How did we get here with Biden? Your questions about the democratic process answered.

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President Joe Biden is rejecting any idea that he would step aside as the Democratic nominee, a decision that is his alone.

When we asked readers what questions they have about Biden, they expressed some confusion about the process that made him the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Here are answers to some of the questions posed to CNN from readers:

No. There was a series of primaries in states and territories this year and voters in those contests overwhelmingly backed Biden. He faced only token opposition from a little-known congressman, Rep. Dean Phillips, and an author, Marianne Williamson. Biden won nearly all of the 3,949 pledged delegates who will officially select the party’s nominee at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August.

Delegates pick the nominee during a roll-call vote. While party rules don’t formally require delegates to vote for the candidate to whom they’re pledged, they’re supposed to, and campaigns have the right to approve the delegates pledged to their candidates. Biden has the votes to win the nomination in that first round of voting and realistically, it’s highly unlikely that another candidate could be elected without Biden voluntarily stepping aside.

This is an unprecedented situation. Primaries began in January and went on for months. That monthslong process provided Democrats and independents who wanted to take part in the Democratic primary the opportunity to back a different candidate. Each one of those primaries, arguably, was a sort of off-ramp.

But Democrats at the time were largely rallying behind Biden. That was, however, before his poor debate performance fed festering concerns about his age. It is remarkable that even though polling has long suggested voters feel Biden is too old and would have preferred a different choice, high quality opponents did not challenge him. Phillips and Williamson never gained traction and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. left the Democratic Party to run as an independent rather than challenge Biden for the party nomination.

The party also worked hard to discourage opposition to Biden. It did not sponsor debates, and multiple states, including Delaware and Florida, did not hold Democratic primaries after it was clear that Biden had the delegates to win the nomination.

Delegates are supposed to honor the voters in their states. Here’s the language in the Democratic party rules for the 2024 convention: “All delegates to the National Convention pledged to a presidential candidate shall in all good conscience reflect the sentiments of those who elected them.”

Primaries are an important part of the process and primary voters chose Biden. Not that they had much choice; the party worked hard to unify early behind Biden and discouraged serious opposition. But delegates technically pick the party nominee, which is why it would probably take Biden releasing the delegates he won to replace him on the ticket.

We received several versions of this question, not all of them fit to print. The large universe of people who believe Trump is unfit to be president have thought that for a long time. There is a universe of people who are newly questioning Biden’s fitness after the debate. I would point out that figure – that Trump lied more than 30 times at the debate – is directly reported in CNN’s Fact Check of the debate. From that report:

Trump’s repeat falsehoods included his assertions that some Democratic-led states allow babies to be executed after birth, that every legal scholar and everybody in general wanted Roe v. Wade overturned, that there were no terror attacks during his presidency, that Iran didn’t fund terror groups during his presidency, that the US has provided more aid to Ukraine than Europe has, that Biden for years referred to Black people as “super predators,” that Biden is planning to quadruple people’s taxes, that then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi turned down 10,000 National Guard troops for the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, that Americans don’t pay the cost of his tariffs on China and other countries, that Europe accepts no American cars, that he is the president who got the Veterans Choice program through Congress, and that fraud marred the results of the 2020 election.

So I believe it is inaccurate to say the media is giving Trump a pass. Trump, for his part, has all but disappeared from the campaign trail since the debate and Biden is holding events, doing TV and audio interviews and more as he engages in damage control. There has also been ample coverage of Trump’s criminal trial, his many other legal troubles, and his often outrageous claims and policy proposals.

Biden argues he has the best chance of winning and says the pollsters he talks to say the race is a tossup. High-quality public polling since the debate, on the other hand, suggests Trump does have a lead. In hypothetical matchups in which other Democrats are put up against Trump, the results are not currently much different. If those numbers start to change dramatically, pressure on Biden to drop out will increase dramatically.

When I put this question to CNN’s polling director, Jennifer Agiesta, she cautioned that polling is frequently misinterpreted as a tool to predict the future. It does not tell us who has a better chance of winning, but the state of the race in a particular moment. “Even before the debate there was almost no polling showing Biden with a significant lead of Trump nationally or in key states,” Agiesta said. “In a two-way matchup between Trump and Biden, there hasn’t been a high-quality poll showing a significant Biden lead since February.”

Biden says he does not have a debilitating cognitive condition so it does not appear he is hiding one. His advisers argue that he maintains a full campaign and governing schedule and he frequently appears in public, although his advisers have clearly tried to minimize unscripted moments. Impeachment is utilized to punish “high crimes and misdemeanors,” according to the US Constitution. Republican efforts to impeach Biden, which have so far failed, have focused not on his age, but on his son’s former business interests.

The 25th Amendment provides a pathway to dislodge an incapacitated president, but it is a complicated process and would require a majority of Biden’s Cabinet and Vice President Kamala Harris to agree in writing that he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” None of his allies are currently saying that about him. But if, in the future, a majority of his Cabinet and Harris (or some other body appointed by Congress) turned on Biden and tried to declare him incapacitated, he could dispute their finding and resume his duties. Harris and the Cabinet would then have four days in which to double down on their declaration that the president was unfit, at which point both houses of Congress would have 21 days to decide in a vote if he should carry on as president. It would require two-thirds of the Senate (usually 67 of 100 senators) and two-thirds of the House (usually 290 of 435 representatives) to remove the president from office.

Democrats have not exactly turned on Biden. Only a handful of elected Democrats have publicly argued he should step down as the party’s candidate in 2024. But they are almost universally worried that Trump will beat Biden in a rematch. Not only do Democrats disagree with the former president’s policies, they also view him as a destabilizing threat to American democracy. If Biden is not viewed as capable by the few independent voters who might support either candidate, it makes a Trump election more likely.

This would get very complicated, as CNN’s David Wright has written:

It’s a significant war chest that totaled $240 million at the end of June, including the Democratic National Convention and allied committees, according to an announcement from Biden’s campaign on Tuesday. At the end of May, Biden’s campaign account alone held $91.6 million, according to the most recent available data from the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

If Harris were tapped as a replacement nominee, she would take over the existing campaign account, and have control of funds deposited there, per FEC rules.

If the race were thrown open, the Biden-Harris campaign could transfer all of its cash on hand to the Democratic National Committee, as FEC rules permit unlimited transfers from candidate committees to national party committees.

The DNC could use those funds in several ways to support a new nominee, and could distribute that money to a variety of other down ballot candidates and allied committees – but in doing so, the DNC would be limited by FEC rules governing spending and contributions for national party committees.

There are other options, each with its own set of drawbacks, according to Wright, including turning Biden’s campaign account into a PAC.

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