Bid to Boot President Faces Thin Bench of Replacements

Gavin Newsom and Kamala Harris
by Ben Whedon


As Democratic heavyweights mull swapping out President Joe Biden as the 2024 Democratic nominee in the wake of a dismal debate performance that showed even the truest believers the mental state of the President, they find their efforts stunted due to one significant issue: the selection of an alternative.

Among the most likely selections are Vice President Kamala Harris and Gov. Gavin Newsom, D-Calif. While Harris’s position might seem to position her as Biden’s natural successor, Newsom has long attracted speculation about his own presidential ambitions and even debated then-Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis late last year.

But such speculation is of little value while the current president remains in the race. Thus far, the Biden campaign itself has resisted calls to drop out of the race or permit the party to choose another candidate to face former President Donald Trump. Fueling such calls was Biden’s performance in the CNN presidential debate last week during which he often stumbled over his answers and appeared lost while on stage. The spectacle reignited concerns about his age and fitness for office, though he has insisted he is able to handle the job.

“You’ve got a disintegration within the party,” said former Assistant Secretary of State Bobby Charles on the “Just the News, No Noise” television show. “I don’t know how else to describe it. We’ve all known for a long time that Joe Biden wasn’t up to the job. He hasn’t been up to the job for months, if not years.”

But the Biden family and a number of Democratic heavyweights remain behind the president and the campaign has since begun releasing ads addressing his age to blunt the criticism. It has further highlighted the comparable polling performance of alternative nominees against Trump and noted that Biden’s war chest would be unavailable to an alternative candidate. At the core of the matter, some pundits believe, is the first lady and her unwillingness to let go of power.

“So the pressure is mounting on Biden… the structure [of] the Democratic Party, want[s] him gone,” conservative media personality and author Bill O’Reilly told the “Just the News, No Noise” television show in an interview to be aired this week. “And Jill Biden saved Biden, her husband, for a short period of time.”

“Jill Biden is the most powerful person in the White House now. No one gets to Joe, unless you go through Jill and Jill does not want to leave. And Joe does whatever Jill tells him to do. That’s why he’s still there,” he insisted.

Harris and Newsom are the top contenders

Unsurprisingly, the names of the current vice president and the leader of the nation’s largest Democratic bastion have topped the list of the party’s potential alternative nominees. But each of them have their own shortcomings and potential risks as the party nominee.

“If they begin to go down that path… Who have you selected?” asked pollster Scott Rasmussen. “I can tell you, the polling and the numbers in the conversation suggests Kamala Harris and Gavin Newsom are top of the list.”

Polling data has suggested Trump would defeat any of the alternative Democratic candidates, though some fare better against him than does Biden. In a post-debate CNN poll, Biden trailed Trump with 43% to his 49%. Harris, however, fared marginally better, earning 45% to Trump’s 47%. Newsom fared comparably to Biden, earning 43% to Trump’s 48%.

A separate Data for Progress poll that the Biden campaign highlighted, showing Biden and Harris both earning 45% to Trump’s 48%, with a host of other Democrats faring worse against the Republican. Newsom earned 44% to Trump’s 47% in that matchup.

But current polling performance is far from the only consideration for a potential nominee. In Harris’s case, much of her own record is tied to Biden’s and the public appears to view her less favorably than the commander-in-chief.

“Now as far as the other people are concerned, Kamala Harris is polling about 32% job approval, that’s a disaster,” O’Reilly said.

The current RealClearPolitics polling average shows Harris with a 36.3% approval rating, compared to 55.7% disapproval. Biden, for his part, holds a marginally better 38.9% approval rating, but a worse 57.6% disapproval figure.

On the issues, Harris was nominally the administration’s point-woman for immigration, having been anointed the “border czar” by Biden though she has remained largely out of the spotlight and prompted continued questions as to her involvement in the crisis at the border at all throughout her tenure.

Newsom’s record, for his part, is linked to the current situation in California.

“Gavin Newsom, who wants it, I understand he’s ordered more hair products. So, that’s an indicator. He’s run California into the ground,” O’Reilly said. “Everybody who lives there knows that. They’re on the verge of bankruptcy, that state.”

The state’s economic woes and crime rates have long been the focal point of Newsom’s conservative detractors and the governor has already struggled to defend his handling of the matters in the public sphere.

His November debate with DeSantis saw the pair trade barbs over their respective policies in a terse affair that saw moderator Sean Hannity forced to intervene repeatedly.

“You almost have to try to mess California up,” DeSantis said at the time. “They have failed because of his leftist ideology.”

One over the other?

Even should the prospect of a Newsom or Harris ticket appeal to Democrats enough that they opt to somehow jettison Biden, the internal factions within the party could prove difficult to unite, especially in light of contemporary diversity narratives that have become integrated in party ideology.

“[T]he activist base of the Democratic Party dominates that process,” Rasmussen said. “If this were to be thrown open all of a sudden, it would be a brutal, brutal fight among Democrats.”

“Those who want to get rid of Kamala Harris, because they think she’s a weak candidate, would be accused of how can you dump on the first woman of color vice president, especially to replace her with a white male,” he went on. “[T]he base of the Democratic Party would force any potential nominee further to the left politically. It would be, you know, just the difficulty of replacing President Biden as the nominee would be staggering.”

It is far from a sure thing that the selection would boil down to Newsom or Harris, moreover. The 2020 Democratic Primary contest that Biden won saw more than two dozen candidates throw their hats in the ring. Other alternatives, such as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker, have also been floated, though none have gained comparable traction and each has their own concerns.

“Pritzker in Illinois: [All] you got to do is take a look at Chicago,” O’Reilly added. “They don’t really have anyone who could beat Trump now, with the exception of Michelle Obama, and they have locked down the former First Lady 100%. Nobody’s getting any information about her at all.”

How would it even work?

A contested convention would hardly be an unprecedented affair, however, Biden’s status as the presumptive nominee and the timing of the convention could present issues for an alternative candidate.

“The legal logistics of replacing Joe Biden are enormously complex. First of all, he’s already on the ballot in a number of states that will probably have to be lawsuits to replace him on the ballot,” Rasmussen noted.

The Democrats are currently planning to hold a virtual roll call to officially nominate Biden prior to the Democratic National Convention, in order to make the deadline to certify their nominee to appear on the Ohio ballot. Should the party replace him after the convention, the new nominee would likely not appear on the ballot in the state.

Further complicating the matter are the bound delegates who must vote for Biden due to his primary victories in their respective states.

“[T]here’s a convention that all of the delegates have already been or [a] majority of the delegates have been pledged to President Biden. They have to find a way to change the rules,” said Rasmussen. “Now, that’s happened before. 1980. Ted Kennedy tried to unbind Jimmy Carter’s delegates; it didn’t work.”

“[W]here will this go?” asked Charles. “Well, I’ll just tell you, historically, there are only 10 or 12 conventions that have been really, really hard bitten, hard fought. And none of those conventions have involved someone who arrived at the convention with all of the delegates, or virtually all the delegates.”

“One possibility is that they go to their virtual convention on August 7. They go ahead and sort of crown Biden and Harris as their nominees, and then declare maybe two weeks later, or three weeks later, that maybe after their formal convention on August 19-20, that he’s really not capable,” he speculated. “And so that allows the committee to actually insert [an alternative] just as if he had died before the election.”

“So I think they’re desperate but you know, desperate times create desperate measures,’ he concluded.

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Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter.
Photo “Gavin Newsom” by California Governor. Photo “Kamala Harris” by Kamala Harris.





Reprinted with permission from Just the News 

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