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New polls give Trump a bigger lead over Biden, increasing pressure on the president to step aside

Vice-President Kamala Harris is emerging as the frontrunner in the race to replace the Democratic leader if he finally decides to withdraw

New polls Trump Biden
Joe Biden during a speech in November 2023.Stephanie Scarbrough (AP)
Miguel Jiménez

Joe Biden has long seen himself as the only Democrat capable of defeating Donald Trump. He achieved this in the 2020 presidential elections, and he also secured a good result in the 2022 midterm elections. Biden was planning to be a transitional president with the historic mission of overcoming Trump’s term and passing the baton to a new generation. His predecessor, however, resisted defeat and took control of the Republican Party. Trump is once again the candidate to beat, but the polls after last week’s debate indicate that the president will not be able to beat him one more time. That increases the pressure on Biden to withdraw. Vice-President Kamala Harris stands out as a favorite to replace him.

The media, political and financial offensive against the president’s candidacy is unrelenting. On Wednesday it was the prestigious Boston Globe that asked in an editorial for Biden to step aside. Meanwhile, a second congressman raised his voice in public to ask him to withdraw. There were also donors who asked for a change of candidate. Biden has categorically denied that he is considering giving up his re-election bid. However, if the president becomes convinced that he has no chance of being elected, the chances of him stepping down will multiply.

On Wednesday afternoon, Democratic governors from across the country closed ranks with the president in a meeting at the White House that was also attended by Harris. “The president is our nominee. The president is our party leader,” said Maryland Governor Wes Moore at the end of the meeting. Although the governors gave their support to the president, they also meaningfully noted that the most important thing is to defeat Donald Trump in the November 5 elections.

From left to right, the governors of New York, Kathy Hochul; Minnesota, Tim Walz, and Maryland, Wes Moore, on Wednesday outside the White House.
From left to right, the governors of New York, Kathy Hochul; Minnesota, Tim Walz, and Maryland, Wes Moore, on Wednesday outside the White House.SHAWN THEW (EFE)

Polls are beginning to show a decisive distance between the two candidates. On Wednesday, The New York Times published a poll conducted with Siena College that shows Trump’s lead has doubled from 3 to 6 percentage points among likely voters: 49% would choose Trump and 43% would vote for Biden. The gap is even greater (49% to 41%) among registered voters. Trump had never had such a big lead in a New York Times poll, one of the newspapers that has openly called for Biden’s withdrawal.

Growing gap

The gap is also breaking all records in a Wall Street Journal nationwide poll published this Wednesday. The conservative financial newspaper grants Trump a six-point lead over Biden, 48% to 42%. The distance is maintained (42% to 36%) when Robert F. Kennedy Jr and the rest of the independent candidates are also considered. Around 80% of respondents believe Biden is too old to seek a second term and almost half (47%) would replace both candidates if they could. A CNN poll also places Trump’s lead at six points.

These polls add to others published in recent days in which the effect of the debate seemed somewhat less relevant. Perhaps it is not just the face-to-face itself, but the subsequent discussion about Biden’s suitability that is further eroding his support. A polling average by FiveThirtyEight, which gave a minimal advantage to Biden before the debate, on Wednesday gave Trump a 2.3-point lead over Biden.

Another aggregator, RealClearPolitics, gives Trump a lead of 2.9 points, the largest since January. Metaculus, a prediction community of thousands of users, estimates that the Republican candidate has a 64% chance of returning to the White House, compared to only 24% for Joe Biden. Investors in the experimental online prediction market PredictIt have at times given Kamala Harris a better chance of being elected than Biden himself.

In 2020, four months before the election, Biden had a nine-point lead in the polls. In the end, he won the election with 51.25% of the popular vote, compared to Trump’s 46.8%. Despite the difference of seven million votes, the Democrat’s victory was decided by a few tens of thousands of votes in a handful of decisive states. Given that the electoral system favors rural and depopulated states with a Republican majority, the Democratic candidate needs to win by several points of difference in the popular vote to have a majority in the electoral college, whose members elect the president. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote (48%-46%) in 2016, but was not elected president.

So far, the president has been trying to prove that his memory lapses, hesitations and unfinished sentences at the debate were an accident, caused by fatigue, a cold, a sore throat and jet lag (this is the latest excuse or, in Biden’s words, explanation, even he had spent a week preparing for the debate at Camp David). He will have the opportunity to test himself in a television interview, several radio interviews and a news conference in the coming week. The New York Times, which had first reported that Biden told an ally he was considering stepping down, later withdrew that idea following a flat denial from the White House and left it at Biden admitting that crucial days lie ahead for his candidacy.

Things are moving so fast that ABC, which was planning to air its interview with Biden on Sunday, has decided to reschedule it for Friday evening in prime time. The pressure is on. On the one hand, Biden is in a hurry to change the narrative. On the other, the interview can get old if it is saved for longer than necessary.

New pressures

On Wednesday a second congressman called on Biden to step aside. Raúl Grijalva, a representative from Arizona, joined Lloyd Doggett from Texas, who was the first to openly make the request. They are just two of the more than 250 Democratic representatives and senators in Congress, but there are many more who have expressed similar doubts in private. “The unfortunate reality is that the status quo will likely deliver us President Trump,” Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton said in a statement. “When your current strategy isn’t working, it’s rarely the right decision to double down. President Biden is not going to get younger,” he added. There are several other representatives who have made similar comments.

Joe Biden, at an event this Wednesday at the White House.
Joe Biden, at an event this Wednesday at the White House. Yuri Gripas / POOL (EFE)

On Wednesday the president participated in a medal ceremony prior to Independence Day. He read his speech from a teleprompter, but his movements and gestures were still those of an older person. At 81, his physical deterioration is evident and a hypothetical second term would mean that he would occupy the presidency until the age of 86. Still, the president seems convinced that he can reverse voters’ perceptions by intensifying his agenda.

But the pressure is also coming from the world of money. Several donors have begun to express doubts, including Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings, who called on the president to drop out of the race: “Biden needs to step aside to allow a vigorous Democratic leader to beat Trump and keep us safe and prosperous,” he said in a message to The New York Times, the most active newspaper in the campaign to get the president to step down.

If Biden steps aside — and that is a giant “if” — it remains to be seen who will replace him. Jim Clyburn, a longtime friend and confidant of Biden, said he would support a “mini-primary” in the run-up to the Democratic National Convention that opens on August 19 in Chicago. On CNN, Clyburn said Vice-President Kamala Harris, governors and others could join the competition.

Harris' moment

The vice-president appears to be the favorite for a hypothetical succession, although she also has her detractors within the party. The Harris solution appears to be the one that makes it easier to have access to all the money raised by the Biden-Harris campaign. The delegates that Biden won in the primaries are also hers to a certain extent.

Clyburn expressed his preference for her on CNN, and the Democratic House Minority Leader, Hakeem Jeffries, has also conveyed that he would support her candidacy if Biden were to withdraw, according to The Washington Post. Tim Ryan, a prominent former Democratic congressman, has openly supported her in an article in Newsweek.

Finding someone other than Harris — the first woman to hold the vice-presidency, and the daughter of Indian and Jamaican parents who is able to mobilize the Black vote — could be a burden for the Democrats. She has not been very popular during her term, in part because she received complicated or impossible assignments, such as stopping the causes of immigration. However, she is beginning to show better results than Biden in some polls, has stood out as a defender of abortion, and is not burdened by the rejection of the young and Arab vote like Biden is. Harris, 59, has a greater national projection than other potential candidates. However, she also provokes rejection in some population segments with whom Biden connected better, particularly the white working-class voters.

That Harris is the favorite seems to be confirmed by the fact that she has become the target of attacks by the Trump campaign, which has launched an ad with the slogan: “This November, vote Republican. Stop Kamala.”

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