of California, former mayor of San Francisco

Home state: California

Age on election day 2024: 57

As the governor of California and a former mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom has earned a reputation as a slick, ambitious politician, able and willing to change tactics as circumstances require.

Despite a history of personal scandals and a number of recent crises in the Golden State, he’s currently riding high in state polls and handily beat an effort to recall him in 2021.

Mr Newsom has spoken about running for president in the future, but has repeatedly denied he’s running in 2024 — going so far as to say there’s “no one better to lead” than Mr Biden.

A day is a year in politics, though, and his recent eagerness to weigh in on national issues — not to mention his perpetual battle with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis — points to someone who is aware he should at least keep the door open should circumstances change.

Poll-watchers say it’s not a matter of if, but when Mr Newsom runs for president.

Fun fact: He used to be married to Kimberly Guilfoyle, who’s now engaged to Donald Trump Jr.

Unlikely: Gretchen Whitmer

900x600 - Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer speaks about an electric ute at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Michigan, on September 16, 2021. Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer speaks about an electric ute at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Michigan, on September 16, 2021.()

Background: Governor of Michigan, former state senator, former state representative

Home state: Michigan

Age on election day 2024: 53

Outside of being the target of an ill-fated kidnapping attempt, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer isn’t too widely known beyond the borders of the United States.

But as a female, second-term governor with a liberal record who is nevertheless popular in a swing state — and who just soundly defeated a Trump-backed opponent — Ms Whitmer is someone who ticks all the boxes required for a Democrat to mount a formidable primary campaign.

She’s managed to pass a slate of left-leaning legislation in Michigan despite rock-solid Republican opposition, and is beginning to see her national spotlight grow as she pioneers the use of Gen-Z-friendly platforms like TikTok and Twitch to reach younger voters.

The only issue is she’s flatly said she’s backing President Biden — even if she’s keeping her options open in the future.

Unlikely: JB Pritzker

A middle-aged white man with dark hair in a suit stands in front of an American flag. Illinois governor Jay Robert (JB) Pritzker speaks during a science initiative event at the University of Chicago on July 23, 2020.()

Background: Governor of Illinois, former businessman, former political staffer

Home state: Illinois

Age on election day 2024: 59

A member of the wealthy Pritzker family, which owns the Hyatt hotel chain, billionaire Jay Robert “JB” Pritzker was a longtime Democratic donor before winning the party’s nomination for Illinois governor in 2018.

While a billionaire investor might seem an unlikely ally of progressives, the 58-year-old governor has won over the party’s left with a string of policy wins in his state, having legalised recreational cannabis, enacted a $US15 minimum wage, codified access to abortions after the overturning of Roe v Wade and enacted a ban on assault weapons.

He’s also open about his intent to run for higher office one day, and hasn’t hesitated to spend his own money to achieve political goals.

Mr Pritzker was spoken about for some time as the Democrats’ “break glass” option for 2024 if Joe Biden decided not to run. But he’s now strongly endorsed Mr Biden, launching a spirited defence of the incumbent’s decision to seek re-election and taking up a position on the president’s campaign advisory board.

“I don’t think there’s anybody that’s serious that’s actually considered running against Joe Biden because he’s done such a great job,” he said.

Unlikely: Dean Phillips

A middle-aged white man in a suit with light brown hair sits at a wood-panelled bench in front of an American flag. United States Congressman Dean Phillips on September 16, 2020.()

Background: Congressman, businessman

Home state: Minnesota

Age on election day 2024: 55

Citing polling showing most Democratic voters would prefer to field an alternative candidate to Joe Biden, third-term Minnesota congressman Dean Phillips has begun speaking out against the president’s seemingly obstacle-free path to the Democratic nomination.

“Democrats are telling me that they want, not a coronation, but they want a competition,” he told CBS’s Face the Nation in August.

“If we don’t heed that call, shame on us. And the consequences, I believe, are going to be disastrous.”

A former liquor CEO and ideological moderate, Mr Phillips says he’s calling on all qualified candidates to jump into the race.

He’s also met with Democratic donors to discuss his own possible run — although he says his own candidacy is “very unlikely” to be part of the 2024 story.

Unlikely: Pete Buttigieg

A young white man in a dark suit speaks in front of people wearing hi-vis uniforms at a construction site. US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks at a news conference at the construction site of the Hudson Tunnel Project in New York on Tuesday, January 31, 2023.()

Background: Secretary of transportation, former mayor of South Bend, former US Navy Reserve lieutenant

Home state: Indiana

Age on election day 2024: 42

A former mayor of South Bend, Indiana (population 100,000), Pete Buttigieg ran an unexpectedly strong (and just plain unexpected) race for the presidency in 2020 before being chosen to become Mr Biden’s transportation secretary.

Since then, he’s been an effective surrogate for Mr Biden on morning TV and cable news, and a popular presence on the campaign trail for Democrats in the 2022 midterms.

While politically talented, experience nevertheless remains a question for Mr Buttigieg, who’ll be just 42 by the time the election rolls around — although he will have spent four years in Mr Biden’s cabinet since his last campaign.

If elected president, he would be the first openly gay person to hold the office, as well as the youngest president ever elected.

Mr Buttigieg has backed Mr Biden’s re-election campaign, and says “I don’t have any plans to do any job besides the one I’ve got.”

It’s not the most categorical of denials, but it is a sign that a challenge against his boss is very unlikely to happen.

Unlikely: Stacey Abrams

A middle-aged black woman points as she speaks behind a lectern before a blue-tinted backdrop. Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams concedes the 2022 governor’s race in Atlanta on November 8, 2022.()

Background: Former Georgia state minority leader, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate, voting rights activist

Home state: Georgia

Age on election day 2024: 50

Stacey Abrams makes a point of being open about her ambitions, telling interviewers she has a responsibility to show young people of colour they can aim for the top.

She first came to national prominence after outperforming expectations in a tough governor’s race in 2018, and campaigned to be included on Mr Biden’s list of potential running mates in 2020.

The massive voter organisation effort she put together for her own campaign was credited with helping turn Georgia blue in the 2020 presidential and senate elections, as well as helping senator Raphael Warnock fend off a challenge from college football superstar Herschel Walker in 2022.

However, the Georgia governorship has remained just out of reach for Ms Abrams, and leapfrogging it to announce a White House bid could open her to attacks claiming she’s not electable — a difficulty she is already facing as she mulls a third run for the governor’s mansion.

Ms Abrams has made it clear she won’t run for president if Mr Biden is running. But if something causes him to shift course, an outsider bid would be very on-brand.

Green Party: Cornel West

An older black man with a beard and grey frizzy hair gestures as he speaks to the camera in a tastefully lit room. Political activist Cornel West announces his candidacy for the US presidency via social media on June 5, 2023.()

Background: Philosopher, progressive activist

Home state: Oklahoma/New York

Age on election day 2024: 72

One of America’s most prominent public intellectuals, Cornel West launched his third-party presidential bid with a video on Twitter set to jazz music.

“In these bleak times, I have decided to run for truth and justice which takes the form of running for president of the United States as a candidate for the People’s Party,” he said.

A few days later he said he would be seeking the Green Party nomination instead.

The philosopher and activist, called Brother West by his supporters, is just as widely known for his appearances in popular media as for his academic career, which has seen him teach at Harvard, Princeton and Dartmouth universities.

He’s appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher and Joe Rogan’s podcast, released hip-hop albums, and made cameo appearances in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.

Throughout his long career he’s championed progressive causes such as racial justice, ending poverty and mass incarceration, pacifism, and universal healthcare.

Dr West, a Christian who refers to himself as a non-Marxist socialist, has supported left-wing presidential candidates in the past, including Bill Bradley, Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders.

While he doesn’t stand much of a chance at winning the White House, his candidacy will worry Democrats concerned he could siphon votes away Mr Biden, potentially handing the election to the Republicans.

Independent: Joe Manchin?

An older white man with grey hair wearing a suit and tie sits at a bench with a nameplate and speaks into a thin microphone. West Virginia senator Joe Manchin speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Afghanistan on September 28, 2021.

Background: Senator for West Virginia, former governor of West Virginia, coal and real estate broker

Home state: West Virginia

Age on election day 2024: 77

Conservative Democratic senator Joe Manchin, who represents coal-loving West Virginia, has long been a thorn in the side of the progressive wing of his party, using his position to loudly undercut left-wing talking points and stall or sink progressive legislation.

His supporters argue he’s essentially a bonus vote, delivering the Democrats a regular senator from one of the country’s reddest states who can be counted on to vote for majority leaders, judges and the occasional big-ticket item such as the Affordable Care Act.

Forever decrying partisanship and political extremes on both sides of the aisle, he’s now toying with taking things a step further, as he refuses to rule out an independent or third-party bid for the presidency in 2024.

He’s attended several events hosted by No Labels, a non-partisan group chaired by Republican Larry Hogan and former Democrat Joe Lieberman that intends to run a unity ticket as a third option in 2024.

Don’t call him a spoiler candidate, though.

“I’ve never been in any race I’ve ever spoiled. I’ve been in races to win. If I get in the race, I’m gonna win,” he told a town hall in New Hampshire in July.

“I haven’t made a decision,” he quickly added.

Independent: Liz Cheney?

A middle-aged, white blonde woman wearing glasses, a dark suit and pearls speaks on a stage to an interviewer wearing red. Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney speaks during the Anti-Defamation League’s Never is Now summit in New York on November 10, 2022.()

Background: Professor of politics, former congresswoman, former diplomat

Home state: Wyoming

Age on election day 2024: 58

Former Wyoming congresswoman Liz Cheney, the daughter of George W Bush vice-president Dick Cheney, was once considered to have serious street cred in the Republican Party.

That changed in the wake of the January 6 attack, after which she became one of the few Republicans to genuinely stand up to Mr Trump, serving on the commission to investigate the attack and calling out her colleagues for their unwillingness to confront the former president.

Her unwillingness to “go along with President Trump’s lie” cost her her seat in Congress.

Ms Cheney has spoken openly about challenging Mr Trump since then, and has built up a considerable campaign war chest. But she’s acknowledged that if she were to be on the ballot in 2024, it wouldn’t be as a Republican.

She says she’ll make a decision soon. In the meantime, she’s taken on a professorship at the University of Virginia as she mulls things over.

Independent: Larry Hogan?

A bald, heavy-set middle-aged white man in a suit speaks behind a lectern in front of an American flag. Maryland governor Larry Hogan holds a news conference in Annapolis, Maryland, on July 22, 2020.()

Background: Former governor of Maryland, former Maryland secretary of appointments, land broker

Home state: Maryland

Age on election day 2024: 68

Frequent Trump critic Larry Hogan says he has made the “difficult decision” not to run for president as a Republican, citing the need to avoid repeating “the same mistakes that we made in 2016” by splitting the anti-Trump vote.

“It’s better for us to have a smaller field with a strong candidate or two rather than 10 or more people who are failing to get attention, who are all in single digits,” he said.

However, the former Maryland governor said in early September that he has not closed the door on a White House run as a No Labels candidate — the same group courting Democratic senator Joe Manchin.

“I think we should only put together a ticket in the event that it’s Trump and Biden,” he told CBS’s Face the Nation.

“Nobody’s trying to spoil anything. This is about actually receiving a majority of the votes.”

A centrist, Mr Hogan blames Mr Trump’s domination of the Republican Party for its lacklustre results in 2018, 2020 and 2022, when he said the Republicans should have won the Senate.

He says the better way forward is for parties to have a message — and a candidate — that appeals to a wider group of people.

“I think kind of doubling down on the rhetoric just to appeal to the base may backfire in a general election,” he told NPR’s Morning Edition.

His own electoral success is unquestionable, having left office due to term limits with a 77 per cent approval rating — one of the highest in the country for a governor — despite being a Republican running a deeply blue state.

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