Convention? What Convention? Dems Kill Biden Escape Hatch

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

So much for all those Chicago Switcheroo scenarios! Political analysts will have to set aside months of speculation about a convention surprise, thanks to the DNC's inability to research state deadlines for ballot access -- and Ohio Democrats' desire for foreign money in ballot-issue campaigns.


As Jazz noted earlier, the dream is over. Rather than wait for the convention to nominate Joe Biden as their presidential nominee, the DNC will hold a "virtual roll call" to nominate Biden in time for Ohio's August 7 ballot deadline:

Democratic Party leaders said Tuesday that they would nominate President Biden for a second term in office via a virtual roll call of delegates to the party’s national convention, bypassing a glitch in Ohio law that had threatened to keep Mr. Biden off the November ballot in the state.

Ohio law requires all candidates to be legally certified by Aug. 7, but Mr. Biden was not scheduled to be officially nominated until after the Democratic National Convention begins on Aug. 19. The virtual roll call will be completed before the Ohio deadline. ...

The chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Jaime Harrison, issued a statement on Tuesday denouncing the Republican lawmakers for their inaction. “Joe Biden will be on the ballot in Ohio and all 50 states, and Ohio Republicans agree,” he said. “But when the time has come for action, they have failed to act every time, so Democrats will land this plane on our own.”

Why wouldn't Democrats need to fix this on their own? They broke it on their own when they scheduled the convention for the third week of August. Apparently, no one at the DNC bothered to look at ballot-access deadlines in all 50 states, or at least in Ohio. Given how important the Buckeye State is to both parties in presidential elections, that seems to be a significant error. 


Democrats have tried for months to get Ohio's legislature to, er ... fix the "glitch":

Ohio legislators have done this a couple of times in the past, but they seem to have tired of fixing other people's "glitches." Republican Governor Mike DeWine called a special session to get them to take it up again, and Republicans finally did -- but wanted a concession from Democrats as part of the package. Ohio Democrats rejected a compromise bill that would have restricted foreign donations in ballot-initiative campaigns, which helped them pass an abortion-rights initiative in 2022:

Ohio's Senate Republicans ultimately passed a bill that would both allow Biden to appear on their general election ballot in November, but also bar foreign contributions to ballot issue campaigns. The latter was a direct response to GOP objections to the "Issue 1" campaign last year that constitutionally protected abortion in the state. The move came without Democratic support, however, with members seemingly empowered to vote against the legislation following the DNC announcement.

"We don't need your fix. The DNC just released a statement several minutes ago that says we're going to hold a virtual vote of our delegates across the country and nominate President Biden to the ballot," State Sen. Bill DeMora said on Tuesday. "We don't want a legislative fix that holds the voters and their rights to the whim of the majority."


Majority rule? Isn't that ... democracy? What's the name of their party again?

Besides, the bill would not have reversed Issue 1, but just bar foreign donations on similar referenda in the future. That certainly seems like a reasonable restriction for election campaigns, given that the same rule applies in federal elections. (Just ask Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and "John Huang, Charlie Trie, James Riady, and Michael Brown, son of the late Clinton Commerce secretary Ron Brown.") 

Why would Democrats oppose a bar on foreign campaign contributions in Ohio referenda elections? 

At any rate, the net result of this new strategy all but eliminates any convention switcheroo for a failing Biden. Before this plan, the possibility existed (unlikely as it was) that the DNC could change the rules to release all delegates on the first ballot and have a real open convention for the nomination. This "virtual vote" of delegates necessitated by Ohio's ballot-access deadline makes the convention entirely irrelevant, even more so than usual. It's now just a huge anti-climax signifying nothing at all, not even the pro-forma elevation of the nominee. They will have done that in a smoke-filled back room, or maybe more accurately, a vape-filled back Zoom.

They're stuck with Biden now because they will have no mechanism to replace him once that virtual vote takes place. In fact, it gets worse than that if Biden really does withdraw before and especially after the "virtual vote." The DNC has no other mechanism than the convention to deal with a vacant ticket, so they lose Ohio access right off the bat. If they've already held the virtual vote, it's not even clear how the convention can undo that, especially in transmitting Biden's candidacy to the states. It's not impossible, but replacing Biden becomes much more complicated with the early "virtual vote" process.


This also tells us that there was no serious plan for a Chicago Switcheroo, despite all of the speculation over Democrats' panic in 2024. If they needed the convention as their fallback plan to swap Biden out for another (and more sentient) nominee, the DNC would have seized on the compromise in Ohio to keep that plan alive.

So it's Biden or bust, baby! Or perhaps more presciently, Biden and bust. And all because Ohio Dems want to protect foreign donors and block actual democracy. 

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