US Election 2020

Can Kamala Harris run for president in 2024?

Vice president-elect Kamala Harris broke records on Sunday when Joe Biden won the presidency over Trump and she could be in the frame to break a few more.

Can Kamala Harris run for president in 2024?
ANGELA WEISS AFP

Kamala Harris made history in the United States after becoming the first woman, and a woman of colour, to be elected as vice president-elect of the United States. What is the likelihood she could snag the top job in four years?

Can a serving vice president run for president?

Yes. Whether Biden decides to run for a second term or not come 2024, Harris would be able to run as a candidate in the primaries in her own right. This year, Trump’s challengers for the Republican primary were Bill Weld from Massachusetts, Joe Walsh from Illinois and South Carolina’s Mark Sanford. But challenges to an incumbent president after just their first term don’t happen very often. Until 2020, not since 1992 had an incumbent president faced big-name challengers within his own party.

Winning the nomination is a different question entirely. Only 15 vice presidents have ever won the presidency, out of 46 US presidents to date.

Seven of them served as president by being elected or due to the retirement of the president, as would be the case for Kamala Harris in 2024.

Those were; John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Van Burren, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford (who took the mantle after Richard Nixon resigned amidst the Watergate scandal), George H.W. Bush and now Joe Biden. Only two of those, Richard Nixon and Joe Biden, took the top job non-consecutively following their vice presidency.

Eight others became president when the man in the White House died or was assassinated; namely John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson (who became president after Lincoln's assassination), Chester Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson.

Martin Van Buren in 1836 was the last sitting vice president before George H.W. Bush in 1989 (who won while serving as VP to Ronald Reagan at the time) to have been actually elected. But others have run and lost. John Breckinridge lost to Lincoln in a four-way race in 1860, Henry Wallace to Truman in a four-way race in 1948.

"Virtually inconceivable" Biden will serve second term

There is already buzz around Harris running for president in 2024, not least because Joe Biden is going to be the oldest president ever, beginning his first term at 78 years old in January.

To add to this, last year a top aide to Biden revealed that he suggested that he is likely to only serve one term anyway. Anonymous sources told Politico that it was “virtually inconceivable” that he will run for reelection in 2024.

“If Biden is elected,” a prominent adviser to the campaign said, “he’s going to be 82 years old in four years and he won’t be running for reelection.”

All this makes it seem probable, barring any extraordinary errors or unforeseen events that take her out of the running, that Kamala Harris could well be in the frame and therefore in with a decent chance of becoming the first woman and first woman of colour to become president of the United States.