Democrats brush off Marianne Williamson’s 2024 primary challenge

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Marianne Williamson’s run for president is being greeted with an eye roll among political strategists and met with radio silence within the White House and Democratic National Committee.

Williamson is set to become the first Democrat to challenge President Biden when she launches her 2024 campaign on Saturday in Washington, D.C. While a primary challenge to Biden was viewed as a possibility at certain low points for the White House last year, Democrats have largely fallen in line behind the president following a strong midterm showing.

That has made it unclear whether the party is really clamoring for someone to take on the incumbent despite polls that show voters aren’t that enthusiastic for a second Biden term.

The White House and Democratic National Committee separately declined to comment on Williamson’s planned primary campaign and have not weighed in on her candidacy publicly. There does not appear to be much concern about it either among Democrats and Biden allies, many of whom do not view Williamson as a serious threat.

“I hope and expect they will completely ignore it. She is not a credible candidate in any respect.  She certainly isn’t going to be challenging to win the nomination,” said Matt Bennett, a co-founder of centrist think tank Third Way and veteran of past Democratic campaigns.

“If that’s the only primary challenge he faces, Joe Biden can rest very easy until the general election,” Bennett added.

The specter of Biden facing a primary challenge, especially from someone to his left, has loomed since he first won the presidency in 2020 as a 78-year-old who’d pitched himself as a bridge to the next generation of party leaders.

A stronger than expected midterm showing by Democrats, declining fears of a recession and a strong legislative track record have all contributed to the party accepting if not enthusiastically rallying behind a Biden re-election bid.

The president continues to reiterate his intentions to run but hasn’t yet officially launched a 2024 campaign. First lady Jill Biden said last week it was essentially a matter of deciding when and where to make the announcement.

Nonetheless, recent surveys don’t always appear to be in  Biden’s favor.

An Associated Press poll released in early February found just 37 percent of Democrats said they wanted Biden to seek a second term, down from 52 percent last fall.

But an Emerson College survey released this week found 71 percent Democratic voters believe Biden should be the party’s nominee in 2024, up from 58 percent last month.

That uncertainty among voters, paired with persistent concerns about Biden’s age – he would be 82 at the start of a second term – has left the window open for someone to launch a primary challenge built around the idea of passing the torch to the next generation of Democrats.

Few believe that candidate is Williamson, however.

“hi @ap marianne williamson is not a ‘major democrat,’ thank you for your attention in this matter,” Aaron Fritschner, an aide to Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), tweeted in response to an Associated Press post calling Williamson the first “major Democrat” to challenge Biden.

Williamson, 70, is a spiritual adviser and author who made appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show. She ran for president in 2020 and polled in the single digits, dropping out of the Democratic primary before any votes were cast. Among her proposals was to form a Department of Peace.

In a Facebook post announcing her plans, Williamson argued she was well equipped to “transform” the country’s entrenched system of governance.

“Some have already said of course, Well obviously she can’t win. Or Well that’s good; she’ll add to the conversation,” Williamson wrote. “But since the election of 2016 it’s odd for anyone to think they can know who can win the presidency. And I’m not putting myself through this again just to add to the conversation. I’m running for president to help bring an aberrational chapter of our history to a close, and to help bring forth a new beginning.”

The Democrats who have long been viewed as perhaps the most formidable primary challengers to Biden have overwhelmingly lined up to voice support for the president should he seek re-election.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has said he will back Biden if he runs in 2024. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), once viewed as a possible primary challenger, said last November he does not plan to run for president even if Biden opts against seeking another term. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) declined to endorse Biden in advance of any possible primary out of respect for the process, though she has not indicated she would challenge him.

Strategists said there is still a chance another progressive like former House candidate Nina Turner could mount a primary challenge, but such a campaign would more likely be designed to criticize Biden than to actually win the party’s nomination.

The only scenario where additional Democrats seem likely to jump into the fray is if Biden doesn’t announce, strategists said.

“The only kind of question there is does somebody declare from the far left who has a real presence,” former Republican National Committee (RNC) spokesperson Doug Heye said, arguing that Williamson does not.

“But otherwise there’s not going to be anybody major stepping up. They’re all looking at him,” he added. “If he said tomorrow, ‘I’m out,’ then all of a sudden you’d see a lot of tire-spinning as campaigns are trying to get started overnight.”

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