By signaling hisintention“To show up once again, Biden stopped anyone but a C-lister from running into him. But the more ambitious players in the party want an insurance plan in case fate or Joe himself knocks him out of the race. And a host of aspiring Democrats know this very well.
The Key to Not Showing Up Running (NRWRR) requires these aspirants to do most of the things a declared candidate does – raise campaign funds; tickle the eye of the media; support other candidates and put them in your political debt; canvass potential campaign staff; and traveling and giving speeches. There is also a list of things such an aspirant cannot do, and these reside in a politically negative space. He cannot criticize the president and must do everything possible to demonstrate his support. He can’t make multiple trips to Iowa or New Hampshire. He cannot be blatant about the constitution of a campaign staff, even a shadow. And he has to vehemently and repeatedly deny that he is running.
California Governor Gavin Newsom, who recently raised his national profile by buying advertising time on Florida TV to criticize the state’s restrictive abortion laws and then send stunt-related fundraising letters, running as our top presidential candidate NRWRR. “I have sub-zero interest,” he recently told the San Francisco Chronicle Editorial Committee on running for president, using the negative to imply the positive in the age-old tradition of NRWRR. “It’s not even on my radar.”
An NRWRR candidate must also claim that the veep is the rightful heir if he belongs to his party. Newsom spilled a healthy cream cheese schmear on that bagel, explicitly saying that Harris should take over from Biden. The deception goes both ways because no one, including Harris, believes him. He also placed himself at the forefront of the NRWRR by leading the party over its signing issues, trumpeting the news of his condition gun regulations and right to abortion legislation, and scrambled to tear up the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion.
A shoe to win re-election as governor in November, Newsom will then be time-limited, leaving only one post suitable for his ambition. (Going from California governor to U.S. senator is a demotion.) Newsom has about $25 million in his campaign war chest at present. He doesn’t need to spend it all on his coast to be re-elected. What seed money for a presidential race in 2024.
Let’s say there is no political shame in the NRWRR. Just ask Biden, whose motto might be Always Be Not Running. Granted, he’s had three all-out campaigns for president (1988, 2008 and 2020), but most of his career has been governed by the NRWRR playbook. Like Newsom, he kept his name alive by spreading the Democratic Party gospel, exploring the terrain, campaigning for other politicians and planning his own rise with his kitchen cabinet. He is not the only one to use this strategy until the White House. Nixon was NRWRR between 1960 and 1968; Ronald Reagan’s pre-presidential political career was one NRWRR act after another. The only shame in NRWRR is denying it too sincerely. Newsom, whose default setting is insincerity, nailed this part of the dance.
Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg is nearly Newsom’s equal when it comes to NRWRR. Unlike Newsom, Buttigieg cannot say he has less than zero interest in running for president, as he has already run in 2020. He too denies any immediate presidential plans, saying “We are squarely focused on the job at hand.” Unlike the other wannabes, he doesn’t need an excuse to travel the country to make himself known. As the country’s de facto infrastructure czar, he’s distributed more pork nationwide than Smithfield Foods, and that will work to his eventual political advantage. Like my colleague Adam Wren dozens of Buttigieg’s 2020 campaign staffers moved into the Biden administration and Capitol Hill reported last fall. He even has campaign vets in Harris’ office, giving him his own mini-deep state of experienced hands ready to get up on his next run. (And there may be plenty of upcoming races: Buttigieg is young enough — just 40! — and ambitious enough to break Harold Stassen’s record for the most times someone has run for president. Using Biden as a model, he could still be running in 2064 despite being 80 years old.)
Harris isn’t running for president in 2024, of course, she’s just walking: assuming Biden repeats, but mustering up the courage for a run if he doesn’t. As already noted, Harris complicates the NRWRR equation. But there is no political rule that wants the investiture, and especially not the presidency, after the departure of its president. Politics owes nothing to anyone. Ask Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey, Dan Quayle and Al Gore, who were all foiled. Harris has had two years to establish herself as a viable presidential candidate, and to her credit, she currently leads the pack without Biden in the polls. But that advantage could dissolve in an instant if a List C candidate opened up a wound to him in the primaries like McCarthy did to Johnson.
Harris’ obvious vulnerabilities – she embodies ambitious coastal liberalism and was a flat candidate in 2020, dropping out two months before the first primary – give her fellow Democrats enough incentive to oppose her. Who could serve as a C-List candidate to spoil Harris’ early primary bid and give Newsom, Buttigieg or Elizabeth Warren a motive to enter the race? Senator Cory Booker? Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? Billionaire Governor of Illinois JB Pritzker, who was recently spotted in New Hampshire’s first primary state, NRWRR as he spoke to his Democrats? Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo? Governor Gretchen Whitmer? Stacey Abrams? Mitch Landrieu?
They don’t all run around and stare deeply into their morning mirrors.
My favorite is Elizabeth Warren because she blew Mike Bloomberg out of the race in 2020 with her discuss performance. Name your Biden replacement in an email to [email protected]. No new email alert subscriptions are honored at this time. My Twitter the feed is shooting for Al Gore, who at press time is just 74. RSS feed notes that Senator Dianne Feinstein is 89, but refuses to make the joke.