The Nuts And Bolts Of Replacing Candidate Biden, Before Or After The Convention

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by Tyler Durden
Wednesday, Feb 14, 2024 - 03:40 AM

Following a week in which special counsel Robert Hur soberly reported that President Biden is a "well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory" and "diminished faculties" -- a man who couldn't remember when his term as vice president began or ended, or even "within several years" when his son Beau died -- scrutiny of Biden's fitness for office has reached a fever pitch across major media, with some earnestly examining off-ramps for Biden's shaky re-election bid. 

The special counsel report was bad enough by itself, but Biden himself poured gasoline on the fire last week:

  • He twice mistakenly referred to the dead male German chancellor Helmut Kohl when he was describing a discussion with living female Angela Merkel

  • He cited a conversation he had with François Mitterand -- the French president who died 27 years ago -- when that conversation was actually with President Emmanuel Macron

  • At a press conference meant to bolster confidence in his mental health, Biden referred to Egyptian President Sissi as the president of Mexico

The week also brought a damning NBC News poll, which found 62% of registered voters have "major concerns" about whether Biden has the requisite mental and physical strength for a second term. Only 34% had major concerns about Trump's capacity, though he's just four years younger than the 81-year-old Biden.  

On Monday, Politico examined avenues by which the Democratic Party might navigate toward a different candidate. First, note that the expiration of most ballot-filing deadlines means it's too late for a heavyweight to enter the Democratic primary, and the obscure Rep. Dean Phillips challenge campaign -- which has emphasized Biden's weakness as a candidate -- hasn't gained any traction. 

Politico's Charlie Mahtesian and Steven Shepard also think it's unlikely we'll see a floor revolt by Biden delegates at the Democratic Convention. Rather, they focus on a scenario in which Biden sees the primary process all the way through, and then -- under mounting public, media and political pressure -- announces he will not seek re-election after all and is releasing his delegates to vote for someone else at the national convention, which will be held in Chicago Aug. 19 to 22. Biden might well endorse a candidate, but his delegates wouldn't be obliged to vote for his pick.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who's been running an odd non-campaign of his own -- to include debating then-GOP hopeful Ron DeSantis -- would be among the top contenders, along with Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. It could all make for great entertainment, writes Politico

The Democrats’ convention, typically a staid affair, would be filled with drama. While Democrats stripped their so-called “superdelegates” of most of their power after 2016, those current and former party leaders and elected officials would get a vote on a potential second ballot at the convention.

That would give them significant sway in picking a nominee in a floor fight, but perhaps at the expense of reopening the 2016-era controversy about the role played by party elites in stifling Bernie Sanders’ chances at the nomination

One thing Politico didn't note is that the convention is already likely to feature high drama, in the form of protests by Democrats and others infuriated by the Biden administration's blank-check backing of Israel's unbridled destruction of Gaza in response to the Oct. 7 Hamas invasion of southern Israel. A floor-fight for the nomination could mean there's chaos both inside and outside Chicago's United Center.  

While a Biden pre-convention withdrawal would make for quite a spectacle, things would really get wild if Biden were to be nominated at the convention only to subsequently die, resign or be disabled. In that scenario, party rules direct the party chair to "confer with the Democratic leadership of the … Congress and the Democratic Governors Association" and then report to the approximately 450-member Democratic National Committee, which would then choose a new nominee.  

The chaos wouldn't be confined to the Democratic Party: States would be forced to scramble to produce new ballots. Ballots for overseas military service members are shipped just a couple weeks after the late-August Democratic convention, and in-person voting kicks off on Sept. 20 in Minnesota and South Dakota.     

None of this is to say that Biden won't keep mumbling, shuffling, blank-staring and gaffing his way all the way to the Nov 5 general election finish line. However, after last week, fewer people are willing to wager that Biden will be the Democratic nominee:

Line Chart: Price of a contract that pays $1.00 if Biden is the Democratic nominee (via PredictIt)