The Hamilton Spectator

A Biden Alternativ­e? Forget It, His Aides Say.

- By PETER BAKER

WASHINGTON — A lot of Democrats wish President Joseph R. Biden Jr. were not running this fall. Only 28 percent of Democrats in a new survey by The New York Times and Siena College expressed enthusiasm about his candidacy, and 38 percent said flatly that he should not be their nominee.

But even as many Democrats in the United States wish for someone else to take on former President Donald J. Trump, who leads nationwide in the poll by five percentage points, no one who matters seems willing to tell that to Mr. Biden.

Surrounded by a loyal inner circle, Mr. Biden has given no indication that he will consider stepping aside.

The Biden team views the very question as absurd. The president in their view has an impressive record of accomplish­ment. There is no obvious alternativ­e. It is far too late in the election cycle to exit without considerab­le disruption. And other than someone with Biden in their name, it is hard to imagine who would have enough influence to sway him.

“There is no council of elders, and I’m not sure if there was that an incumbent president, no matter who it was, would listen to them,” said David Plouffe, the architect of President Barack Obama’s campaigns. “He thinks, ‘Hey, I won and I beat the guy who’s going to run against me, and I can do it again.’ ”

The president’s aides dismiss polls this far before the vote in

November. They say Democrats have won or outperform­ed expectatio­ns in 2020 and in recent years. “Actual voter behavior tells us a lot more than any poll does,” said Michael Tyler, the Biden campaign’s communicat­ions director.

Many Democrats say that Mr. Biden has done a good job on many fronts — winding down the pandemic, rebuilding the economy, managing wars in Europe and the Middle East.

But his support has been undercut by concern about his

Thousands of Democrats in Michigan cast protest votes recently over the president’s handling of the war in Gaza.

age, his support for Israel’s war on Hamas, the influx of migrants, and inflation. Over 100,000 Democrats in Michigan’s primary election, 13 percent of the total, recently cast protest votes for “uncommitte­d” to voice their dissatisfa­ction, most notably over Gaza.

Mr. Biden, 81, is a little older than Mr. Trump, 77, and both have shown moments of confusion and memory lapses. After his physical in February, Mr. Biden’s doctor pronounced him “fit for duty.” But polls show that more of the public is unsettled by Mr. Biden’s advancing years than by Mr. Trump’s.

“Would I rather that Joe Biden were 65? Sure,” said Elaine Kamarck, director of the Center for Effective Public Management at the Brookings Institutio­n and a member of the Democratic National Committee.

“But he’s not. And that’s why I think we’re in the silly season where everybody is casting around for some alternate scenario.”

Mr. Biden is helped by the fact that no one from the next generation of Democrats, like Vice President Kamala Harris, has a record of success in primaries. “You could name five or six alternativ­es to Biden, but they haven’t been through the system,” Ms. Kamarck said.

Mr. Biden’s advisers express confidence that when the election arrives, most voters will again prefer Mr. Biden to Mr. Trump, a twice-impeached defeated former president who faces 91 felony counts and has been found liable for business fraud and sexual assault.

“Where most Democrats are,” said Mr. Plouffe, “is, ‘OK, this is going to be really hard, a high degree of difficulty, but ultimately there’s probably enough of the country who doesn’t want to sign up for a second Trump term that we can make this work.’ ”

 ?? EMILY ELCONIN FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES ??
EMILY ELCONIN FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

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