The top arguments for Biden dropping out or staying in the presidential race

  • A lot of Democratic voters want Joe Biden to drop out after his disastrous debate performance.

  • It's a choice between gambling on a new nominee or risking defeat with Biden.

  • Here are the biggest arguments for and against Biden dropping out.

Democrats are in a state of panic after President Joe Biden's disastrous debate performance last Thursday, and now, a solid chunk of the party's voters do not believe he should be their nominee.

A CBS/YouGov poll found that 46% of registered Democrats think Biden should step aside. Morning Consult found that number to be 47%. A USA Today/Suffolk University poll put it at 41%.

Sticking with Biden after the debate carries clear risks. His rambling, at times incoherent performance seemed to confirm voters' worst fears about the 81-year-old president's age, and there's a real question as to whether he can ever recover in the polls against former President Donald Trump.

Yet Biden dropping out of the race at this stage is also a huge gamble, one that's fairly unprecedented in recent memory. It's not immediately clear who would replace Biden, and there's the potential for a chaotic nomination fight at the Democratic convention in August.

Here are the most common arguments that people are making for and against Biden dropping out of the race — some of which, inevitably, may contradict each other.

Why Biden should drop out of the race

The debate was his last good shot at turning things around, and he failed. Biden has been consistently polling behind Trump, and the debate represented the best possible shot to reset the narrative of the race, perhaps turning attention to Trump's unpopular stances on issues like abortion and January 6. Instead, it became all about Biden's weak performance, and there's no guarantee that the president won't bomb the September debate as well.

He's losing because of his age, and there are younger alternatives available. Polling has consistently shown that a majority of voters, including Democrats, think Biden's too old to serve. Swapping him out with a younger candidate — perhaps the 59-year-old vice president or a senator or governor in their 40s or 50s — would eliminate that factor from the race entirely while drawing attention to the 78-year-old Trump's own fumbles.

His performance could hurt House and Senate candidates. Within days of the debate, Biden's performance was ricocheting in the Pennsylvania Senate race: GOP candidate Dave McCormick released an ad hammering Democratic Sen. Bob Casey over his past defenses of Biden's ability to do the job. One can easily imagine versions of this ad being used in competitive House and Senate races around the country, potentially costing Democrats control of both chambers.

A contested convention could actually be a boon for the party. While many fear the uncertainty that could come with handing the decision of choosing the nominee over to roughly 4,700 Democratic delegates, it could also work in their favor. As New York Times opinion columnist Ezra Klein argued in February, a contested convention could "make the Democrats into the most exciting political show on earth" and show off the "murderer's row of political talent" within the party while providing a contrast to a GOP that remains bound to Trump, who remains a deeply unpopular political figure.

Why Biden should stay in the race

This debate may not matter that much. It's early, but polling so far has not shown a dramatic shift in the race since the debate. If that remains the case, it will be because Americans have largely made up their mind about each candidate — they know that Trump's is chaotic, and they know that Biden is old. Plus, the salience of a debate can fade over time.

None of the other options poll much better than Biden: In an email to supporters, the Biden campaign cited a Data for Progress poll finding that other potential Democrats candidate performed similarly to Biden against Trump.

Democratic infighting could hurt the eventual replacement nominee. This is another Biden-world argument: In their email to supporters, they wrote that Biden dropping out would "lead to weeks of chaos, internal foodfighting, and a bunch of candidates who limp into a brutal floor fight at the convention, all while Donald Trump has time to speak to American voters uncontested." While it's not clear that would definitely happen, many may not want to take the risk.

Replacing Biden could be a logistical and financial mess. The Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee have spent months building up a campaign apparatus, both at the national and state level, and they've raised hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. If Vice President Kamala Harris were to replace Biden, it would be somewhat seamless: She could essentially take over that apparatus and the war chest. If Democrats were to go with someone else, it gets much more complicated.

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