Evening Report — Democrats wrestle with Biden’s future

Plus: Media coverage shifts around Biden’s age


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©  Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Should President Biden drop out of the race?


That question was considered a fringe conspiracy theory only 24 hours ago, but it’s the question Democrats are wrestling with after Biden’s disastrous debate performance reinforced fears he’s too old to serve a second term.


The White House and the Biden campaign are trying to shut it down, saying Biden’s all in and that Democratic talk of replacing him will only help elect former President Trump.


At a campaign rally in Raleigh, N.C., Friday afternoon, a more-spirited Biden struck a self-deprecating tone about his performance in front of a revved-up crowd:


“I know I’m not a young man, to state the obvious,” Biden said. “I don’t walk as easy as I used to. I don’t speak as smooth as I used to. I don’t debate as well as I used to, but I know what I do know. I know how to tell the truth. I know right from wrong and I know how to do this job. I know how to get things done.”


Democrats went into full-on meltdown mode Thursday night after the debate exposed a potentially cataclysmic weakness for Biden that had previously only been whispered about by the news media and Washington insiders.


“His biggest issue was to prove to the American people that he had the energy, the stamina — and he didn’t do that,” Biden’s former communications director Kate Bedingfield said on CNN.


Now, some of Biden’s friends and allies are discussing alternatives.


Several of former President Obama’s top lieutenants in his administration said the party must face the hard facts and consider potential replacements.


“We have to beat Donald Trump. We have to have a nominee who can do that,” former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau said on X. “And since we haven’t had the convention yet, it would be absurd if Democrats didn’t at least have a serious discussion about whether Joe Biden – who’s a wonderful human being and has been a great president – is up for the job.” 


The analysis from cable news anchors and pundits, many of whom call themselves close friends with Biden, was somber but authoritative.


They expressed sadness for the state of politics and admiration for the president, before acknowledging that Democrats must consider whether he’s their best option to go up against Trump.


Biden is a big fan of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” If he tuned in Friday morning, he’d have heard anchor Joe Scarborough say Trump will win “unless there’s a change” on the Democratic ticket.


Top print outlets, from The Atlantic to The New York Times, were flooded with op-eds from columnists calling on Biden to walk away. 


While many Democrats on Capitol Hill have privately voiced exasperation to reporters about the debate, Biden’s allies are striving to stay level-headed on his place atop the ticket, at least in public.


Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) responded to calls for Biden to leave the ticket by saying: “Stay the course, chill out.”


The real test is whether vulnerable Democrats running for reelection will seek distance from Biden on the campaign trail, with both the House and Senate up for grabs in November.


There are only 52 days until the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, which was already primed to be a headache for Biden, who has faced fierce protests from his left flank over his handling of the Israel-Hamas war.


Biden has shown no willingness to consider stepping down, and his allies are calling for calm and perspective. 


California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) called the chatter “unhelpful and unnecessary.”


Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), who suffered a stroke during his campaign for Senate in 2022 but still pulled out a victory, had choice words for panicked Democrats:


“I refuse to join the Democratic vultures on Biden’s shoulder after the debate. No one knows more than me that a rough debate is not the sum total of the person and their record,” Fetterman posted on the social platform X. “Chill the f‑‑‑ out.”


A bright spot for Democrats: Fewer than 50 million watched the debate, about 20 million fewer than watched the first debate between Biden and Trump in 2020.


We’ll have more on this below…

Welcome to Evening Report! I’m Jonathan Easley, catching you up from the afternoon and what’s coming tomorrow. Not on the list? Subscribe here.


A quick note on yesterday’s edition: We misattributed a quote to Jeffrey McCall that should have been attributed to Steven Livingston, professor of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. This has been updated online.


©  Greg Nash


The Supreme Court on Friday denied Steve Bannon‘s request to delay his prison sentence.


However, a couple of other major cases had liberals seething with anger…


Jan. 6


In a 6-3 ruling that did not cut along ideological lines, the Supreme Court ruled that an obstruction law used to charge dozens of Jan. 6 rioters was improperly applied.

The case was was brought by a former police officer accused of storming the Capitol, who challenged a count against him for obstructing an official proceeding.


From The Hill’s Ella Lee:


“The law, Section 1512(c)(2), makes it a crime to “corruptly” obstruct, impede or interfere with official inquiries and investigations by Congress… It’s been used to prosecute rioters who interrupted Congress’s certification of the 2020 presidential election results, but Fischer — and scores of other rioters — claim the Justice Department retooled a charge that once criminalized document shredding to encompass the conduct of those who stormed the Capitol that day.”


Liberal Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson joined the conservative majority, while conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined liberals in the dissent.


The Chevron Doctrine


The Supreme Court reversed a 40-year administrative law precedent that once gave federal agencies sweeping authority to interpret ambiguous laws pertaining to consumer and environmental protections.


From The Hill’s Rachel Frazin and Zach Schonfeld


“The now-overturned legal doctrine instructed judges to defer to agencies in cases where the law is ambiguous. Now, judges will substitute their own best interpretation of the law, instead of deferring to the agencies — effectively making it easier to overturn regulations that govern wide-ranging aspects of American life. This includes rules governing toxic chemicals, drugs and medicine, climate change, artificial intelligence, cryptocurrency and more.”


The 6-3 ruling cut along ideological lines, with liberal Justice Elena Kagan writing a scathing dissent that described the majority opinion as “judicial hubris.


UP NEXT: Washington braces for the Supreme Court’s ruling on former President Trump‘s immunity case, which is expected Monday.


Related coverage:


Former President Obama stepped in to defend President Biden‘s debate performance, recalling his own poor showing in 2012 against then-GOP nominee Mitt Romney.


“Bad debate nights happen. Trust me, I know. But this election is still a choice between someone who has fought for ordinary folks his entire life and someone who only cares about himself…Last night didn’t change that, and it’s why so much is at stake in November.


Biden served as Obama’s vice president for eight years. Their “bromance” was a delight to Democrats, who wore friendship bracelets with the names Joe and Barack.


But a deep chill ran through those quarters on Friday as Obama’s advisers openly questioned Biden’s candidacy.

  • Former Obama chief campaign strategist David Axelrod on CNN: “You’re going to hear discussions that I don’t know will lead to anything, but you know, there is there going to be discussions but whether he [Biden] should continue.”

  • Obama’s former deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes on X: “Telling people they didn’t see what they saw is not the way to respond to this.”

  • Former Obama national security spokesman Tommy Vietor on X: “You can’t say that the future of American democracy is at stake and then tell anyone concerned about the debate last night to stop bed wetting or grow a spine. It’s f- –  insulting to people who care deeply about the country and know how much is on the line.”


The frenzy questioning Biden’s candidacy swamped the media-sphere.


The New York Times columnists laid the wood…


The Atlantic went hard…


Jon Stewart said Biden had “resting 25th Amendment face.


Liberal magazines, from The New Republic to Vox, called on Democrats to ditch Biden.


TV pundits expressed sorrow, but were direct:

  • Van Jones: “I love that guy as a good man. He loves his country. He’s doing the best that he can… We’re still far from our convention, and there is time for this party to figure out a different way forward, if he will allow us to do that.”

  • Joe Scarborough: “I should start by saying without any apologies that I love Joe Biden and Jill… but if he were CEO and he turned in a performance like that, would any corporation in America, any Fortune 500 corporation in America keep him on as CEO?…Now is a good time, in June thank God, not October, this is the last chance for Democrats to decide whether this man we’ve known and loved for a very long time, is up to the task.”

  • Former Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) on replacing Biden with Vice President Harris and California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.): “Those two people are signaling to a whole lot of Americans paying attention, how come they’re not running? How come the Democratic Party don’t have them at the top of the ticket?”

  • Chuck Todd: “Biden looks like the caricature that conservative media has been painting…you saw it before your eyes.”

©  AP Photo/Andrew Harnik


The media has tread extremely cautiously in covering Biden’s age up to this point.


Media coverage shifted dramatically on Friday, with political outlets declaring Biden’s age his biggest weakness.


That’s a change from just a few weeks ago when The Wall Street Journal ran a story headlined “Behind Closed Doors, Biden shows Signs of Slipping.


The outlet was met with fierce blowback from rival media companies and Democrats, who described it as an irresponsible “hit piece.”


Wall Street Journal editor in chief Emma Tucker told Semafor’s Maxwell Tani the paper feels vindicated:


“The reporters took a lot of grief for covering a story that needed to be covered and that no other main stream publishers were willing to touch. I am very proud of them.”


A Gallup survey released Thursday before the debate found more than two-thirds of voters believe Biden is too old to be president.


NBC News analyst Steve Kornacki said the outlet’s polling has found “a consistent erosion in confidence that Biden has the physical & mental health to serve.”


Jeffrey McCall, the professor of media studies at DePauw University, emails:


“The media’s sudden interest in Biden’s capabilities is another indication that the establishment media are generally out of touch with real Americans. Polling has indicated voter concern about the president’s age for a long time.”



House Republicans, led by Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), argued Friday that members of Biden’s Cabinet should consider invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.


“Our adversaries see the weakness in this White House as we all do. I take no pleasure in saying that. I think this is a very dangerous situation…We have a serious problem here, because we have a president who, by all appearances, is not up to the task.”


The 25th Amendment says that the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet may vote to declare a president “unable to discharge the powers and the duties of his office.”


Democrats wanted to invoke the 25th amendment for Trump when he was in office.



17 days until the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee.


52 days until the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.


130 days until the 2024 general election.


206 days until Inauguration Day in 2025.



  • Trump holds a rally in Chesapeak, Va. with Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

  • Biden holds a campaign event in New York City after making remarks at Stonewall.

  • Vice President Harris holds a campaign event in Park City, Utah.


  • Biden attends fundraisers in New York and New Jersey.



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