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As some want Biden off the ballot, replacing him as Democratic nominee wouldn't be easy

President Biden would likely have to agree to drop out of the race for Democrats to be able to find a new nominee.
Joe Biden
Posted at 10:53 AM, Jun 28, 2024

Immediately after Thursday's presidential debate, some commentators questioned whether President Joe Biden should stay in the race and vie for a second term in the White House.

A poll conducted by debate organizers CNN found that a majority of debate watchers thought former President Donald Trump outperformed Biden on Thursday.

But President Biden had a lot to prove, even to Democrats, heading into the debate. A Gallup Poll released just before the debate found that 42% of Democrats were pleased that Biden was the nominee, while 56% preferred another candidate.

Related story: Robert Kennedy didn't make the debate stage, but he answered the same questions during a rival event

Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips and author Marianne Williamson only were able to muster token campaigns against President Biden in the primaries.

Process for replacing Biden on the ballot

Since Thursday's debate comes over a month before Democrats officially select a nominee in August, it's not impossible for the party to replace him on the ballot. But it is likely going to require President Biden's cooperation for him to be replaced.

According to Decision Desk HQ, President Biden won at least 3,850 out of a possible 3,934 delegates for this year's convention. He only needs 1,968 delegates to secure the nomination.

Those delegates are bound to support Biden on the first ballot, per the party's delegate rules.

"Delegates elected to the national convention pledged to a presidential candidate shall in all good conscience reflect the sentiments of those who elected them," the rules state.

Related story: Fact-checking claims made by Biden and Trump during the first 2024 presidential debate

Also, keep in mind, as the Democratic Party's standard-bearer, President Biden picked the DNC's leadership, making any organized effort to force him out even more challenging. In 2021, President Biden selected Jaime Harrison to lead the party. Harrison continued to express his support on his X account following the debate. He also shared a post from Sen. John Fetterman, who decried calls for Democrats to find a new nominee.

"I refuse to join the Democratic vultures on Biden’s shoulder after the debate," Fetterman said. "No one knows more than me that a rough debate is not the sum total of the person and their record."

If Biden were to drop out before the convention

If President Biden were to exit the race, his delegates would be free to vote for potential replacements. It would still take 1,968 delegates for a candidate to become a nominee.

While Vice President Kamala Harris would presumably contend for the nomination, others could enter the race as well. Convention delegates would continue voting until someone gets at least 1,968 delegates.

But whether President Biden would even consider this remains questionable. He has referred back to his rough start in the 2020 primaries as an example of how he's been able to come back when trailing.

If Biden were to drop out after the convention 

According to a Congressional memo, the party would be responsible for choosing a replacement nominee. Even though Harris' spot on the ticket would have already been confirmed, she would not automatically take the spot of the presidential nominee.

The party could vote for a different nominee if they choose.

Although no presidential candidate has ever dropped out of the race after the convention, in 1972, Sen. Thomas Eagleton decided not to run for vice president after getting the party's nomination. He was replaced by the Democratic Party by Ambassador Sargent Shriver as Sen. George McGovern's running mate.

Incumbent President Richard Nixon ended up winning the election in one of the most lopsided races in U.S. history.