Could Illinois Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker serve as the deeply progressive candidate to provide some political relief and optimism for his party in the 2024 presidential election amid growing concern within the Democratic Party about President Biden's age and ability to serve?
Pritzker brushed off speculation he might pose a political challenge to Biden, who for months has said that he intends to run for re-election in 2024. But Pritzker, who won re-election in November to serve an additional four-year term leading Illinois, is keeping his options open regarding future political endeavors.
Speaking to The New York Times, Pritzker, an heir to the fortune of Hyatt Hotels, declined to say whether he would make a run for the White House. But he insisted the idea of a last-ditch effort by the Democratic Party to replace Biden as its nominee for president in 2024 was 'such an odd hypothetical if you ask me.'
Regarding Biden's age, Pritzker told the outlet, 'I think it assumes a lot of things about someone who’s 80 in this world today. No kidding, you know, 80 is a lot different today than it was in the ’80s.'
With an estimated net worth of $3.6 billion, according to Forbes' most recent estimate, Pritzker could sufficiently fund a campaign for president on his own. And with the support of those within his state, as well as the connections he's established with other prominent members of his party nationwide, Pritzker's chances of winning the White House – should he decide to run – aren't very bleak.
'He would run for two good reasons,' Ray LaHood, a Republican who served as secretary of transportation during former President Obama's first term in the White House, told the outlet. 'He’s a billionaire who’s not afraid to spend his own money, and he’s very progressive, which is where the Democratic Party is today.'
Stressing the importance of coming together as a party, Pritzker, as he looks ahead to 2024, told the Times that unity would be the sole driving force in preventing former President Trump or another Republican, like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, from winning the White House.
Most Democrats have voiced support for Biden's 2024 re-election, but some have called for a change in party leadership. Michigan Democratic Rep. Elise Slotkin called for 'new blood' last fall
And while 37% of Democratic primary voters want to keep Biden as their party’s nominee, a majority of 53% says it would like someone else to run, according to a Fox News poll released last week.
Pritzker, who refers to himself as a 'pragmatic progressive,' told The New York Times he intends 'to be impactful in the 2024 elections, helping Democrats run for Congress, helping Democrats run for United States Senate and helping Joe Biden win re-election.
'But that doesn’t mean that you sit back and write a check to the DNC and say, ‘Hope you get it right. Good luck. Have fun storming the castle.''
With recent policy initiatives from Pritzker, including a plan to give children additional access to mental health treatment and his signing of a bill to expand paid leave for workers, some voters could be persuaded into tossing their support behind Pritzker for a higher office.
Pritzker's tenure in the Illinois governor's mansion, which has had its ups and downs with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic and forced lockdowns, still has areas for admiration among those who have studied his political abilities.
'Look, we have only one president at a time,' Bob Reiter, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, told the Times. 'But one of the things I watched when he became governor was the way he scooped up political and policy talent as he was taking office. His ability to put together a team and put them in the right spot was and still is really impressive.'
But not all Republicans are on board with the idea that Pritzker could clinch the Democratic nomination for president if he decided to run.
'He will fail running for president as an out-of-touch billionaire who made Illinois less affordable and less safe,' pro-Trump Rep. Mary Miller told the outlet.
A White House run from Pritzker would also face opposition from GOP mega donors, including Richard Uihlein, who spent more than $50 million in 2022 in an attempt to tarnish Pritzker's re-election as governor.