'Something needs to happen' - Democratic voters on replacing Biden

BBC graphic of four voters

In the days since President Joe Biden's widely-criticised debate performance against former president Donald Trump, Democrats across the country have begun questioning whether Mr Biden is the best candidate for the party.

Most voters think Democrats have a better chance of keeping the White House if Biden isn’t the nominee, a CNN poll found this week.

The BBC spoke to Democratic voters who reflected that concern but who also worried about the logistics of switching candidates this far into the campaign.

As the party confronts this thorny question, we asked voters what they want to see Democrats do next and who they think could replace Mr Biden. Familiar names include Vice-President Kamala Harris, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, California Governor Gavin Newsom and Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro.

We start with a voter who feels the Democratic party is not listening to its constituents and wants a fresh face atop the ticket in place of Mr Biden.

Graphic of Oregon voter

Silvia feels like the Democratic party isn't listening to her; she wants Biden to step aside and a new candidate to take centre stage.

They give us these text messages "Are you going to support President Biden for re-election?" and I said "no". I don't want someone who doesn't have the ability to continue in office for a very long time.

I'm just tired.

They push who they think is going to get elected without listening to our voices.

We want someone younger, we want someone who has new ideas, has new ways to engage the whole country. But at the same time, what do I do now?

He should step aside.

I'm hoping we get someone fresh, but I don't know who.

Other candidates don't get the air time, so I have to do my own research.

I want someone new. I wish he would step down. I wish he would recognize as president, you're the president of the people. Listen to the people, listen to us.

I definitely have been watching the governor of Michigan [Whitmer]. I think we need a woman as president and that's who I would like on a ticket.

Graphic of Nebraska voter

Kyle worries the Democratic party has no game plan and is dismissing voters' concerns about Biden's abilities.

I think there has to be a serious discussion about Biden stepping down...

In the end, it's up to Joe Biden, but I think at very least, there should be some other candidates floated to be able to to articulate what our our game plan is going forward...

I think the more the party tries to tell the public to not believe what we saw during that debate, it's going to take me from believing we should maybe just deal with Biden to we need a change.

A lot of Democratic voters feel gas lit.

We're being asked to not believe what we saw, and being told that this is a one off, and we know that this is not a one-off.

There's been a lot that's been accomplished, but if we can't articulate those messages, we can't win, which means that vision ceases to continue. The president - they affect down ballot races, and those down ballot races could mean catastrophe with what's at stake in this election.

Gretchen Whitmer would be an excellent example of someone who could replace Biden, or Pete Buttigieg, but I think at this stage, it's difficult to say.

But I think a Whitmer-Buttigieg ticket could win.

We need people and Democratic candidates who are from Midwestern states or other states who know how to communicate a little bit better with people in their constituencies.

Graphic of Indiana voter

This voter thinks Biden never should have run for this second term, but he is concerned that it is too late in the process to replace Biden.

On the one hand, I personally wouldn't mind him stepping down, but that does lead me to a lot of scepticism that whoever replaces him as the nominee would have the capabilities and momentum to beat Trump.

It is a tough question of who could replace Biden.

Realistically, I don't think my policy positions totally align with VP [Kamala] Harris, but I do think that, honestly, she'd probably be the best choice for president in terms of logistics, in terms of name recognition.

If he were to step down, she's the clear successor. She's already part of the ticket.

That said, I think if we could go back in time and rerun the primary system and actually have a proper voting primary with a field of candidates, I'd probably be more likely to lean towards someone who has a bit more support in the midwest and rust belt states. Someone like Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer or Illinois Governor JB Pritzker.

Graphic of California voter

Joshua thinks the Democrats have to make a change because he says Biden is not the best candidate to beat Trump come November.

Something needs to happen.

The Democrats need to have a moment of, "hey, this is what we did wrong". Let's have a conversation about if Biden is truly viable or not.

Is he the best to beat Trump now?

I don't think anyone can confidently say he is.

Possibly Gavin Newsom is. He's primed himself as the best alternative, knowing that this opportunity would come up.

If he runs, he's just a name that people can get behind. He has a face that people like. He has a great family.

I just don't know another name in the Democratic Party who, at this stage of the race, could catch up.

Gavin Newsom, who has primed himself to be in that position, or [Pennsylvania Governor] Josh Shapiro, who is an underdog that can really get there.

Graphic of Tennessee voter

This voter, who is a progressive Democrat, would love to see Biden replaced on the Democratic ticket but worries that it's too late.

I'm conflicted.

Personally, yes, I think Biden should step down, but realistically and logistically, no - the primary is done.

He has won the Democratic nomination, even though participation in the primaries for an incumbent president is more of a formality. You have other candidates, like Newsom, Whitmer, Pritzker, Harris, who could technically be good candidates to replace him, but the plan should have been put in place years ago, if not a year ago, in my opinion.

Yeah, I would personally like to see Biden replaced, but I don't see how that would logistically happen.

I would like to see Pritzker on the ticket.

It seems to me that Newsom is the heir apparent, but I would say Pritzker and maybe Harris, or Harris-Pritzker.

Pritzker has a more progressive policy that he's enacted in Illinois that could expand as a vision for the rest of the country.

Biden's done a good job as president, and I think his legacy as a decent one-term caretaker president is at risk by trying to hold on to power.

His legacy is absolutely in the gutter if he loses to Trump, in a landslide, which seems to be a possibility.

Graphic of Washington DC voter

If there were a singular candidate Democrats could coalesce around, Leslie would get behind them. Without one, she thinks replacing Biden is off the table.

It's too late. We're too close to the election to have a switch.

If there was a single person that everyone could immediately get behind, maybe. But I don't think that person exists right now.

I think if Kamala Harris came in, there'd be all these people complaining about her. Or if Pete Buttigieg came in, people complaining about him. So I think right now, where we are right now, I think it's too late to switch.

If Biden were to drop out, I like Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg.

Kamala Harris has the most name recognition, so I like her quite a lot, but I know that she also turns a lot of people off. I would worry that she would cause people not to show up to vote, but I guess I would support her.

Graphic of Pennsylvania voter

Jessica doesn't know how the Democrats can come back from Joe Biden's debate performance without replacing him.

I want to see him replaced. I feel guilty or bad saying that or thinking that. If Joe Biden stays in the race, I'll be voting for Joe Biden.

But I don't see how he can come back from that debate performance.

There are a lot of people who folks would be genuinely excited to vote for and I think now it's really a feeling of dread.

Gretchen Whitmer is a name that has been thrown around who I think would be great. Josh Shapiro is wonderful.

Those are two that come to mind who I think people would be excited about.

I'd be excited to vote for Josh Shapiro, I'd be excited to vote for Gretchen Whitmer, I'd be excited to vote for Gavin Newsom.

I don't even know a ton about Gavin Newsom, but from what I do know, I think there would be a level of excitement just knowing we have somebody other than Joe Biden who is qualified and capable and dynamic and decades younger.