BREAKING: NYT Reports Biden Mulling Withdrawal -- If ...

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Should I stay or should I go? That's the rock-and-roll version of Shakespeare's "to be or not to be." Given that Democrats face a tragedy of their own making in propping up a clearly incompetent Joe Biden for a run at a second term, feel free to choose your own reference, but it's a tragedy or comedy of their own making.


After several days of Biden and his campaign denying that they had asked the existential question, the New York Times reported in the last hour that Biden is indeed mulling a withdrawal -- if his spin attempts fail to correct the damage he did on Thursday:

President Biden has told a key ally that he knows he may not be able to salvage his candidacy if he cannot convince the public in the coming days that he is up for the job after a disastrous debate performance last week.

The president, who the ally emphasized is still deeply in the fight for re-election, understands that his next few appearances heading into the holiday weekend — including an interview scheduled for Friday with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News and campaign stops in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — must go well.

“He knows if he has two more events like that, we’re in a different place” by the end of the weekend, said the ally, referring to Mr. Biden’s halting and unfocused performance in the debate. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive situation.

The White House called this report "absolutely false," but apparently the same ally told CNN the same thing. As for it being false, let's not forget that White House called Biden videos "cheap fakes" too. It's tough to believe that Biden would refuse to even consider a withdrawal, especially with all of the criticism coming from fellow Democrats, including a handful who have called for Biden to step aside.


Of course, "go well" is a very flexible term. If Biden can manage to stay awake long enough for ABC to edit him into coherence, and if Jill Biden can escort him off the stages this week after reading off teleprompters, that might be enough to give the Bidens a claim of vindication for staying the course.

Would that be enough for the Democrat base? According to CNN's Harry Enten, Democrat voters seem committed to the bit.  Two-thirds of them insist on keeping Biden in place on the ticket, in the most recent Reuters poll. That's not going to put much pressure on party leaders that fear a cognitive-decline reaper in November up and down the ballot, he explains:

Needless to say, this Reuters/Ipsos poll is already an outlier. It's the only poll taken fully since the debate to show no change in the race:

One in three Democrats think U.S. President Joe Biden should end his reelection bid following last week's debate against Republican Donald Trump, but no prominent elected Democrat does any better than Biden in a hypothetical matchup against Trump, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll that closed on Tuesday.

The two-day poll found that both Trump, 78, and Biden, 81, maintain the support of 40% of registered voters, suggesting that Biden has not lost ground since the debate. Election Day is Nov. 5.


Skip over the top-line results, which contradict the post-debate movement in polling overall. Enten correctly considers the lack of significant movement away from Biden by his own voters, even while other polling -- the CBS poll, for instance -- shows those voters losing enthusiasm for participating in the November election. The percentage of dump-Biden voters in the base is surprisingly small after the debate, and not much higher than the dump-Poppy contingent in 1992's Republican electorate.

Of course, Bush lost that election, too.

Still, it's not evidence of a rising tide of rebellion, at least not so far. Washington Post analyst Aaron Blake notes that Democrat leaders and elected officials have tried to remain subtle about it, but that they have been pressing Biden to consider a voluntary withdrawal to rescue their down-ballot prospects, about which more later in a separate post:

The shift in tone is subtle, but it’s telling. These Democrats have increasingly treated this as a real possibility in ways you avoid if the name of the game is to batten down the hatches and stand by your man. And this is not coming from pundits, editorial boards or backbenchers; it’s coming from party graybeards and potential leaders.

At least according to the Reuters/Ipsos poll, it isn't having much of an impact -- yet. Perhaps that may be because Democrat voters realize more clearly than some analysts that they're stuck with Biden if he won't leave on his own. There is no way to deny him the nomination and force him off the ticket. This little trial balloon by the unnamed "key ally" talking to the NYT might change that dynamic too, however. 


Stay tuned, but don't forget that the deadline for this decision is coming up fast, thanks to the DNC's insistence on conducting an early delegate vote in a couple of weeks rather than wait for the convention. If the Bidens get through this weekend unscathed, this will become moot very quickly afterward. 

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