After Tuesday’s primary voting in Missouri and Michigan, it’s almost impossible for Bernie Sanders to mount a comeback and it now appears as though Joe Biden will earn the Democratic nomination this year. Of course, Biden’s completely unprecedented and impossible political comeback is very suspect, and I go into detail about that fact here. But for now I want to focus on Joe Biden being the nominee and what would happen if he dropped out for health reasons.
As we all know, Joe Biden is obviously suffering from some sort of cognitive decline. Whether it be an actual disease or simply old age, no reasonable observer can watch Joe Biden on the campaign trail and pretend that he’s 100% all there. Not only that, he appears to be worsening by the day and his staff recognizes this fact. His appearances have been shortened to 7 minutes or less, with him reading directly off a teleprompter. Clearly his campaign knows he’s declining fast and unable to think on his feet.
So with all that being said, now that Joe Biden has basically secured the nomination, what if he decides to drop out or is forced to drop out after he becomes the nominee?
Interestingly, the DNC has no set guidelines for such an event that they would have to follow as set out in the party rules (PDF). Essentially, they would convene a meeting of their roughly 435 person body and simply appoint a new nominee.
This new nominee would of course be off the ballots in virtually all states and most states do have cut-off points for when a nominee can be on the ballot. However, according to Richard Pildes, a New York University School of Law professor, lawsuits could be filed arguing that such rules are unconstitutional in this scenario as they would leave one political party without a nominee on the ballot. It’s most likely the DNC would win these emergency lawsuits and their appointed candidate would be allowed on the ballots in November in all states despite being a last minute addition.
At this point I know most readers are thinking of one name in particular, and that’s Hillary Clinton. Could Biden really step down after receiving the nomination and then have the DNC name Hillary as the new nominee. It’s all completely possible according to the DNC rules.
There may be challenges from inside the DNC or the Democratic party, but who would really mount such challenges? We’ve already seen every candidate except for Sanders fall in line behind Biden, most within the same 24 hour period. Even Corey Booker who once suggested Biden was too old and senile to be president has since endorsed him. So it appears as though the Democratic party has all fallen in line with whatever scheme they are running to take back the White House.
Another possible scenario is what would happen if Biden dropped out after he had already chosen a vice presidential nominee. In this case the most likely outcome is that his vice presidential pick would assume the top spot on the ticket as there is a precedent for this happening in the past.
I want to be clear, that the point of going through these two possible scenarios was simply to examine how they could play out according to the rules and laws that govern the election. I’m not predicting this will be the outcome, but in an election as crazy as the one we’ve seen so far, I wouldn’t rule out anything. And with Joe Biden declining mentally by the day and Hillary Clinton waiting in the wings, I wouldn’t be comfortable telling anyone that there is no chance this all might end up happening before November.
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