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Here’s what it would take Democrats to replace Joe Biden as party nominee


Democrats have ways to replace Joe Biden at the top of their presidential ticket after a harrowing debate against Republican Donald Trump – but doing so without their standard-bearer’s acquiescence would be a daunting task. Party members once united behind Biden are now scouring candidate resumes and researching rules for a contingency plan to present voters with a different nominee after a universally panned performance Thursday cemented worries about the President’s ability to serve a second term.
“The easiest one is, Biden takes himself out of the race,” said Elaine Kamarck, a Democratic National Committee member and author of a book about the presidential nominating process. “Then yes, there’s rules and procedures and the party would replace him.” While pushing Biden off the ticket is possible, the lack of an obvious candidate to replace him makes such a gambit unlikely, Kamarck said.
The debate saw months of Democratic anxiety over Biden, already the oldest US president in history at 81, and his prospects for defeating Trump, boil over.
The president Friday acknowledged the limitations of his debate showing but dismissed calls to exit the race.
If Biden doesn’t step aside, forcing him out would be a Herculean undertaking for Democrats. Any rival would first have to collect 600 delegate signatures on a petition to place his or her name in nomination at the Democratic convention – with no more than 50 signatures from any one state. That’s about 13% of the delegates. But with Biden controlling 99% of the pledged delegates, that would require challengers convincing Biden loyalists to flip their support.
“The odds are not insurmountable, but they’re very high for any scenario that involves a delegate revolt,” said Josh Putnam of FHQ Strategies, a non-partisan consulting firm specializing in delegate selection rules.
The Biden campaign has vetted his delegates for their loyalty, but they do have room to change their minds. Unlike Republican delegates, who are often legally bound to cast their vote for a particular candidate, Democratic rules say only that pledged delegates “shall in all good conscience reflect the sentiments of those who elected them.”
A move to change the ticket – whether Biden agrees to go willingly or is pushed out – would bring a convention free-for-all not seen for decades.
In an “open” or “brokered” convention, no candidate comes into the roll-call vote with enough delegates to be guaranteed the nomination. Voting could last any number of rounds until a candidate wins.
Such a convention would also put so-called “super-delegates” in the spotlight. Those delegates – leaders and elected officials who get to the convention by virtue of their position – have been stripped of some powers in recent years as the party worried their influence in the process was undemocratic. But if a nomination goes into a second ballot, those automatic delegates, who number more than 700, could sway the convention.
Another wild card is that the party is free to change its rules at any time before the nomination, potentially lowering or raising the bar for a Biden challenger.
The most obvious heir apparent is vice-president Kamala Harris – but Democrats don’t have to pick Biden’s running mate. Some of the most discussed alternatives include Governors Gavin Newsom of California, JB Pritzker of Illinois and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, all of whom say they still support Biden.
The nomination vote was scheduled for Aug 21, but the DNC has raised the possibility of a virtual roll call before Aug 7 to accommodate early ballot deadlines. If Biden steps aside after the convention, the decision on how to replace him would be up to the 400 plus members of the DNC — the chairman would consult with Democratic congressional lead- ers and governors and make a recommendation.

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