Here's why it would be tough for Democrats to replace Joe Biden on the presidential ticket (2024)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s halting debate performance has led some in his own party to begin questioning whether he should be replaced on the ballot before November.

The latest on the Biden-Trump debate

  • The debate was a critical moment in Joe Biden and Donald Trump’s presidential rematch to make their cases before a national television audience.
  • Take a look at the facts around false and misleading claims frequently made by the two candidates.
  • Both candidates wasted no time sparring over policy during their 90-minute faceoff. These are the takeaways.

There is no evidence Biden is willing to end his campaign. And it would be nearly impossible for Democrats to replace him unless he chooses to step aside.

Here’s why:

Delegates Biden won in the primaries are pledged to support him

Every state has already held its presidential primary. Democratic rules say that the delegates Biden won should support him at the party’s upcoming national convention unless he tells them he’s leaving the race.

The president indicated that he had no plans to do that, telling supporters in Atlanta shortly after he left the debate stage, “Let’s keep going.” Biden campaign spokesperson Lauren Hitt was even clearer, saying Friday: “Of course he’s not dropping out.”

The conventions and their rules are controlled by the political parties. The Democratic National Committee could convene before the convention opens on Aug. 19 and change how things will work, but that isn’t likely as long as Biden wants to continue seeking reelection.

The current rules read: “Delegates elected to the national convention pledged to a presidential candidate shall in all good conscience reflect the sentiments of those who elected them.”

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VP Kamala Harris couldn’t automatically replace Biden

The vice president is Biden’s running mate, but that doesn’t mean she can swap in for him at the top of the ticket by default. Biden also can’t decree that she replace him should he suddenly decide to leave the race.

The Democratic National Convention is being held in Chicago, but the party has announced that it will hold a virtual roll call to formally nominate Biden before in-person proceedings begin. The exact date for the roll call has not yet been set.

If Biden opts to abandon his reelection campaign, Harris would likely join other top Democratic candidates looking to replace him. But that would probably create a scenario where she and others end up lobbying individual state delegations at the convention for their support.

That hasn’t happened for Democrats since 1960, when John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson jockeyed for votes during that year’s Democratic convention in Los Angeles.

Other potential Democratic candidates would also face challenges

In addition to the vice president, others that had endorsed Biden in 2024 while harboring their own presidential aspirations for future cycles include California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker and California Rep. Ro Khanna.

Still others who Biden bested during the party’s 2020 presidential primary could also try again, including Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, as well as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

If Biden were to abruptly leave the race, conservative groups have suggested they will file lawsuits around the country, potentially questioning the legality of the Democratic candidate’s name on the ballot.

But Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington, who wrote a book about the presidential nominating process and is also a member of the Democratic National Committee’s rulemaking arm, said that courts have consistently stayed out of political primaries as long as parties running them weren’t doing anything that would contradict other constitutional rights, such as voter suppression based on race.

What to know about the 2024 Election

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“This is very clear constitutionally that this is in the party’s purview,” Kamarck said in an interview before the debate. “The business of nominating someone to represent a political party is the business of the political party.”

Here's why it would be tough for Democrats to replace Joe Biden on the presidential ticket (2024)
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