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Updated Jul 7, 2024, 4:31pm EDT
politics

‘Blitz primary’ could open up Democratic race if Biden drops out

REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz
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The Scoop

As the Democratic Party convulses over questions about President Joe Biden’s mental fitness, a pair of well-connected Democrats is offering an optimistic plan that would involve the president stepping down as the nominee and the party announcing a “blitz primary” process ahead of the August convention.

The proposal is the work of Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown University law professor who served in the Obama and Clinton administrations and as a volunteer policy adviser to the Biden campaign in 2020, and Ted Dintersmith, a venture capitalist and education philanthropist who has donated to various Democratic campaigns. They want Biden to flip the script on the current Washington narrative of a Democratic Party in chaos and for the party to see the current period as an opportunity for a reset. “In the midst of malaise and crisis, we can forge an uplifting path,” Dintersmith told Semafor.

Their idea goes something like this, according to a memo shared with Semafor that has been circulated to Democratic donors and bundlers as well as officials within the Biden campaign and administration:

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  • Biden would step down as the Democratic nominee in mid-July, and announce the new system, with backing from Vice President Kamala Harris.
  • Potential candidates would have a few days to throw their respective hats in the ring. The Democratic Party then would begin a primary sprint in which the six candidates who receive the most votes from delegates pledge to run positive-only campaigns in the month leading up to the convention.
  • The “blitz primary” would involve weekly forums with each candidate moderated by cultural icons (Michelle Obama, Oprah, and Taylor Swift are among the names floated in the memo) in order to engage voters.
  • The nominee would ultimately be chosen by the delegates using ranked choice voting before the start of the Chicago convention on Aug. 19.
  • It would be announced with plenty of fanfare on the third day of the gathering. The memo imagines the nominee unveiled on stage with Biden, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

According to its authors, the country would be captivated. Donations would pour in. And Biden would be celebrated as a “modern-day George Washington,” the proponents argue.

“We can limp to shameful, avoidable democracy-ending defeat. Or Democrats can make this Our Finest Hour. While we hope for help from Lord Almighty, the Lord helps those who help themselves,” the memo states, alluding to Biden’s recent interview with ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos in which he said only the “Lord Almighty” could force him from the race. “We need to act. Now.”

In response, a Biden campaign spokesperson pointed to comments made by the president last week about remaining in the race. “I’m not letting one 90-minute debate wipe out three and a half years of work. I’m staying in the race, and I will beat Donald Trump,” he said in Wisconsin.

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The spokesperson also noted that the Biden Victory Fund received a maximum donation from a top donor last week, and that grassroots fundraising remains strong.

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Morgan’s view

Democrats are desperate for a way out of the current mess. Concerns about Biden’s mental acuity and intraparty fighting about whether he should continue as the nominee have dominated headlines since his June 27 debate performance. Biden’s Friday Stephanopoulos interview did little to quell the angst.

This plan looks to chart an optimistic course of action for the party but probably stands little chance of being implemented. For one, it would require Biden — who has only been digging in — to decide voluntarily to exit the race within days. And it wouldn’t automatically make Harris the nominee, instead ushering in a broader field, which could exacerbate the party’s problems with some key constituencies if she’s seen as being passed over. It’s also hard to see candidates sticking to a positive-only campaign pledge that avoids attacking their competition. Even if they publicly restrained themselves, a competitive race would likely usher in a knife fight of opposition research, leaks, and whispers by their allies in the press and on social media.

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The memo acknowledges that time is not on the Democrats’ side: “Will it happen? Probably not, absent a timely decision by Party leaders, including President Biden, who truly put country first,” it states. “Yes, President Biden has served his country with distinction for five decades. Yes, this honorable man deserves our respect, gratitude, and admiration. But not our blind loyalty. America desperately wants an uplifting choice.”

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Room for Disagreement

Brooks said that she has heard near-universal support from individuals to whom she has sent the memo, suggesting party elites would be on board with such a plan if Biden backs it.

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Notable

  • Biden ally Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., predicted there would be a “mini primary” leading up to the Democratic convention if Biden were to bow out of the race.
  • How would replacing Biden actually work? Semafor’s David Weigel breaks down the mechanics.
  • Some Democratic donors are pausing donations or focusing funds on down-ballot races in the wake of Biden’s debate performance, The Wall Street Journal reported.
  • The Trump campaign is already making plans to attack Harris should Biden step aside, Axios reported.

This story has been updated with a response from the Biden campaign.

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