By Douglas MacKinnon, opinion contributor — 05/02/20 12:00 PM EDT 4,468 The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill
Desperate times do indeed call for desperate measures. For the Democrats, a truly desperate time could come if Joe Biden is forced to withdraw from the presidential race. While the former vice president is the presumptive Democratic nominee to face off against President Trump in November, his nomination is still far from official.
Some Democrats tell me they fear that Biden’s political survival is getting more problematic with each passing day. They cite three main issues. The first is their concern that an allegation of sexual assault leveled against Biden by former staffer Tara Reade won’t go away anytime soon. If anything, it appears to be about to gain a new life.
Next, they worry that another shoe could drop regarding questions related to Biden’s son Hunter and his business dealings. Lastly, some Democrats are concerned about Biden’s age and possible cognitive issues — a concern that some also have expressed about Trump.
For those reasons, and a few more, might we envision Biden being privately talked into retiring from the race or voluntarily doing so himself? Let’s assume that happens just before or just after the party’s convention, in whatever form it is held. What would happen then?
The process is actually fairly straightforward. If Biden quits the race right before the convention, delegates would select a new nominee. If he drops out right after the convention, members of the Democratic National Committee would pick their replacement candidate.
Who might be in consideration to become the new nominee — and who would be selected as the vice presidential running mate? Several likely combinations come to mind, starting in many minds with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but one particular, truly out-of-the-box combination stops the discussion in its tracks: Hillary Clinton as the nominee and Barack Obama as her running mate.
Now, before everyone rolls their eyes, let that sink in for a moment and do some fairly simple calculations about voters and swing states in your heads. No matter how you add it, subtract it or divide it, that math would spell trouble for the Trump campaign.
Could such a scenario come to pass? If Biden flames out and the Democrats don’t want to hand the election to Trump, they would need to do something incredibly creative in a flash.
So now the “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst” cliché comes into play. While most Democrats hope Biden can survive the scandals nipping at his viability, party leaders need to prepare for the worst — that he drops out.
Some Democrats have confessed to me that having Biden drop out, for whatever reason, might not be bad news since they aren’t convinced he can beat Trump in November, despite polls showing him in the lead at this point. And they believe (perhaps a bit wistfully, in some respects) that a Clinton-Obama ticket would be a nightmare for Trump.
The next obvious question is this: Does the Constitution allow Obama’s selection as a vice presidential running mate, given ambiguous language in the 12th and 22nd amendments?
The 12th Amendment states that no one “ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice President of the United States.” The 22nd Amendment — the “not Franklin Delano Roosevelt again” amendment — states that “no person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice.”
The operative word here might be “elected.” If Obama were selected as Clinton’s running mate, and she had to leave office for any reason, then Obama would succeed her. At least one constitutional expert is on record saying there is nothing to prevent such a scenario.
But why would Obama, who has endorsed Biden, ever entertain such a possibility? I can think of two reasons. One, he would be seen among liberal, Never Trumpers as the one who stepped up to save the nation. Two, there is no heavy lifting involved. Obama could move into the vice presidential residence at the Naval Observatory, considered some of the most beautiful, secure grounds in all of Washington, and do as much or as little work as he wanted. His only real task would be during the campaign, to push Hillary Clinton over the victory line.
Some of the smart money may be placed on Joe Biden not becoming the Democrats’ nominee after all. And, at least in a few minds, it may be time for plans “C” and “O,” Democrats.
Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration.