NEWS & Insights

Replacing Biden? Guess Again

Since last Thursday’s debate, speculation in the media has been rampant that Democratic leaders are going to find a way to convince President Biden to end his re-election effort and allow another to become the party nominee.

It is important to remember that because Mr. Biden is the Presumptive Democratic Nominee, meaning he has enough bound delegate votes to win the nomination on the first convention ballot, any change in this status would require the affected candidate’s consent.

According to an opinion piece and follow up interview from and with Federal Election Commissioner Trey Trainor, making such a move would be difficult even if the President were to voluntarily step down and the national convention delegates chose a replacement nominee.

The chances of the Democrats replacing Biden are very slim, and the procedural logistics, of which most who are publicly calling for a new candidate are not even considering, could cause major problems.

In Commissioner Trainor’s piece https://link.edgepilot.com/s/fe7d0a3e/P2iRq7K_e0yRlWryXzBRrA?u=https://dailycaller.com/2024/06/28/opinion-replacing-joe-biden-wouldnt-be-so-easy-fec-commissioner-trey-trainor the first stated point is that a new nominee would have to traverse 50 different state ballot processes and comply with all requirements in a short amount of time.

Other conditions might be impossible to overcome. Remember, the delegates are compelled, in most cases by state law (versus party rule) to support, at least on the first ballot, the candidate who the electorate chooses through the primary vote. The common view is that President Biden, should he agree to leave the campaign, would free his delegates, but a candidate might not have such power over every state delegation.

As a result, some states wouldn’t allow a new candidate to assume the delegate votes that the Democratic primary voters pledged to Biden. Or, for those places that would allow the swap, we could see lawsuits arising on behalf of the voters to block a particular state’s delegates from casting a nomination floor vote for a candidate who their electorate did not support.

It also wouldn’t be surprising to see some of these lawsuits originating from conservative oriented groups attempting to keep Biden on the ballot. While most of the lawsuits would probably not succeed, the new nominee’s campaign could be tied up with court procedures in multiple states, which would consume valuable time and money.

Mr. Trainor also underscores that if the Democratic National Convention closes on August 22nd as currently scheduled, a new nominee would have to quickly qualify in each state prior to the mail deadline for military and overseas ballots. In 2024, the date to mail such ballots is September 21st, which would give any new campaign committee scarce time in which to comply since states will be well underway with printing ballots considerably before the mail date.

Another point not covered in the article, but in a subsequent interview with Mr. Trainor, is the issue of the Biden campaign having a joint fundraising agreement with the Democratic National Committee.

According to the latest available FEC finance information, Mr. Biden’s campaign has approximately $92 million in his campaign accounts. It is presumed if the President were to not continue his campaign, he could simply transfer the remaining financial balance to the DNC. Such a move would be complicated, Mr. Trainor says.

He further explained that the Michael Bloomberg presidential campaign of 2020 made a similar move upon the candidate exiting the race. The difference, however, between the Bloomberg 2020 and Biden 2024 campaigns is the existence of the latter entity’s joint fundraising agreement. The Bloomberg campaign had no such agreement with the DNC; therefore, it was able to transfer all funds to the national party entity.

With the existence of such an agreement for Mr. Biden’s campaign, transferring large sums becomes much more complicated because of how it could affect the coordinated expenditures that a political party can execute for a candidate. Mr. Trainor indicated that the candidate committee and the DNC would likely need to request an Advisory Opinion from the FEC regarding how to receive and spend the money, which would take some time. There is virtually no precedent on this described move, so many legal questions would have to be answered.

Because of the legal coordinated expenditure requirements and considering where some of the money was raised or from where it was sent, a new Democratic campaign could find itself having to spend a specific minimum dollar amount in states where they normally would not actively compete, meaning voting localities that are either strongly for or against the new candidate.

Now with key Democratic leaders such as former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, along with prominent Democratic members of Congress such as Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) strongly voicing support for President Biden, and the cumbersome logistics even to launch a new campaign at this point in the cycle, is one other clue that the party leadership will not attempt to remove the President from the re-election campaign.

Therefore, the banter about “switching Biden out” for a stronger general election candidate will soon quell. In the end, President Biden will approach unanimous support to win his party’s nomination either at the convention as scheduled or from a virtual roll call sometime later this month.

We offer this political insights report for your information and not as a predictor or representative of opinions of HBS or its employees.