Replacing Biden as Democratic Nominee: Unlikely and Complicated Process Unless Voluntary Withdrawal Occurs

Featured & Cover Replacing Biden as Democratic Nominee Unlikely and Complicated Process Unless Voluntary Withdrawal Occurs

Replacing President Biden as the Democratic nominee is fraught with complications and is essentially unfeasible unless Biden decides to step down on his own accord. Both politically and procedurally, it is nearly impossible for the Democrats to prevent Biden from securing the nomination.

Currently, Biden is the only candidate available for a vote at the Democratic convention. He received 99 percent of his party’s delegates in the primaries, with these delegates pledged to support the winner of their state’s contest in the initial round of voting. According to Democratic National Committee (DNC) rules, delegates won by Biden are required to support his nomination unless he voluntarily withdraws and releases them to support another candidate.

Although the DNC could theoretically change the rules to block Biden before the convention starts on August 19, such a move would necessitate an extraordinary level of political backing, which is hard to envision. A factional clash at the convention to unseat him seems highly improbable.

However, Democratic sources told The Hill that there is a slight chance party leaders, including former Presidents Obama and Clinton, might be persuaded to talk to Biden about stepping down. Ultimately, Biden places the most trust in the advice from First Lady Jill Biden and his sister, Valerie, who are considered the only people capable of truly influencing his decision.

A unique situation in 2024 further compresses the timeline for deciding the nominee. Ohio state law mandates that its ballot be certified 90 days before the election, which this year falls on August 7, almost two weeks before the convention starts. Despite attempts by Ohio lawmakers to pass a bill to resolve this issue, they reached a deadlock, leading DNC leaders to plan for a virtual nomination of Biden ahead of the deadline and the convention. Any change in the nominee would thus need to occur before Ohio’s deadline to ensure the candidate appears on the state’s ballot, barring a legislative fix.

On Friday, party leaders were rallying around Biden, showing no indication of privately urging him to step aside. His campaign, the White House, and his supporters have strongly resisted the idea, though some mentioned that if polls reveal his performance is detrimental to down-ballot candidates, it could become a pressing topic.

If Biden were to step down, Vice President Harris would be the natural successor. Nevertheless, she would not automatically become the replacement. Although Biden won the primaries, his support garnered through those contests cannot be directly transferred to Harris. Instead, she would need to compete with other potential candidates, who might view themselves as stronger contenders against the presumptive GOP nominee, former President Trump.

According to its bylaws, the DNC holds general responsibility for the party’s affairs between national conventions, which includes filling vacancies in the nominations for president and vice president. Should Biden withdraw, a vacancy would be created, and Harris would logically be the successor. Politically, it would be difficult for someone to replace Harris if Biden wanted her to lead the ticket. However, prospective politicians like California Gov. Gavin Newsom or Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer might still attempt to vie for the position.

“This is the bigger pickle to replacing Biden. I don’t see the Democratic coalition surviving intact if Harris is not on the top of the ticket, and it’s hard to assure that would be the party consensus if they replace Biden,” a former DNC official said.

If multiple Democratic candidates aimed to replace a withdrawn Biden as the party’s nominee, they would likely need to contend with state delegations at the August convention in Chicago. This could result in a scenario not seen in American politics for decades: a contested convention that actually determines the party’s nominee.

Conservative groups have suggested they would file lawsuits across the country, potentially questioning the legality of the Democratic candidate’s name on the ballot under such circumstances. In an interview with the Associated Press, Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington, noted that courts have consistently refrained from intervening in political primaries as long as the parties conducting them were not infringing upon other constitutional rights, such as voter suppression based on race.

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