Why replacing Biden with Newsom or some ‘mythical perfect Democrat’ is unlikely

President Joe Biden, right, talks with California Gov. Gavin Newsom after disembarking Air Force One at San Francisco International Airport on Nov. 14, 2023, as he arrives to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders' week. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

Anyone hoping California Gov. Gavin Newsom or some other Democrat will take Joe Biden’s place on the 2024 presidential ballot is likely to be disappointed.

Despite renewed anxiety over the president’s age, party officials and pollsters say swapping him out is a bad idea, and nearly impossible without Biden’s sign-off.


“No one who’s done this at this level thinks that removing the sitting president of the United States, who’s a Democrat, from your ballot is remotely plausible,” said Cornell Belcher, one of former President Obama’s pollsters. “It’s completely absurd.”

A special counsel questioned Biden’s mental acuity last week in a report that explained why criminal charges were not warranted for possession of classified documents, offering fresh fodder to critics of the president and fueling concerns about his ability to serve another four years in office.

Hosts of ABC’s “The View” kindled the conversation on Friday in an on-air debate over Biden’s candidacy and whether Vice President Kamala Harris or Newsom would be better options for the party. Republican Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor and former presidential candidate, and other political pundits have suggested Democrats should trade Biden for another candidate.


Biden, like most incumbent presidents, is in control of the party, meaning people who work for the Democratic National Committee and other party organs are aligned with his campaign operation. The deadline for challenging him in a Democratic primary has expired in most states, including California, and he faces only scant opposition. He could be replaced if he chose to step aside and free his delegates at the party’s national convention in Chicago this August, the type of scenario that hasn’t happened in decades.


Hans Noel, an associate professor of government at Georgetown University, said if Biden steps down today, Democrats seeking to replace him could scramble to run in the handful of states where primary ballot access deadlines have not passed. The decision to select a replacement would still be kicked to the Democratic National Convention this summer.


Sean Clegg, a senior political advisor to Newsom, said that Biden is an ally to the president. “If President Biden asks this guy to do anything, he’s going to do it and give everything he has to support the ticket.” Clegg said Newsom’s camp isn’t discussing the possibility of replacing Biden because it isn’t happening.


A recent Los Angeles Times-Leger poll found 50% of American adults — including 30% of Democrats — believe the state is too liberal. The poll found sharp differences between how Californians and people outside the state view issues such as climate, race and gender. Nearly half of Californians say abortion should be legal in all cases, compared with a quarter of adults nationwide.

“If you put up a choice of Joe Biden against some mythical perfect Democrat, the mythical perfect Democrat wins,” said one operative with ties to the DNC. “But there’s no actual Democrat that voters can agree on as an alternative.”

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