Replacing Biden with anyone but Harris would be a real headache for Democrats


  • President Joe Biden vowed again on Wednesday that he is not dropping out of the race.

  • If he does, Vice President Kamala Harris would start out as his best-positioned replacement.

  • Harris has both practical and political benefits in her favor.

Democrats would have a practical and political nightmare on their hands if President Joe Biden drops out and they decide to push Vice President Kamala Harris to the sidelines instead of the top of the ticket.

On Wednesday, Biden and Harris jointly proclaimed to campaign aides that they would press on in the face of growing criticism following Biden’s disastrous debate, according to the Associated Press.

“I am running. I am the leader of the Democratic Party. No one is pushing me out,” he said, according to the AP.

No one, least of all Biden’s running mate, can be seen publicly pressuring Biden to give up now.

Harris gets the money — probably.

In the event that Biden does call it quits, the focus will quickly turn to Harris. She is by far the best-positioned of Biden’s potential successors to take over. Most importantly, according to campaign finance experts, she would have the easiest path to accessing the Biden campaign’s $240 million war chest.

While nobody is quite sure what would happen to the millions should Biden step aside, Harris would probably control the cash — but only if she became the nominee.

If Harris succeeded Biden as the presidential nominee, she would maintain access to all the funds in the campaign committee and could use them to advance her presidential candidacy,” Saurav Ghosh, the director for federal campaign finance reform at the Campaign Legal Center, told Business Insider in an email.

That’s because she shares a campaign committee with Biden, Ghosh said. Given her initial involvement with the Biden money — and the presence of her name on FEC filings related to his candidacy — she is likely the only one who could use the money without much issue.

Yet the same rules wouldn’t apply if Harris remained the vice presidential candidate or dropped off the ticket altogether.

According to Ghosh, federal contribution limits stipulate that candidate-to-candidate transfers don’t exceed $2,000 per election. While the Biden camp could convert the money into a political action committee if someone else was the nominee, there’s a catch — PACs can only donate a maximum of $3,300 per election to a different candidate.

“So in either case, there’s no legal way for Biden to transfer to a new candidate the $90 million dollars that his campaign currently has on hand,” Ghosh told Business Insider.

In a massive return-to-sender effort, the Biden campaign could also refund donations and donors could redirect their money toward the new candidate, campaign finance experts told NBC. Or, in yet another version of the future, the Biden campaign could transfer the funds to the national party.

All things considered, Harris soaring to the top of the ticket if Biden steps aside seems like the simplest solution with regards to the cold hard cash.

But money, of course, is not the only question — though many heads are turning in Harris’ direction, longstanding questions about her viability as a candidate remain.

Harris has major support among the Democratic Party’s core.

Pushing Harris aside could risk a firestorm. The vice president has repeatedly declared that she’s standing behind Biden, but already, influential voices in the party are lining up behind her. Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, whose backing helped Biden win the state’s 2020 primary, has said he would want Harris if Biden drops out.

“We should do everything we can to bolster her, whether it’s in second place or the top of the ticket,” Clyburn said on MSNBC on Tuesday.

In Washington, where the optics are never far out of sight, it would be impossible to ignore passing over the first female vice president for a man, or the first Black vice president for a white candidate.

Black voters remain the core of the modern Democratic Party. No single group is a monolith, but none of the major Biden challengers come close to Harris’ support in the Black community. According to a recent Economist-YouGov poll, 66% of Black voters view Harris favorably. In comparison, only 47% of Black voters view California Gov. Gavin Newsom favorably; slightly fewer view Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in the same light.

The same survey found that voters still don’t know enough about Whitmer to have an opinion about her, underlining another potential headache. Harris is one of the most-known politicians in the country. Any potential replacement will likely need to introduce themselves to the American people and on the national stage.

This doesn’t mean Harris has every advantage. Her notoriety comes with the White House’s baggage. Republicans would likely tag her with the same attacks on the economy and immigration that they’ve used against Biden. Unlike a potential replacement outside the beltway, Harris would struggle to show any major daylight with the president.

Already, Republicans are preparing for a potential Harris bid should she get the nomination and, with it, the campaign money. On Wednesday, the Republican National Committee released a digital ad calling her the “enabler in chief” and blaming her for chaos at the border.

Against ominous music, the ad asks, “Is this who we want to be president?” It seems the Democratic Party, and its donors, have to answer that question, too.

Read the original article on Business Insider



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