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Jun 28, 2024, 1:21pm EDT
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Semafor Signals

Democrats can only hope to replace Biden if he decides to step down

Insights from Semafor, NBC News, MSNBC, and The Washington Post

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Bryan Snyder/Reuters
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The News

After US President’s Joe Biden’s underwhelming performance in the campaign’s first televised debate against Donald Trump, the conversation has shifted to whether he’s fit to stand in the election, with names of potential replacements already circulating in media and Democratic circles.

But the issue also raises questions around the practicalities of replacing a candidate so late in the race and the legality of doing so. A key moment could come at the Democratic National Convention in August.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Replacement ‘almost impossible,’ unless Biden decides to step aside

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Sources:  
Semafor, NBC NEWS, CBC

Talk of swapping Biden out at the August convention have been swirling for years among those who worried about his advancing age. But in the immediate aftermath of the debate, many top Democrats “cautioned that this couldn’t happen, and couldn’t be allowed to,” wrote Semafor’s David Weigel. Party rules make it “almost impossible” to replace nominees without their consent, NBC News noted, and it would mean throwing out primary results, where Biden won 99% of the party’s delegates. The Republican Party could also sue to stop the replacement, Canada’s CBC reported. The only viable way to initiate a replacement would be if Biden voluntarily stepped aside before the convention. Ultimately, “an anti-Biden coup” is “possible, if highly unlikely,” NBC News added.

… and Biden is very unlikely to do so

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Sources:  
MSNBC, The Washington Post

While replacing Biden is not illegal and is technically possible, commentator Nicolle Wallace said on MSNBC, most people believe it won’t happen because “Joe Biden would never do it… He’s the only person who beat Trump... and he has some reason to believe this, that he’s the only one who can.” Biden didn’t seem to show any intention of stepping aside on Friday, The Washington Post noted, but “strategists and officeholders quietly said it’s a conversation the party will have to have.”

Finding a new candidate could take Democrats down a ‘messy’ road

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Sources:  
The Washington Post, The Economist, Politico

Biden’s withdrawal would likely set off a “scramble,” The Washington Post noted, sending the party down a “messy and uncharted road.” “Biden represents a compromise holding together the broad and potentially fractured coalition of the Democratic Party,” a political science professor told the outlet. “Finding another candidate that everyone is comfortable with might be difficult.” Biden’s automatic replacement in case he stepped aside, Vice President Kamala Harris, is not a natural choice for most voters. She has a history of “shakiness” as a candidate, The Economist wrote, and January’s Politico/Morning Consult poll showed many had “serious doubts” about her ability to win the presidency, or to live up to the role if she got the job.

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