That President Joe Biden is an old man is nothing new. Nor is it revolutionary to say that he is unpopular with large swaths of Americans.
But after last week’s special counsel report on Biden’s handling of classified documents highlighted lapses in Biden’s memory during his interrogation, a familiar question arose: Is Biden really the best option Democrats have in 2024?
This unease is not limited to Biden; During this presidential cycle, there is widespread discontent that two old men are virtually guaranteed to be the major parties’ presidential nominees.
On the Republican side, this manifested itself through a contested primary that, although Donald Trump still won victory after resounding victory, showed small but fierce opposition to Trump among a subset of Republican voters.
Meanwhile, in the press and on the Democratic side, there is a reluctance on the part of a subset of people (progressives, young people, and some politicians) to accept that Biden’s nomination will actually happen. Now, this past week, standards and politicians are asking: What would it take for someone to replace Biden at this point? Is there a workable process? It’s too late?
It would be a historic effort to try: No sitting president has lost his party’s nomination to a primary challenger in the modern political era.
Replacing Biden as the Democratic nominee at this point would be a Herculean, if not impossible, task. Two types of obstacles would need to be overcome: real-world practical challenges and the more hypothetical but nonetheless important political challenges that exist for any potential Biden replacement.
Practical problems are daunting
Let’s start with real-world challenges.
The Democratic presidential nominee is chosen in August at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, where a candidate must win the support of 1,969 of 3,936 Democratic delegates. These delegates are assigned proportionally based on the vote totals in a state’s primary (for any candidate who wins more than 15 percent of the vote), and are then “pledged” or “bound” to that candidate in the first ballot in the Democratic election. agreement. Under this system, another candidate would have to win more delegates than Biden.
These 2024 primaries are well underway and Biden has won every contest and every delegate so far. His support was almost uniform: in South Carolina he won about 96 percent of the vote and in Nevada he won about 90 percent of the vote. These states collectively have just 91 delegates – or 2% of the total available – but his primary challengers have either dropped out or have near-impossible odds of beating him in the upcoming March contests, when more than 2,000 delegates will be up for grabs. . .
And in these upcoming elections, before even rallying a base of support or raising funds, a Democratic challenger will have to have registered with the states to appear on the primary ballot. As former political pollster Adam Carlson said highlighted, these filing deadlines have been exceeded in 44 states. So it’s literally too late for a primary challenger who isn’t already there (ahem, Dean Phillips) to get on the ballot.
Even if someone could magically mount a challenge and win some delegates, everyone Biden wins will be required to support him in the first DNC vote, per party rules. Only Biden can make the decision to direct his delegates to vote for someone else, but they are committed to voting for him unless he withdraws first.
And this is where the practical and political challenges merge: Biden is the only one who can decide whether he wants to withdraw before the floor vote. And there are many reasons why that wouldn’t happen.
Political challenges are very risky
Politically, it is incredibly risky for anyone to enter the competition. The vast majority of the Democratic establishment has already united around Biden – supporting him, supporting him, and running the party’s operations. because of Biden.
This is also where it’s important to dispel the notion that anyone could force Biden to give up.
The DNC is not an omnipotent, shadowy operation that has the power, influence, or ability to crown another party leader. Who do you think chose the DNC chair and vice chairs? There simply is no council of policymakers who can tell Biden to give up or choose to give up.
And this speaks to a larger problem, that of how our political parties are perceived. The power of party elites is often overestimated – and the primaries so far show voters’ influence. As unpopular as Biden may seem to some, he still won the 2020 primary handily, and when given the option of protest voting in New Hampshire or selecting “none of the above” in the Nevada this year, Democrats still sided with Biden.
Only Biden could therefore make the decision to give up. He doesn’t want to do it (not least because he sees himself as the key to preventing Trump’s re-election.) And even if he did, the only option that wouldn’t risk causing massive dissension within the base Democrat would choose his vice president, Kamala Harris. The vice president has her own political disadvantages: She performs worse than Biden against Trump, has never run a successful national campaign before, and, unfortunately, faces different voter biases because she is a woman of color.
Other Democratic stars, like governors. California’s Gavin Newsom, Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, Pennsylvania’s Josh Shapiro and Secretary Pete Buttigieg are also staunch Biden Democrats, polling worse than Biden or biding their time. And bypassing Harris for any of them also opens the door to potential anger among black voters, without whom Democrats can’t win.
Should one different, other The Democrats are emerging, with the vocal support of, I don’t know, Barack Obama and a core of strategists and politicians critical of Biden, And If first lady Jill Biden and other Biden confidants approached Biden and convinced him to drop out, we would likely be heading toward a brokered convention with multiple rounds of voting. It also sets the stage for even more chaos and disunity among Democrats. Is this worth it for anyone in Democratic politics right now?
The simple answer is no. It’s too late.
If you’re a Democrat or want to beat Donald Trump, it looks like it’s Biden or bust.
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