Right-Wingers Plan to Make it Difficult for Democrats to Replace Biden

President Joe Biden and his campaign are insisting he will stay in the 2024 race, despite a rough debate last week in which he looked feeble and struggled to complete his thoughts several times. With Democrats increasingly unsure that Biden should remain the party’s nominee, the conservative Heritage Foundation is pledging to try to block the Democratic Party from replacing Biden on the ticket in key swing states.

In a June 21 memo, the Heritage Foundation astutely predicted that Democrats might wish to force out Biden “if he freezes at [the] debate.” Noting that “the mechanisms for replacing him on ballots vary by state,” the memo says: “There is the potential for pre-election litigation in some states that would make the process difficult and perhaps unsuccessful.”

Election experts question whether the Heritage Foundation effort would work. “I don’t put any credence into it,” Rick Hasen, director of the Safeguarding Democracy Project At UCLA’s Law School, wrote on Wednesday. “Joe Biden is not the party’s nominee now, and states generally point to the major party’s nominee as the one whose name is on the ballot.”

Edward Foley, who directs the election law program at the Ohio State University, tells Rolling Stone: “As long as we are talking about Biden dropping out before the convention, I can’t see any legal obstacle to the Democrats choosing any other alternative nominee that they wish, whether [Vice President Kamala] Harris or someone else. State law puts on the ballot whomever the party chooses as its nominee at its convention.”

Craig Holman, a governmental ethics lobbyist at Public Citizen, says that “the Heritage Foundation is trying to create a quagmire where none really exists.” He adds, “They’re just trying to muck up the process. I have no doubt they will file lawsuits if this does indeed happen, but I would expect the lawsuits to be very promptly dismissed.”

A senior source involved with Donald Trump’s 2024 effort to win the presidency and another person working with the Heritage-based Project 2025 (the conservative policy agenda project) tell Rolling Stone that the point of these legal attack plans and potential blitz of challenges isn’t necessarily to win.

A key point, the sources say, would be to weigh down the Democratic nominee, the national party, and their legal and political allies in as many unique court battles and sideshows as possible — so that the Democratic Party would have to waste resources and time on those matters when liberals would want to be laser-focused on, say, the battleground states that will likely decide whether Trump returns to power.

“Team Biden — or Team whoever — is going to be getting hit on all sides between now and Election Day,” the first source says. “Every legal and political weapon is on the table.” Still, the sources add, they do generally feel more confident in their legal theories than in the past, since Trump stacked the judiciary with right-wing jurists.

Rolling Stone spoke Wednesday night with Mike Howell, a former Trump Homeland Security Department official who is now executive director at the Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project, which is spearheading the effort to prevent Democrats from replacing Biden.

“President Biden today said he is the nominee, and I think the media has missed the importance of such a statement … If he, in those statements, is legally arguing that he is the nominee, I think that should be read as him circumventing the formal convention process,” he argued. “And Biden’s doing so has tremendous legal implications and statutory impact for states that specifically point to the DNC for who shows up on the ballot as the party’s nominee.”

Howell continues: “I don’t think anybody, myself included, can say how this will shake out because it is all so time-dependent and fact-dependent on what happens between now and the [Democratic] convention.” However, he says, “there are options for litigation and plenty of legal opportunities for us if an improper switcheroo were to occur … In the aggregate, the legal skeptics are incorrect that there would likely be some sort of seamless switcheroo that would happen without legal challenges.”

“We are standing ready to sue in the event a switch is done improperly,” he adds. “If they do it properly, we won’t sue. But if certain election integrity issues are at play, we will be very active.”

More from Rolling Stone

Best of Rolling Stone