Biden Bets No One Will Take Convention Dare

President Biden Spends Fourth Of July At The White House

Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

As part of a day of defiance during which he sought to tamp down expectations that he will “step aside” from his party’s 2024 nomination after a bad debate performance that freaked out many Democrats, President Biden called into MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Monday to assure co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mike Brzezinski and their viewers that he’s in it to win it. After using some of the attack lines on Donald Trump that didn’t come across clearly or at all during the debate, Biden expressed confidence that “average voters” still want him to stay in office and in the presidential contest. Then he spat contempt at his intraparty critics:

Sounding angry in the telephone interview, Biden said he was “getting so frustrated by the elites … in the party.”

“Any of these guys that don’t think I should run — run against me. Challenge me at the convention,” he added.

But is that even possible? Technically, yes. Biden can be challenged at the convention, even though he overwhelmingly won the party primaries and secured 3,896 of 3,933 pledged delegates (additional “superdelegates” cannot vote on the first ballot). Unlike Republicans, Democrats don’t bind delegates via legal sanctions, though 14 states require delegates to follow the primary results unless the candidate releases them. So well over a majority of delegates are theoretically in play. The convention’s preliminary rules say that a presidential wannabe who can secure the support of at least 300 delegates — not more than 50 from any state — can become an authorized candidate. Then they can solicit more support via nominating speeches ahead of the first ballot.

Whether anyone would take Biden up on his challenge is another question entirely. Most of “these guys that don’t think I should run,” as Biden labels them, very clearly want him to withdraw as a candidate, not to run against him or even run anyone against him. Partly that’s because the moral (if not legal) commitment of Biden’s pledged delegates will very likely keep them in harness, short of the kind of circumstances that might justify deployment of the 25th Amendment agains the president (like a ragingly irrational candidate facing sure disaster, not just trailing in the polls). Plus the last thing Biden’s Democratic critics want is a nasty floor fight at the convention that drags the president kicking and screaming off the ticket. A dignified handoff is what most of Biden’s critics have in mind, likely to Vice-President Kamala Harris.

Timing is also an issue. Biden’s coronation or replacement would almost certainly have to happen no later than the first week of August, as the DNC is planning a “virtual roll call” to avoid its nominee being left off the ballot in Ohio, which requires that candidates be named by August 7. Dates as early as July 21 have been bruited about for the virtual roll call. That hardly leaves enough time for anyone to even imagine a campaign to challenge Biden, much less to wage and win one.

So the president’s taunting dare really isn’t anything more than a gesture aimed at calming Democratic nerves about his debate performance and the age issue. He’s playing chicken with critics who want him to go but don’t want to say so publicly, suggesting they don’t have the guts to take him on. In their defense, most of the critics are staying anonymous because they don’t want to fatally wound Biden if he does insist on plunging ahead come hell or high water, which seems to be the case. So the president is throwing down a gauntlet no one credible is likely to pick up.

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