Biden’s debate performance has caused concern. Here’s what would happen if he quit

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun29,2024
Key Points
  • Joe Biden’s performance at his first debate of 2024 against Donald Trump has prompted concern among some Democrats.
  • Biden made verbal stumbles during the debate, in which Trump expressed multiple falsehoods and exaggerated claims.
  • The US president has given no indication he will drop out of the race.
United States President Joe Biden says he intends to defeat Republican rival Donald Trump in the November presidential election, giving no sign that he would consider dropping out of the race after a debate performance that dismayed some of his fellow Democrats.
“I know I’m not a young man, to state the obvious,” Biden said at a rally one day after the head-to-head showdown with his Republican rival, widely viewed as a defeat for the 81-year-old president.
“I don’t walk as easy as I used to, I don’t speak as smoothly as I used to, I don’t debate as well as I used to,” he said.

“But I know what I do know. I know how to tell the truth.”

“I would not be running again if I didn’t believe with all my heart and soul that I could do this job. The stakes are too high,” Biden said.
“The choice in this election is simple,” Biden said. “Donald Trump will destroy our democracy. I will defend it.”
He added, alluding to his candidacy: “When you get knocked down, you get back up”.

There are no conversations about Biden stepping aside from his re-election bid and he plans to participate in the next debate, in September, his campaign said on Friday.

What happened during Biden’s debate with Trump?

Biden’s verbal stumbles and occasionally meandering responses in the debate heightened voter concerns that he might not be fit to serve .
It’s prompted some of his fellow Democrats to wonder whether they could replace him as their candidate for the 5 November US election.
Trump, 78, has also been criticised for making a series of falsehoods and exaggerated claims during the debate that mostly went unchecked.

Remarks by Trump on immigration and abortion — including that the Biden administration would permit terminating a child’s life “after birth” — have been fact-checked as inaccurate.

Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic Party leader in the US House of Representatives, avoided answering directly when asked if he still had faith in Biden’s candidacy.
“I support the ticket. I support the Senate Democratic majority. We’re going to do everything possible to take back the House in November. Thank you, everyone,” he told reporters.
Other Democrats likewise demurred when asked if Biden should stay in the race.
Biden, already the oldest US president in history, faced only token opposition during the party’s months-long nominating contest.
Trump likewise , setting the stage for a long and bitter general election fight.
Donald Trump stading in front of a blue background with the CNN logo.

Former US president Donald Trump made numerous false or exaggerated claims during the debate. Source: Getty / Justin Sullivan

One Biden donor, who asked for anonymity, called his performance “disqualifying” and predicted that some Democrats would revisit calls for him to step aside.

One campaign staffer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were frustrated by Biden’s performance and hoped it would prompt top strategists to rethink their approach.
Former US president Barack Obama acknowledged Biden had a “bad” debate performance but maintained his support for Biden.

“Bad debate nights happen. Trust me, I know,” Obama said on social media platform X.

“But this election is still a choice between someone who has fought for ordinary folks his entire life and someone who only cares about himself,” Obama posted, adding:

“Last night didn’t change that.”

Could Joe Biden be replaced?

Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank, a Democratic National Committee member, and author of the book Primary Politics spoke to the Reuters news agency about the presidential nominating process.
Karmack said Biden will not be nominated officially until later this year, so there is still time to make a change and a handful of scenarios to enact one.

Biden could decide to step aside before he is nominated; he could be challenged by others who try to win over the delegates he has accrued; or he could withdraw after the Democratic convention in Chicago in August, leaving the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to elect someone to run against Trump in his place.

Biden would have to agree to step down or face a challenger this late in the process who would try to force him to do so. Some of his top potential replacements — US vice president Kamala Harris and California governor Gavin Newsom — spoke passionately in his defence after the debate.

What would happen if Joe Biden stepped down?

Biden has spent the last several months accruing nearly 4,000 Democratic delegates by winning primary elections in US states and territories.
Those delegates would normally vote for him, but the rules do not bind or force them to do so; delegates can vote with their conscience, which means they could throw their vote to someone else.

If Biden “releases” his delegates by stepping aside, there could be a competition among other Democratic candidates to become the nominee.

Who could replace Biden?

A natural— but not automatic — pick to take Biden’s place would be his running mate on the 2020 ticket, Harris. However, the vice president has had her own problems after a rocky start in the job and poor polling numbers.

The US Constitution dictates that the vice president becomes president if the president dies or becomes incapacitated, but it does not weigh in on an inter-party process for choosing a nominee.

Kamala Harris in a blue blazer speaking into microphones on a podium.

US vice president Kamala Harris has been floated as a possible replacement for Joe Biden. Source: AAP / Ronda Churchill/AP

Newsom, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, Kentucky governor Andy Beshear and Illinois Governor JB Pritzker have all been floated as possible replacements, but are all Biden supporters working to help get him elected now.

How would a nominee be chosen?

Candidates would have to get signatures from 600 convention delegates to be nominated.
There are expected to be some 4,672 delegates in 2024, according to Ballotpedia.

If no one gets a majority of the delegates, then there would be a “brokered convention” in which the delegates act as free agents and negotiate with the party leadership to come up with a nominee.

What if Biden steps down after the DNC?

If Biden steps down after the August convention, the 435 members of the DNC would choose a new candidate.
The members would meet in a special session to select a nominee.

The DNC is divided equally between men and women as well as various constituency groups including labour leaders, LGBTIQ+ representatives, and racial minorities. Of the total, 75 are appointed by the chair, while the rest are elected in their respective states.

Who could nominate an alternative in that case?

To nominate a candidate to replace Biden on the ballot, that person would have to have the support of a minimum number of DNC members — perhaps around 60, though the exact number would be determined by the DNC’s rules committee.
Multiple candidates could be nominated before the list is whittled down.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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