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What happens if Biden, Trump drop 2024 Presidential bids?

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What happens if Biden, Trump drop 2024 presidential bids

(CTN News) – With one of the 2024 presidential candidates facing four criminal indictments and the other recently described as having “diminished capacities,” voters are asking a key question as they prepare to vote: what happens if a candidate has to drop out for whatever reason?

The upcoming rematch between President Joe Biden and expected Republican nominee, former President Donald Trump, marks the first time a major presidential contender has faced over 90 charges across four indictments from New York to Florida. The former president and his enterprises are also involved in other litigation actions.

Biden’s age has been a concern among voters leading up to the election. However, a recent report from the Justice Department’s special counsel investigating his handling of classified documents has brought the issue to the forefront, portraying Biden as an elderly man with “diminished capacities” and memory loss.

If elected, the two contenders would become the oldest serving presidents by the end of their terms. By the end of his second term, Biden would be 86 years old, while Trump would be 82.

Given Trump’s legal processes and both candidates’ ages, what would happen if either nominee had to withdraw from the contest because they were incompetent, were convicted of charges, or ended up in jail?

The answer mostly depends on when.

“I believe the unprecedented nature of this is that you have a former president facing 91 indictments on one side, and both likely nominees are old,” Josh Putnam, a political scientist specialising in delegate selection procedures and elections, told USA TODAY.

“Actuarially speaking, something could happen to one or both of them, and they may not be around through the whole process.”

Here’s what could happen if Biden or Trump withdraws from the 2024 presidential race:

According to experts, if either contender withdraws before the national conventions, which are conducted in July for Republicans and August for Democrats, selecting the next nominee becomes more problematic.

Why are conventions so important?

Each party’s nominee is officially selected in a national party convention every presidential election year.

Following state primaries, candidates are assigned delegates based on their vote totals. These delegates attend the conventions of each party and represent the candidate. To become the party’s official nominee, the candidate must receive a majority of delegate votes.

Each state allocates delegates differently based on its system. In rare situations, the winning candidate receives all of the state’s delegates. In other states, delegates are allocated depending on a candidate’s percentage of votes.

Delegates to each party’s national convention are often assigned to a certain candidate based on their respective states’ primary and caucus processes.

But things can grow more difficult.

In several states, Republicans have “unbound” delegates who can vote for whatever candidate they like. Democrats have “unpledged” delegates, who can only vote if the first round is challenged and no candidate receives the majority of votes.

If an election is contested, there may be additional rounds of voting, similar to how former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., had to overcome 15 rounds of voting to become speaker last January.

Another factor to consider is when Biden or Trump withdraws from the primary race. If a candidate withdraws early before accumulating a large number of delegates, other White House contenders may opt to try to win the nomination by acquiring the remaining delegates.

“In other words, there’s more time for competition,” DNC member Elaine Kamarck, a founding director and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, explained.

However, if they drop out towards the end of the primaries, which conclude in mid-June, the amount of delegates a contender will receive is mostly fixed.

Putnam, founder of FHQ Strategies, a non-partisan political consulting firm, emphasises that determining the number of delegate slots does not automatically select the candidates who will fill those slots, which can often lag behind primary election dates.

And this procedure is crucial, particularly if a presumptive nominee withdraws.

“The selection of the people there matters as to who’s going to be deciding on the convention as to who the replacement would become,” Putnam said.

For example, Putnam stated that the Trump team strives to guarantee that any delegate seats Trump is assigned are filled by devoted followers who will support the former president regardless of any convictions he may face.

If Biden or Trump step out before the delegate selection process is completed, Putnam believes it will be more “free for all” regarding how state parties fill the delegate seats. These delegates would attend the convention and maybe nominate someone who wasn’t on the ballot.

If a candidate withdraws between the last primary and the party’s nomination convention, the party returns to its historical roots.

Republicans would arrive in Milwaukee, and Democrats would arrive in Chicago. Delegates would be “uncommitted,” which means they do not support a single candidate and must decide who the next nominee will be.

In this scenario, potential party nominees would visit each state’s delegation to solicit their support.

What about Republican candidates who ran in primaries and pulled out, like former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, but still received a few delegates?

According to strategists, the possibility of Haley becoming the Republican convention’s alternate candidate if Trump’s legal issues lead to his downfall seems unrealistic.

If Trump is no longer in the picture, the delegates loyal to the past president may decide to support someone altogether different who never conducted a campaign during the primary season.

At this juncture in the race, Haley is unlikely to earn more delegates than Trump, especially since the GOP’s rules changed and many states switched to a winner-take-all system for assigning delegates.

“I think it will be difficult for her to gain more delegates. John Fortier, a senior scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a center-right research tank, told USA TODAY that he believes the situation is severe.

Regarding Trump’s legal processes, no procedures or norms would prevent the former president from serving a second term if he is arrested, convicted, or imprisoned.

Until recently, voters considered a presidential candidate’s conviction or imprisonment disqualifying, according to Chris Edelson, an assistant professor of government at American University. But, regardless of the rules, there is nothing criminal about it.

“We’re headed towards this really uncharted situation,” he said.

This has happened before. In 1920, socialist candidate Eugene Debs campaigned for president while serving a 10-year sentence for sedition. Debs got nearly a million votes.

Edelson argued that while Trump is unlikely to be imprisoned in 2025, he may be convicted within the following year.

“There’s plenty of time for a trial to take place,” he told reporters.

If Trump is convicted, it’s unclear if his delegates must vote for him until he withdraws from the campaign, which he has stated he will not do.

RNC regulations allow states to unbind delegates from a candidate if they withdraw from running.

RNC chair Ronna McDaniel stated on CNN’s State of the Union in November that whoever the voters choose is the acceptable choice for the Republican party, even if Trump is guilty. “…As party chair, I’ll back whoever the voters choose. And, absolutely, if they select Donald Trump.”

Arsi Mughal is a staff writer at CTN News, delivering insightful and engaging content on a wide range of topics. With a knack for clear and concise writing, she crafts articles that resonate with readers. Arsi's pieces are well-researched, informative, and presented in a straightforward manner, making complex subjects accessible to a broad audience. Her writing style strikes the perfect balance between professionalism and casual approachability, ensuring an enjoyable reading experience.

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