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Can Democrats Replace Biden? Here’s What Would Happen If Biden Leaves 2024 Race.


President Joe Biden’s shaky performance in Thursday’s debate has prompted calls from some left-wing pundits for him to drop out of the race and allow Democrats to appoint another candidate in his place—an unprecedented scenario that would require Biden loyalists to spurn the president, who has so far said he will continue his campaign.

President Joe Biden looks down as he participates in the first presidential debate of the 2024 … [+] election with former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at CNN’s studios in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 27, 2024. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

There’s no official mechanism to kick Biden off the ticket if he doesn’t step down voluntarily, but the delegates who will vote to formally select a nominee at the party’s convention in August could revolt against him and select another candidate in his place.

Biden has swept the primaries, winning nearly 3,900 of the party’s 4,000 “pledged” delegates who will vote to formalize the nominee, and party rules require them to “in good conscience reflect the sentiments of those who elected them.”

A revolt is unlikely: Pledged delegates are not legally beholden to voting for Biden, but they’re generally loyalists of the party’s chosen nominee who are elected at state party conventions, in primaries or caucuses with heavy influence from the campaign of the party’s preferred candidate.

If Biden, or any candidate, fails to win a majority of pledged delegates on the first ballot at the convention, voting will continue until somebody wins an outright majority, with pledged delegates free to vote for whoever they want in later ballots.

The 700-some unpledged “superdelegates,” elected officials and party leaders who can vote for anyone they please, will also be allowed to vote on the second ballot (party rules prohibit them from voting on the first ballot).

If Biden voluntarily steps aside before the convention, his pledged delegates would be free to vote for an alternative candidate in an “open convention”—likely setting the stage for intense negotiations as other Democratic politicians angle to replace Biden.

If Biden steps aside after the convention, the Democratic National Committee’s approximately 500 members could call a special meeting to choose a new presidential and vice presidential nominee by majority vote.

The party plans to vote for a nominee before the convention begins on Aug. 19 via virtual roll call to allow Biden to be on the ballot in Ohio, which requires presidential candidates be nominated at least 90 days before the November election (in this case Aug. 7). The party has not announced an official date for the virtual roll call.


Biden rejected suggestions that he should step aside in speaking to reporters after the debate, answering “no” when asked about the prospect and blaming his poor performance on former President Donald Trump. “It’s hard to debate a liar,” Biden said, before telling supporters in Atlanta in a post-debate speech “let’s keep going.” On Friday, Biden delivered a fiery speech from Raleigh, North Carolina, in which he sounded notably more energetic than he did the previous night and reiterated his plans to keep running, admitting “I don’t debate as well as I used to.”

Any candidate who were to challenge Biden at the convention would need to first select a running mate.


Speculation has swirled for months about who could replace Biden as the Democratic nominee amid concerns about the 81-year-old president’s age. Vice President Kamala Harris is the most obvious choice to replace him, though she has an uphill battle in winning over voters given her 39% approval rating. California Gov. Gavin Newsom is another name commonly floated, but he’s repeatedly dismissed the prospects of replacing Biden, voicing his allegiance to the president in interviews after the debate. As of Friday morning, no prominent Democrats had openly called on him to step down and there is no public consensus within the party about who would replace Biden if he did.

Key Background

Biden stammered through Thursday’s debate, losing his train of thought minutes after it began, speaking with a hoarse voice throughout the 90-minute program, and giving incoherent responses to several questions. Abysmal reviews poured in on social media, even from some of Trump’s staunchest critics, and by the end of the debate, Democratic operatives, donors and elected officials were reportedly discussing replacing Biden. By Friday morning, Biden-friendly pundits, including MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” host, Joe Scarborough, and New York Times’ columnist Thomas Friedman were openly suggesting Biden should drop out, predicting that if Democrats don’t replace him now, they’re effectively handing Trump another term.

Morning Joe’s Joe Scarborough Gently Suggests Biden Should Drop Out Amid Dem Freak Out Over Debate Performance (Forbes)

Biden Loses Train Of Thought And Corrects Himself Repeatedly In Debate With Trump (Forbes)

Biden’s Debate Performance Torched—Even By Trump Foes—Over Weak Voice And Verbal Stumbles: ‘Hard To Watch (Forbes)

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