Should Joe Biden withdraw his candidacy?

After Joe Biden's presidential debate appearance on TV, it's left people asking if he's fit to run in the election

Donald Trump And Joe Biden Participate In First Presidential Debate
(Image credit: Justin Sullivan / Staff)

Joe Biden met with Democratic governors recently as the president faces “increasingly concerning polls and growing calls to withdraw his candidacy” following a “calamitous debate performance” against Donald Trump, say Robert Tait and Sam Levin in The Guardian

Biden has blamed his “garbled” and “low energy” performance on jet lag from international travel, but there are reportedly 25 Democratic members of the House of Representatives preparing to call for Biden to step aside, and one Texas congressman already demanding that he stand down. Polls suggest that one in three Democrats think Biden should go.

What would Joe Biden leaving mean for the Democrats?

Replacing Biden might not provide the electoral boost that Democrats are hoping for, says David Charter in The Times. Even the poll showing that many Democrats want him to quit revealed that no prominent elected Democrat would do any better against Trump, although former first lady Michelle Obama did have a large hypothetical lead. Interestingly, the poll also found that Biden’s “disastrous” and “stumbling” debate performance hadn’t harmed him as much as many think – Biden and Trump “remain neck and neck among all registered voters”. 

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There is no good option now for Democrats, says Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times. If they choose someone else to run, they are essentially saying: “We tried our utmost to sneak an untenable candidate past you but the scrutiny of a live television debate foiled us. Ah well, here’s his replacement.” But letting him run would be worse, as his age-related “glitches of speech and manner, glaring enough already”, are only likely to get worse. 

Some 72% of registered voters think he hasn’t the wherewithal to be president. The Democrat failing to find a replacement for Biden, which should have begun as soon as he was elected, is of a piece with the modern left: whenever it becomes obvious that something must be done, they find a way to avoid doing it.

Where is Donald Trump in the race? 

While Biden was struggling to finish his sentences and stay in the race, the Supreme Court dealt a “major blow” to one of the efforts to prosecute Donald Trump for election interference, says Jess Bravin in The Wall Street Journal. The court ruled that former presidents “enjoy sweeping immunity” for official acts while in office. 

Lower courts will now have to draw the boundaries between what counts as official and unofficial, but the ruling pushes the trial beyond the November election. It’s been accepted for decades “that a president is immune from civil liability for actions taken in office”, says an editorial in the Financial Times

But the court has now extended that principle, arguing that an “energetic, independent” executive should not be deterred from taking necessary action by concerns over potential criminal prosecution after leaving office. The court’s ruling shunts responsibility for holding the president to account to the Senate and House of Representatives. 

But by prioritising an “energetic” presidency over an accountable one, “the court’s conservative justices have chipped away at a central pillar of the American system”.

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Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

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