What’s a Democrat to do?

President Biden’s poll numbers seem set in quicksand. Now the special counsel’s justification for not recommending charges against Biden for having “willfully retained and disclosed classified materials” is damning: Biden’s memory has such “significant limitations” that the special counsel believed he could not convince a jury that Biden has a “mental state of willfulness” that a serious felony (or, presumably, serving as president) requires. Cue the campaign commercials.

Salvation lies in the DNC rules. Remember the New Jersey “Switcheroo” way back in 2002, when Democrats turned a sure loss of a Senate seat into a win by swapping out their losing candidate at the last minute, overriding a state law that said it was too late in the cycle for such a switch?

Bet on Democrats to pull the same “switcheroo,” but at an even higher level – and even later than you expect – possibly at but more likely about two weeks after their convention, giving us a “September Surprise.” Joe Biden is a placeholder quelling current competition for a much better bet – Michelle Obama – just in time to turn a sure loss in 2024 into a surprise potential victory.

“Tosh!” you say. “She’s said she hates politics, she doesn’t want to run.” Ah, she made every one of those statements before she got to see Biden redefining the job and expectations for the presidency. Now she knows that when the media wants a president in place, a four-day workweek, consisting of one social obligation per day, and everything else delegated, will suffice. And that’s without a highly experienced First Gentleman.

“Pure lunacy!” said Karl Rove speaking to host Stuart Varney on Fox about the possibility of a Michelle Obama candidacy. “People would say, ‘You know what, that’s Barack Obama going for a third term.’ They wouldn’t go for it.” 

Oh yes they would. Let’s remember that the received wisdom from the GOP professional class was that Obama couldn’t possibly get the nomination in ’08, or that once he did that he couldn’t win, and that he would lose in 2012. Apparently that underestimation persists.

Swapping out candidates so close to an election isn’t as rare a thing as you might think. In that very same 2002 election cycle, for instance, Minnesota Democrats had to replace their Senate candidate, incumbent Paul Wellstone, after he was killed in a plane crash just days before the election. And almost exactly two years earlier, Missouri Democrats had to replace Gov. Mel Carnahan, their candidate for the U.S. Senate, in late October, when he died in a plane crash.

As the New Jersey case proved, the closer you can get to Election Day before making the switch, the better chance you will have. Less time for the other side to conduct new opposition research, do some polling, figure out a new strategy, and create advertising campaigns. Less time, too, that the replacement candidate needs to actually campaign.

The switch could be done at the convention – but that requires 300 delegate signatures, and would open the door to a lot of politicking over several weeks by other potential candidates. It would make ’68 look like a picnic, and potentially put Michelle in the grubby position of seeking support just like everyone else.

But should Biden be incentivized to suddenly declare a new health issue that leads him to announce a week or two after the convention that he will continue his term but will not be running, suddenly we have one of those crises that should not be wasted. Rising above it all and quelling the haggling, Michelle – with her 91% popularity among Democrats and 68% nationally when she left the White House, and with the Obama fundraising and political network and job experience – can accede when pressed, for the good of the country, to graciously accept her grateful party’s nomination.

The challenge will be to navigate the various obscure state laws setting hard to determine deadlines for ballots in time to be printed and mailed to voters overseas. In sum, as Washington, D.C.-based election lawyer Ronald Jacobs helped to unpack, while party rules dictate how the nominee is selected, state law dictates when the party can make that change. For many states, those laws are woefully unclear. And even where the law is clear, a court could step in (and has) to force the state to change as they did in New Jersey.

Past legal rulings seem to indicate that August 27 isn’t a problem, but Oct. 1 may be too late (though the likelihood of any court having the fortitude to tell half the country their nominee can’t be on the ballot seems unlikely). Figure two-plus weeks after the convention to be the last safe opportunity to switch.

DNC rules that apply are actually rather simple. Article Three, Section 1(c) of the Charter & Bylaws of the Democratic Party says “The Democratic National Committee shall have general responsibility for the affairs of the Democratic Party between National Conventions … This responsibility shall include filling vacancies in the nominations for the office of President and Vice President.” The chairman confers with Democratic Congressional Leadership and the Democratic Governors Association and takes a decision to all 483 DNC members to vote on.

It’s been done before. In 1972, Democrats realized weeks after their nominating convention that the man they had nominated for vice president, Missouri Sen. Thomas Eagleton, had undergone shock therapy a decade earlier. Eagleton withdrew from the ticket – thereby creating a vacancy – and left it to the DNC to choose a replacement. McGovern finally got Kennedy in-law Sargent Shriver to agree to what became a suicide mission.

The Eagleton/Shriver swap was a poorly run thing, catch-as-catch-can, with the presidential candidate always running a day behind the news. Michelle Obama’s entry into the 2024 campaign as Joe Biden’s replacement will be handled in a far more professional manner.

Why Michelle? It would make no sense for Biden to remove himself from the ticket in order to simply elevate Vice President Kamala Harris. The point of the whole exercise is to win. Michelle Obama is the only potential candidate who could safely replace a black woman on the Democrat ticket without causing a major political disruption inside a core Democrat voter group. Plus, Michelle is Teflon: a popular celebrity with little track record – and the guarantee that any criticism will elicit a chorus of “racist!” and “sexist!” accusations. She is by far the hardest candidate for Trump to beat.

Mrs. Obama has been acting for several years as though she is rebranding for the gig. Her book launch looked nothing like a book tour, but a reintroduction, complete with billboards and sell-out celebrity interview performances, of the new Oprah-ized, smiling, hey-girlfriend, loving-America Michelle. 

A few weeks ago, she said publicly she was “terrified” about the potential results of the election, saying her fears of the possible outcomes keep her awake at night.

And just recently an entire special edition of Life magazine about the inspiring Michelle Obama parked itself for $14.99 at your nearest supermarket checkout line. The cover may say “The Post-White House Phenomenon,” but everything post-White House is confined to five paragraphs in the first introductory pages – while the rest of the 112 glossy pages are one-third backstory and two-thirds Michelle in the White House, looking presidential. The last page is Michelle on stage at the 2016 convention, solo, looking like she’s just received the nomination – and under the heading “Crowd Pleaser.” On the back cover are the Obamas at their second inaugural ball – with President Obama bowing to the stately Michelle.

It’s not enough though that the lady is willing and prepared. The ground must be laid. In late ’22 I predicted in the second part of a tweet, that oddly no longer shows up when searched, that in 2023 we’d see house organs of the left like the Washington Post and other mainstream outlets suddenly shift from treating Hunter Biden’s problems like a GOP fever dream to a real problem, along with other Biden criticisms. That happened on cue. Now we have a special counsel report reminiscent of Comey’s hit on Hillary.

Of course, executing this scenario requires enough carrots and sticks for Biden to give up his place on the ticket. By summer, it’s likely his polls will be so bad that a November loss seems a foregone conclusion. His legacy wouldn’t be that he was the man who removed Donald Trump from the White House, it would be that he was the man who let Trump back in to prosecute him and his family. Even Jill will face reality and, like Bob Torricelli before them, opt for the switcheroo.

In London, where betting on American politics is legal, more bets recently were placed on Michelle Obama becoming president than on Biden, and she remains in second place in the RealClearPolitics Betting Odds Average for the Democratic nomination. 

What do those bettors know that American pundits don’t?