Biden weighs whether to continue in presidential race after Trump debate failure

The panic within the Democratic Party has been evident since Joe Biden walked down the stairs from the stage at CNN's television studio after being overwhelmed by his rival Donald Trump in the debate between the two candidates for the presidency of the United States last Thursday. The voices calling for his removal were just that, just voices. But this Wednesday The New York Times Has published the anonymous testimony of a “key ally” of Biden to whom the president has told that he is aware that he may not be able to save his candidacy if he does not manage to convince his followers in the coming days that he can move forward. The influential newspaper also quotes a Biden adviser, who – anonymously – assures that the president is “aware of the political challenges he faces”. The White House has already denied the statements and has assured that they are not true.

According to The New York TimesSeveral Biden allies, who have met with family and advisers since Thursday's debate, have stressed that the president is still in “the fight of his political life” and sees this moment as “an opportunity to once again hold himself accountable,” as he has done many times during his half-century political career.

Since the CNN debate ended, Biden has been in a kind of bunker, surrounded by his family and inner circle, who have been encouraging him to keep going in the race, especially his wife, Jill Biden. His team has launched a damage control campaign, with the Democrat trying to project the energetic, awake image he failed to create last Thursday night. At each of the events he has held in North Carolina, New Jersey and Virginia, Biden has insisted it was just “a bad night.” Still, the snowball has grown, and on Wednesday Biden is meeting with Democratic governors and congressional leaders to try to convince them he is in top shape.

Texas Democratic Congressman Lloyd Doggedtt was the first to address the candidate directly on Tuesday, asking what many others are thinking but afraid to say: that he step down from the race. “I represent the heart of a district that was once represented by [el expresidente] Lyndon Johnson. Under very different circumstances, he made the painful decision to retire. President Biden should do so,” Doggett said in a statement reported by CNN. “Recognizing that, unlike Trump, President Biden's first commitment has always been to our country, not to himself, I am hopeful that he will make the painful and difficult decision to retire. “I respectfully ask that you do so.” Doggett's call reflects the internal frictions that are beginning to crystallize within the Democratic Party.


Initially, Biden’s team had justified their candidate’s hoarse voice as a supposed cold. Now, Biden himself has said that it was due to fatigue from international travel in the weeks leading up to the debate. “I decided to travel around the world a couple of times shortly before the debate, I didn’t listen to my staff… and then I almost fell asleep on stage. It’s not an excuse, it’s an explanation,” Biden said at a fundraiser in Virginia. Now, it’s worth noting that “shortly before the debate” doesn’t mean he got off Air Force One and went straight to the CNN set in Atlanta. Quite the opposite. The week before the debate, Biden was locked down at the Camp David residence in Maryland while he prepared with his team.

A three-headed hydra

Right now, the president’s team has not just one open front, but three: They must convince the public that their candidate is qualified to run the campaign—and a second term if re-elected; they must silence internal voices like Dogget’s who think the president should step aside; and they must reassure donors who haven’t stopped asking since Thursday night, “What’s next?” What seemed like a single issue for Biden (stopping vote leaks) has, amid donor fears and internal divisions, become a three-headed hydra that must be solved before the Democratic Convention in August. That is, a month from now.

One of the biggest blows to Biden was Friday's editorial The New York Times, who called for its withdrawal. “The greatest public service Mr. Biden can do right now is to announce that he is no longer seeking re-election,” he said. While columnists from other outlets affiliated with the Democratic Party had published similar articles in the hours following the debate, it was the editorial board of one of the country’s most influential newspapers on Friday who signed the text.

The pressure on the candidate also comes in the form of polls, which are already beginning to quantify the scale of the disaster. The weekend after the debate, a YouGov poll commissioned by CBS found that 72% of voters believe Biden should not run for re-election, up nine points from 63% in February of this year. A CNN poll on Tuesday went in the same direction, with 75% of voters believing Democrats would have a better chance of winning if they presented an alternative candidate.

In the dance of names to replace Biden, one of the most popular and logical is that of his vice president, Kamala Harris. Although Harris has not achieved the expected popularity – as the first African-American woman to become vice president – ​​she is one of the most recognizable faces. For example, the study shows that Harris, in a hypothetical duel with Trump, would remain behind the Republicans, with a difference of two percentage points: 45% of the vote compared to 47%. It would of course improve on the result that the same study predicts for Biden: 43% of the vote compared to 49% for Trump.

Donor support will be crucial

The spiral of silence that has silenced criticism within the party ranks—although it is gradually breaking down—has also prevailed among the Democratic Party’s major donors. Some of them believe Biden should resign, but are afraid to say so publicly. According to The New York TimesMany of the groups funding the Democratic campaign are holding phone calls and closed meetings to assess what to do, while keeping a close eye on the polls. The media cites a closed-door meeting at the Jerome Hotel in Aspen, where nearly 50 Democratic donors gathered and nearly every person in attendance raised their hands when asked whether Biden should withdraw.

Donor support is also an important indicator for measuring Biden's ability to hold up. In tough times, candidates often rely on donor support. That's what Trump did after being convicted in the Stormy Daniels casewhen he assured that he had managed to raise nearly $35 million in donations shortly after the verdict was announced. At a time like this, and with the final months of the campaign approaching, Democratic campaign financing will be crucial to averting the popularity crisis the candidate now finds himself in.

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