Biden White House beware: Don't assume Democrat delegates are locked in

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In the two weeks since President Biden’s "Emperor’s Not-so New Clothes" debate, there’s been a concerted movement from some Democratic power centers – donors, media, congressional candidates in swing districts – to convince the incumbent president to choose to give up his reelection effort and allow the Democratic Convention to pick a new nominee.

So far, he insists he’s running.

Many on Capitol Hill remain publicly in his camp: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., deflected all questions by saying, "I’m with Joe" – and South Carolina Democrat Rep. Jim Clyburn (the man who rescued Biden’s flailing candidacy in 2020 just said, "Ridin’ with Biden." 

BIDEN SAYS ONLY THE 'LORD ALMIGHTY' CAN CONVINCE HIM TO DROP OUT AS CALLS FROM DEMOCRATS INTENSIFY

But many others remain clearly skeptical of his chances in November. On Tuesday night, Colorado Democrat Sen. Michael Bennet said he was likely to lose decisively to Trump. And on Wednesday morning – despite Biden’s letter stating that he had firmly decided to remain the candidate, Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., kept the pressure up – saying that Biden needs to make a decision. 

She certainly sounded like she had determined what that decision ought to be.

But is there realistically anything that Democratic skeptics – and there are many – donors, candidates in tight races, and left-leaning media – can do to force him off the ticket?

Many point to August 1974, when former Republican presidential nominee Berry Goldwater, then a senator from Arizona, led a team to the White House to convince President Richard Nixon to resign. 

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The public take on that visit was that Nixon listened to the elder statesman and decided it was best for him and the nation.

In fact, the message Goldwater delivered – subtly – was not subtle. Nixon knew he was about to be impeached by the Democratically-controlled House – but thought he had a chance to survive a Senate trial and remain in office. Goldwater told him that actually, many Republicans would vote to convict him and that Nixon was certain to be removed from office by the Senate.

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Do the Democratic elites – who clearly appear to want President Biden to step down – have anything similar to threaten?

In fact, they do.

Under Democratic Party rules, the pledged delegates are obligated to vote in line with the support of the primary and caucus voters who send them to the Party convention party which will be in Chicago in August. 

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But the Democratic Party has a Rules Committee that can recommend new rules to be voted on by the Democratic National Committee – and by the delegates at the convention.

Floor fights over Party rules have taken place in the past. For example, the ABM movement (Anybody but George McGovern) in 1972, the ABC movement (Anybody but Jimmy Carter) in 1976 – and a pro-Teddy Kennedy movement to dump incumbent Jimmy Carter in 1980. 

The reality is that the Party has mechanisms to change their rules and decide to move in a direction different from how delegates may have been "pledged" by Party rules.

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And Democratic elites have significant sway. In 2020, it was the elites who settled on Biden as the nominee – about whom they were very skeptical  – after his surprisingly strong showing in South Carolina. A 78-year-old former vice president, who had been passed over at least three times previously, and who had no discernable base in the Party – but who seemed like the best option for the November election. 

It's too early to tell whether the elites will play this game – but the White House should not assume that they’re able to force Biden to be the nominee.

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