2024 DNC

When is the DNC in Chicago and why it could be a focal point following Biden-Trump debate

With many left questioning following the highly anticipated debate between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, all eyes will be on the upcoming conventions for both parties, though the DNC could hold even more significance following Thursday's performance

After an eyebrow-raising presidential debate this week, many are wondering what's next in the 2024 election and among the upcoming big political tentpoles is the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

With many left questioning following the highly anticipated debate between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, all eyes will be on the upcoming conventions for both parties, though the DNC could hold even more significance following Thursday's performance.

As Chicago prepares to be at the center of the political world come August, here's a look at what to expect and why the event could mean something more:

When is the Democratic National Convention?

The DNC will take place from Aug. 19-22.

Where is the DNC?

The two main locations for the convention will be the United Center and McCormick Place, a spokesperson for the DNC told NBC Chicago.

The United Center will host official proceedings, primetime programming and speeches, while the McCormick Place will host the official daytime party business, meetings and briefings, a spokesperson said.

Outside of the convention itself, there will be many local businesses that will host DNC-affiliated events.

There is a vendor directory and venue map which show attendees where events can be found during the convention outside of the United Center and McCormick Place.

Extensive security measures and nearby road closures are expected for the convention.

What is the DNC?

The DNC is a convention that occurs every four years to elect the Democratic Party’s presidential and vice presidential nominees.

The only people who can vote on the nominees at the convention are the party’s delegates.

This year, however, could be a bit different.

The Democratic National Convention is being held in Chicago, but the party has announced that it will hold a virtual roll call to formally nominate Biden before in-person proceedings begin. The exact date for the roll call has not yet been set.

The change in the nomination timing aims to sidestep any potential concerns about ballot access in Ohio, where a technical quirk has complicated things.

Democrats decided to plan a virtual nomination for Biden after Ohio Republicans balked at passing pro-forma legislation that would allow Biden to be on the ballot, even though the convention falls after a state deadline. But while Republicans passed a law to shift the deadline, Democrats decided to move forward with a virtual nomination nonetheless.

What is a delegate?

Delegates are people who represent voters in the Democratic Party. Delegates cast votes to select the presidential nominee on behalf of the area they represent and also help determine the party’s governing rules.

Registered voters in Illinois can become delegates by completing varying requirements based on what type of delegate they want to be. There are three levels of delegates in Illinois: district-level, pledged PLEO and at-large.

District-level delegates were selected on March 19. District-level delegates are the first group of delegates that are elected during the primary election. They need to submit a petition and a statement of candidacy to be considered. There are 96 district-level delegates.

PLEO delegates are Party Leaders and Elected Officials. To be considered for election, they must have submitted a statement of candidacy and a pledge of support by April 12. They are elected only through a quorum of district-level delegates. There are 19 PLEO delegates selected on April 29.

At-large delegates are the last group to be elected. To be considered for election, they must have filed a statement of candidacy and a pledge by April 12.

Candidates for the at-large delegate role are elected by a quorum of state district-level delegates. There are 32 at-large delegates selected and 12 alternates chosen in case some of the selected delegates cannot attend. These delegates are selected on April 29.

What did the Biden-Trump debate mean for the DNC?

Biden's performance in the first debate Thursday sparked a new round of criticism from Democrats, as well as public and private musing about whether he should remain at the top of the ticket.

Publicly, Democratic officials continue to largely rally around Biden, and argue a lackluster performance doesn’t change the fundamental stakes of the election.

But the private whispers whipped up after Thursday’s debate performance, during which Biden had a raspy voice, spoke softly and a times seemed to lose his train of thought, leading his aides to try to deflect mid-way through the debate by saying he had a cold.

The only plausible scenario for Democrats to get a new nominee would be for Biden to decide to withdraw, something he's sworn off repeatedly during other bumpy stretches of his campaign.  

It would be nearly impossible for Democrats to replace him otherwise.

That's because every state has already held its presidential primary. Democratic rules mandate that the delegates Biden won remain obligated to support him at the party's upcoming national convention unless he tells them he’s leaving the race.

Biden indicated that he had no plans to do that, telling supporters in Atlanta shortly after he left the debate stage, “Let's keep going.”

Biden campaign spokesperson Lauren Hitt was even clearer, saying Friday: “Of course he's not dropping out.”

The conventions and their rules are controlled by the political parties. The Democratic National Committee could convene before the convention opens on Aug. 19 and change how things will work, but that isn't likely as long as Biden wants to continue seeking reelection.

The current rules read: “Delegates elected to the national convention pledged to a presidential candidate shall in all good conscience reflect the sentiments of those who elected them.”

If Biden were to drop out between now and when he's scheduled to be formally nominated in August, it would create a free-for-all among Democrats since there is no mechanism for him or anyone else to anoint a chosen successor.

It takes a majority of the roughly 4,000 pledged delegates to win the party’s nomination. Biden’s won 3,900 of them. Under recent reforms, the party’s more than 700 superdelegates — Democratic lawmakers and dignitaries — are allowed to vote only if no one wins a majority of pledged delegates on the first ballot, so their votes could be crucial in a contested convention. 

Since Biden's opponents all won effectively no delegates throughout the Democratic nominating process, there'd be a virtual clean slate heading into the convention, and the decision would likely come down to the convention delegates who were initially pledged to Biden.

Biden would have some influence over his pledged delegates, but ultimately, they can vote as they please so candidates would likely campaign aggressively to win over each individual delegate.

If large swaths of the Democratic Party lost faith in Biden, delegates to the national convention could theoretically defect en masse. Of course, they were chosen to be delegates because of their loyalty to Biden and have pledged to support him at the convention.

But, unlike many Republican delegates, Democratic delegates are not technically bound to their candidate. DNC rules allow delegates to “in all good conscience reflect the sentiments of those who elected them,” providing some wiggle room.

The party’s charter does contain provisions to replace the nominee in the event of a vacancy. The measure is intended to be used in case of death, resignation or incapacitation, not to replace someone who has no desire to step down.

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