These Obscure Democrats Could Soon Become Kingmakers

They are lawyers and school board members, labor activists and faith leaders, lifelong Democrats and party newcomers. Some of them just turned 18, others are pushing 80.

These are the people who make up the 3,939 delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Some are elected, and some are selected — each state party has its own rules — for what is normally a ceremonial task: nominating their candidate for president.

But in a — still unlikely — scenario that President Biden steps down as the nominee, they will suddenly be charged with picking a new nominee.

Most of these delegates did not set out to become kingmakers in the Democratic Party, but rather to be part of a pro-Biden slate pledging support to the president. But in the event Mr. Biden drops out, they would be vaulted from the obscurity of extras at a quadrennial television extravaganza into a group with the fate of the party — and, in the view of many Democrats, the future of the country — on their shoulders.

Many are loath to even consider that as an option, remaining steadfastly loyal to the president as he affirms his commitment to remaining in the race. And some find themselves overwhelmed by the possibility.

Phil Swanhorst, the chair of the Eau Claire County Democrats in Wisconsin and a first-time delegate, said that “with all the turmoil going on,” he did not want to discuss what he would do as a free delegate if released from his pledged status. Instead, he said he would follow the guidance of Ben Wikler, the chair of the state party.

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