Speculation grows over what would happen if Biden drops from presidential race

 January 27, 2024

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are on track for a potential rematch in the upcoming presidential election on November 5.

Recent polls indicate Trump's substantial lead among Republican candidates, while no prominent Democratic figure challenges Biden for his party's nomination, though speculation is growing over what would happen if the president drops from the race.

The process

Both candidates face uncertainties, with Trump confronting 91 felony charges, including an anticipated criminal trial this year, and potential health issues for both Trump (77) and Biden (81).

Questions loom about the consequences if either candidate withdrew due to health, legal, or other reasons, depending on the timing of such a scenario.

Caucuses and primary elections occur from January 15 to June 4, leading to the official nomination of candidates during party conventions in July and August.

Suppose a candidate drops out during this period. In that case, some states might extend candidate filing deadlines and primary dates to accommodate new contenders, with potential extensions more likely for Democrats due to Biden's lack of significant competition.

A late drop scenario

Emergency changes may be enacted to allow delegates to switch votes during the convention, and if a candidate dropped out after early voting commenced, states might make emergency legal changes to address the situation.

Between Conventions and Election Day, each party has its own rules to replace a candidate who drops out during this period. Emergency changes to state laws might be necessary, and a smaller party leadership group could decide on a replacement, appealing to the public for legitimacy. The vice president-elect is a logical choice for Democrats, but not legally guaranteed.

Between Election Day and the Electoral College meeting, electors meet on December 17 to select the president-elect and vice president-elect.

If Trump or Biden becomes incapacitated during this period, the vice president-elect does not automatically replace them. Electors would vote for a new candidate, with the vice president-elect a logical but not legally guaranteed choice. If electors cannot agree, the House of Representatives would elect the president under the 12th Amendment.

An extreme case

Between Electoral College Meeting and Congressional Certification, there are unclear scenarios if a candidate becomes unable to move forward between December 17 and January 6 when Congress certifies electoral votes.

Between Congressional Certification and Inauguration Day, according to the 20th Amendment, if the president-elect is incapacitated after Congress certifies the election result, the vice president-elect is inaugurated as president on January 20, 2025.

Each period poses potential legal and political crises, particularly if contested election results lead to messy processes and court battles, as witnessed in 2020.

With Biden's health situation, any of the above scenarios are possible, leaving Democrats concerned over a backup plan that would be able to deal with Trump.

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Thomas Jefferson
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