Election 2024

Pete Buttigieg beats other possible Democratic replacements for Joe Biden in leaked poll

Then-Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at a town hall event on the campus of Southern New Hampshire
Then-Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at a town hall event on the campus of Southern New Hampshire Photo: Shutterstock

While President Joe Biden says he will not drop out of the presidential race after his lackluster debate performance against former President Donald Trump, some social media users are saying that out gay Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg would be a good replacement. But such a move would be difficult and would come with risks.

In a recent post on X, political observer and data scientist Armand Domalewski posted a table of percentages showing Buttigieg outperforming other possible Democratic replacements — like Vice President Harris, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer — in crucial swing states. The table came from a post-debate report leaked from Open Labs, the research arm of the Democratic super PAC Future Forward.

Commenters on his post wondered whether Buttigieg would serve better as Harris’ vice presidential candidate and noted that, during Buttigieg’s 2020 presidential campaign, he struggled to gain support among Black voters, a crucial demographic in the Democratic base.

It’s also unlikely that the positive polling numbers of Buttigieg and other possible replacements would stay high if they entered the race. Presidential candidacy would attract widespread media attention and public criticism, worsening any candidate’s favorability among voters.

But Domalewski isn’t the only one considering Buttigieg as a possible replacement for Biden.

Numerous other commenters on X also endorsed Buttigieg, either as Harris’ possible running mate or as the presidential candidate. Buttigieg is known for being articulate and capable of erudite responses to Republican critics and talking points in a succinct and disarming style.

But it wouldn’t necessarily be easy to replace Biden, partly because Biden has already won 3,894 delegates in the 2024 Democratic primary (a candidate needs 1,968 to win).

While post-debate polling has shown Trump gaining a lead in swing states — and majorities of Democratic voters supporting Biden dropping out — Biden has sought to calm Democratic fears about his age and mental abilities by holding in-person campaign stops in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin and sitting for an interview this Friday with ABC News journalist George Stephanopoulos.

Biden has also scheduled a Wednesday meeting with Democratic governors and reportedly has an eight-point plan to rescue his re-election campaign: The plan includes highlighting positive polling, dismissing critics, proving his vitality, and reassuring donors of his abilities.

In order to replace Biden, he would either need to step aside before he is nominated at the Democratic National Convention in late August, leaving an “open convention” where delegates could vote on his replacement, or Biden would need to withdraw after the convention, leaving the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to elect someone to replace him, according to Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank and a DNC member.

Someone could also try to challenge Biden at the convention and try to win over the delegates that Biden won in state primaries, but this could leave Democratic primary voters feeling silenced and disenfranchised since their votes for Biden would essentially have to be discarded in order to choose a replacement who they may not support.

Many of the discussed replacements, including Buttigieg, have publicly continued to voice support for Biden, even as a Democratic congressman asked Biden to step down.

“The president, the boss that I work for, is a focused and disciplined leader, and you can tell from the results that we’ve gotten,” Buttigieg recently told Spectrum News. “I think in any job, you want to be judged on the results that you deliver, and that’s, I think, part of the message that we’re bringing as we hit the road.”

Last, replacing Biden could create bad optics for Democrats. Replacing him would essentially admit that Republicans were right to continually focus on Biden’s old age and mental fitness. If they replace him, Democrats would also have to consider having Biden resign from the presidency altogether, as it would make little sense to say that he’s still fit to preside over the country while being unfit to run for re-election.

Also, the line of succession normally would replace a president with his vice president. If the DNC allowed for a white candidate to replace Biden over the Black woman who would typically replace him, it could anger women and Black voters, two key demographics that Democrats need to win the election.

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