Exclusive-One in three Democrats think Biden should quit the race, Reuters/Ipsos poll finds

By Jason Lange

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -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.

Among the names of top Democrats put before respondents, only Michelle Obama, wife of former Democratic President Barack Obama, outperformed Biden and led Trump 50% to 39% in a hypothetical matchup. Michelle Obama, author of the best-selling 2018 memoir "Becoming," has said repeatedly she does not intend to run for president.

Some 32% of Democrats in the poll said Biden should give up his reelection bid following a debate in which he stammered throughout and failed to energetically challenge Trump's attacks, which included numerous false claims.

Trump faces his own political liabilities, though the criminal cases related to his attempts to overturn his 2020 defeat have ground to a halt. In a close matchup, neither candidate can afford to lose the support of a sizable chunk of his political base.

Democratic voters have long harbored doubts about Biden's bid. In a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted in January, while the party's nomination contest was still under way, 49% of Democrats said he should not run again in 2024.

Biden has vowed to stay in the race. But should he exit, the Democrats whose names emerge as possible replacements perform only as well or worse than Biden against Trump in hypothetical matchups, according to the poll.

Vice President Kamala Harris, for example, trailed Trump by one percentage point, 42% to 43%, a difference that was well within the poll's 3.5 percentage point margin of error, making Harris' showing statistically just as strong as Biden's.

Harris has stepped out of Biden's shadow in recent months, becoming a key voice in the administration for abortion rights. The Reuters/Ipsos poll found 81% of Democrats voters viewed Harris favorably, compared to 78% who viewed Biden the same way.

Notably, 18% of Democrats in the poll thought Biden's ticket would be more appealing if Harris were replaced as running mate, while 71% disagreed and the rest weren't sure.

Biden was seen as too old to work in government by 59% of Democrats, a reading similar to the results in a January poll.

California Governor Gavin Newsom, a rising star in the Democratic Party who many observers expect could seek the presidency in a future election, performed marginally worse, trailing Trump 39% to 42%.

None of the elected Democrats tested in head-to-head matchups against Trump have formally declared their candidacies, and several are barely recognized a national level.

Some 70% of Democrats in the poll said they had never heard of Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, who some Democratic donors view as a good candidate following his gubernatorial victories in his heavily Republican state. That Beshear, a relative unknown, trailed Trump by only a narrow margin in the Reuters/Ipsos poll - 36% to 40% - illustrated how deeply Democrats oppose Trump.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer sat behind Trump 36% to 41%, while Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker had 34% support compared to Trump's 40%.

The poll, which was conducted online, surveyed 1,070 U.S. adults nationwide.

(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Scott Malone and Howard Goller)