Is Joe Biden the Worst Option for Democrats to Beat Trump? – The Intercept

A chronicle of Donald Trump's Crimes or Allegations

Is Joe Biden the Worst Option for Democrats to Beat Trump? – The Intercept

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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
There are substantial numbers of disenchanted Democrats, independents, and even Republicans who could be enthused by a Democratic alternative.
President Joe Biden has an electability problem. To counter that reality — evident for months but put on the spotlight by a dismal debate performance last week — his campaign on Monday touted a poll finding that eight other Democrats would lose to former President Donald Trump at similar margins as the incumbent. 
Team Biden would have you believe that the poll shows that he has the best chance at beating Trump. Yet if the poll is meant to answer the question of which Democrat would fare best against Trump, the answer, evidently, is nearly anyone else. 
The post-debate Data for Progress poll tested the odds of eight Democrats who have been floated as possible alternatives to Biden, including Vice President Kamala Harris and multiple Democratic governors. Biden’s self-proclaimed advantage is tempered by the lack of name recognition — so far — for the other options. Aside from Harris, prospective voters were so unfamiliar with these Democratic leaders that between 39 and 71 percent of respondents said they hadn’t heard enough about them to have an opinion. Even so, each potential candidate performed the same or even better than Biden.
For instance, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is losing to Trump by 2 points, compared to Biden’s 3 — despite the fact that 56 percent of voters do not know enough about her to share any particular opinion. Others, like Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, like Biden, trail Trump by 3, despite having little name recognition. Harris had the same result as Biden.
NEW POST-DEBATE POLL: In a new survey, 45% of likely voters choose Biden and 48% choose Trump in a head-to-head matchup.

However, there is no clear advantage among the alternative candidates who could replace Biden as the Democratic nominee.https://t.co/o0lW7DVJ4D pic.twitter.com/cY4OAqN4rm
Since the poll results come without any concentrated campaign by any of the officials, they can be read as a reflection of floors rather than ceilings for each of the alternative Democrats. Given mass voter discontent with the choice between Trump and Biden, the polling suggests that voters could readily get behind someone else. 
A Reuters poll conducted as far back as January found that about half of Democrats and 75 percent of independents thought Biden should not run for president again; it also found that 31 percent of Republicans and 63 percent of independents said Trump shouldn’t run again. A NewsNation poll conducted around the same time found that 59 percent of Americans wouldn’t be enthusiastic about a Biden-Trump rematch. The trend has continued in recent polling: A post-debate USA Today poll found that 41 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of independents wanted Biden replaced, with 63 percent of independents wanting Trump replaced. A CBS poll similarly found nearly half of Democrats want Biden to step aside.
In the aftermath of the debate, a CNN poll found 75 percent of all voters thought Democrats would have a better chance at winning the election with someone other than Biden at the top of the ticket. It suggested Whitmer, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg were all doing slightly better than the presiden, with Harris within the margin of error of Trump. (Harris’s net-approval rating average is also 9 points better than Biden’s).
This polling suggests there are substantial numbers of disenchanted Democrats, independents, and even Republicans who could be enthused by an alternative, while those still standing by Biden are just as likely to support any Democratic alternative to Trump. A Democratic presidential campaign that’s been shedding support could instead be one that’s gaining momentum.
In nearly every way, Biden is carrying baggage that no alternative Democrat would inherit. Aside from a five-day stretch, Biden has trailed Trump in national polling averages for the better part of the campaign. Trump’s margin widened again after last week’s debate. Biden has been underperforming Democratic Senate candidates in a range of states, including ones he will need to win in 2024, such as Arizona, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada, and even Ohio. Post-debate polls show Biden sinking in these states and even bringing others like New Hampshire and New Mexico into play. His approval rating is about the lowest it’s ever been during his presidency, at a net negative of 19.
And it’s not just the polling. Biden has faced a historic protest vote campaign in the form of the Uncommitted movement, which has netted hundreds of thousands of votes nationwide, including in key battleground states, expressing discontent with Biden’s almost-unconditional support for Israel’s war on Gaza. His handling of the war has also birthed a historic nationwide movement of campus and community protests that could continue into the fall. 
With concerns surrounding his age and mental fitness hanging over his campaign, one fact bears acknowledgment: Biden is not getting any younger.
Efforts to challenge Biden earlier in the cycle did not take off — in part because the political establishment had put up a united front around Biden. But even as Biden’s advisers try to tamp down concerns, the list of people who have expressed concern about Biden’s performance or suggested he step aside in order to maximize the odds of beating Trump range only grows. They range from Never Trump Republicans Bill Kristol and Sarah Longwell and hosts of the former Obama staffer-led “Pod Save America,” to Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Gabe Amo, to the editorial boards of the Chicago Tribune, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and the New York Times, former Obama Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, and several Democratic members of Congress and committee leaders nationwide — including former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
On Tuesday, Rep. Lloyd Doggett became the first sitting Democratic member of Congress to call on Biden to step aside. 
For now, the possible alternative candidates have stayed quiet and reiterated their support for Biden. Whitmer reportedly called a senior Biden campaign official to express that she hated she was being floated as a possible replacement, while also sharing concern about how much more difficult the campaign will now be for Biden. She later released a statement affirming her “100 percent” support for Biden’s fight against Trump.
Newsom, who one California columnist has described as “waiting in the wings,” maintained his tune as an avid Biden surrogate even while being swarmed by reporters after the debate. On Thursday night, he expressed his “disgust” at Trump’s debate performance and his pride in Biden on the substance. 
If the president is meant to be a messenger for the wider governing structure he represents, Biden, as evidenced by his debate performance, falls short. While Trump spouted lies and racist remarks like clockwork, Biden fumbled to not only respond to those comments, but even to maintain a coherent positive message. If the president is meant to actively craft and execute responsive policy, just look to Biden’s remarkable intransigence in supporting Israel’s war or his timidness in the face of an out-of-control and unaccountable Supreme Court as signs of a political and an electoral liability. If the role of a president is some combination of both, Biden’s recent record appears all the worse.
Despite their hesitance to jump in, alternative candidates have the possibility to not only more effectively contrast themselves against Trump — but also against Biden’s inability to do so. And in a race in which the American public is disenchanted not just with Biden, but with Trump too, the question is whether other Democrats have a better chance than the incumbent against someone who ought to be among the most beatable candidates in presidential election history.
After all, Trump is now the first former president to be a convicted felon and still faces several other criminal proceedings. He appointed three of the Supreme Court justices who not only helped overturn decades-old abortion rights in the U.S., but recently freed corporate America from regulation and ruled that homeless people can be considered criminals for sleeping outside, while crime-committing presidents can be immune from prosecution for nearly any misdeed. He is the face of a movement that sought to overturn an election, that has pursued book bans and mass deportations and infringements on people’s abilities to love whoever they do.
In 2020, Biden had the benefit of challenging a historically unpopular incumbent and garnering the volunteer energy to do so, and still, he won narrowly. If he takes seriously his own warnings of what dangers Trump’s re-ascendance may unleash, he would act accordingly. By every single metric, he is faring much worse in 2024 than he did four years ago, while those same factors suggest nearly any prominent Democratic alternative could perform better.
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