Biden’s 2024 odds look shaky. Would a different Democrat have a better chance against Trump?

Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Getty Images
Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Getty Images

“The 360” shows you diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories and debates.

What’s happening

  • Democrats concerned about President Biden’s ability to win another term were given even more fuel for their anxiety this week thanks to a new poll showing Donald Trump with a significant lead in five of the six swing states that will likely decide next year’s presidential election.

  • The survey from the New York Times and Siena College shows Biden trailing Trump by as much as 10 points in Nevada, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan — all states he narrowly won in 2020. The poll adds to a pile of data that shows the majority of voters are dissatisfied with the president’s job performance, worried about his age and eager for someone else to take his place at the top of the Democratic ticket.

  • Despite all of these concerns, Biden appears to be on track for a rematch against Trump, barring a major surprise that shifts the dynamic of the race. The president and his team have consistently rejected any suggestion that he might step aside, and he faces no serious challengers in the Democratic primary.

  • Biden’s apparent weakness in polls runs counter to recent election results, including Tuesday’s off-year races, which saw big wins for Democratic causes in Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky.

“If he continues to run, he will be the nominee of the Democratic Party. What he needs to decide is whether that is wise; whether it’s in HIS best interest or the country’s?”- David Axelrod, former chief adviser to Barack Obama

Why there’s debate

  • The NYT/Siena poll also asked voters what they would do if Biden were not on the ballot. His absence led to a 12-point swing in Democrats’ favor, with a “generic Democrat” handily outpacing Trump. This result has given additional fodder to those who argue that the party would be in much better shape if Biden were replaced by a younger, less unpopular party leader.

  • Advocates for a Biden alternative argue that someone like California Gov. Gavin Newsom or Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer would eliminate the biggest questions surrounding Biden while still tapping into the strong anti-Trump sentiment that invigorates the party’s base and draws swing voters to their side.

  • But skeptics of this view say that whoever the Democrats nominate will have their own political vulnerabilities and may not have been tested on the national stage. Some make the case that things could be different if Vice President Kamala Harris, the obvious choice for a successor in their view, weren’t almost as unpopular as the president himself. Others add that the intraparty competition to choose a replacement could turn ugly, leaving the eventual nominee even more vulnerable than Biden by the time the general election comes around.

What’s next

Though Biden is primed to cruise through the Democratic primary once voting begins in February, there are procedures for replacing him on the party ticket if he decides to drop out or is forced to for health reasons. How that process would work, and how much chaos would result, would depend on how close to Election Day the switch needed to be made.


Biden might be the only high-profile Democrat who could actually lose to Trump

“The whole point is that Democrats might blow a very winnable election by nominating an 80 [year-old].. … Should the media be making a bigger deal of the fact that Trump is [old] too? Yeah, they should. But the way to highlight that 77 is too old to be president is not by nominating an 80-year-old.” — Nate Silver, political analyst

For all of his flaws, Biden is still the Democrats’ best hope

“Biden is better positioned than any other Democrat to beat Trump next year. Not only has he already done it, but he is the incumbent president, and incumbent presidents usually get re-elected.” — Michael A. Cohen, MSNBC

It's better for Biden to choose not to run than to be forced out before election day

“Concerns with him graciously stepping aside in favor of someone else may be reasonable at this time, given that it could become a necessity over the next several months.” — Sheldon H. Jacobson, The Hill

The contest to replace Biden would produce a potent new party leader

“Democrats are deluding themselves when they tell themselves they have no alternative to Biden. … If Biden were to choose retirement, the field of contenders would fill overnight and a new generation of leaders would finally emerge in a nation that is hungry for them.” — David Von Drehle, Washington Post

Whichever side has the wisdom to switch nominees will win

“A generic Democrat who is not festooned with Biden’s failures and weaknesses and is not in his or her 80s would almost certainly readily defeat Trump. … A generic Republican who hasn’t spent years making him- or herself hateful to suburbanites, who isn’t wedded to ridiculous yarns about the 2020 election, and who isn’t in serious legal jeopardy in multiple jurisdictions would almost certainly readily beat Biden.” — Rich Lowry, National Review

Whoever came out on top in the race to replace Biden would be battered and vulnerable

“If Biden were not to run, the counter-factual dream of a Hollywood ending with Michael Douglas from The American President materializing would be replaced with a ferocious primary of centrifugal force exposing the party’s fractured divides and the survivor most likely at no better rating than Biden at the current fraught moment. Biden’s presence leaves that blood sport to another day.” — Sidney Blumenthal, Guardian

Ditching Biden wouldn’t help the party with the voters they need to win

“Rejecting the president now would be, in the first place, a mistake. He offers the most plausible route toward winning the working- and middle-class groups the Democrats need, the most plausible route toward building a broad-based majority party.” — David Brooks, New York Times

An alternative may have been a better choice, but it’s too late now

“Sure, if we could go back in time a year or so and ask questions like: ‘Should Biden be paving the way for an electable successor?;’ or ‘Should Biden forgo running for a second term?’ the answer very well might’ve been, ‘Yes!’ … He chose not to do that. This leaves us with reality: Joe Biden has announced for president. Barring death, a major health scare, or some scandalous revelation, history suggests that Biden will be the Democratic nominee in 2024.” — Matt Lewis, Daily Beast