Trump widens lead on Biden after debate in highly anticipated poll

Former President Trump has expanded his lead over President Biden in the aftermath of last week’s debate to 6 points, up from 3 just a week prior, according to a much-anticipated New York Times/Siena College poll.

The poll showed Trump leading Biden with 49 percent to the incumbent’s 43 percent among likely voters, holding the largest lead he has had in a Times/Siena poll since 2015, when he first ran for president. Among registered voters, Trump’s lead expands to 8 points, 49 percent to 41 percent.

The results come as Biden’s campaign is trying to regroup following last week’s disastrous debate performance that raised alarms among Democrats about whether Biden is capable of defeating Trump and serving another term as president.

The debate was still less than a week ago, but early polling coming out immediately following the debate has mostly shown Trump either maintaining his lead over Biden or growing it slightly. The Times result with likely and registered each are a 3-point swing in favor of Trump compared to before the debate.

Dogged by concerns that he is not up to the job, Biden had a chance at the debate to demonstrate his vitality despite his age and questions about his fitness for office. But he turned in a lackluster performance in which he at times stumbled over his words, showed low energy and struggled to make clear statements in response to some questions.

The poll showed an uptick in the percentage of voters concerned about his age. Pollsters found 74 percent say he’s too old to serve as president, an increase of 5 points from before the debate.

That includes 59 percent of Democrats, up 8 points, and 79 percent of independents.

The debate and the aftermath, including some of the polls that have come out, have spurred calls among some Democrats to replace Biden as the nominee to face Trump in November.

But the poll actually did not show a major increase in the percentage who want Biden to be replaced. Among Democrats, the percentage who want a different nominee increased 2 points to 47 percent, while the percentage who want Biden dropped 4 points to 48 percent.

Independents remained basically the same, still at 72 percent who want a different nominee and about 20 percent who want Biden.

The White House and Biden campaign have sought to play damage control over the past few days and emphasize that Biden plans to stay in the race.

Campaign Chair Jen O’Malley Dillon argued in a memo obtained by The Hill that internal battleground polling shows the contest between Biden and Trump is a “steady race.” It referenced that a Times/Siena poll was expected to be released soon and show “a slightly larger swing.”

The memo states that the campaign estimates it is “down just 1 point in margin,” within the margin of error.

“Polls are a snapshot in time and we should all expect them to continue to fluctuate,” the memo states. “It will take a few weeks, not a few days, to get a full picture of the race.”

Biden campaign pollster Molly Murphy said in a statement following the release of the Times/Siena poll that the race is “incredibly tight.” She said Biden is narrowing Trump’s lead among independents but acknowledged that the campaign has “work to do” to bring in its coalition.

Biden did reduce Trump’s lead among independents in the latest poll.

Murphy also noted that Times political analyst Nate Cohn said the results do not mark a “fundamental” change in the race.

“The work our campaign is doing on the ground will be critical to win over voters in a low trust and divided political environment,” Murphy said. “Trump’s team is doing virtually none of that work, while also being saddled with the baggage of a toxic agenda to undecided voters. President Biden has work to do, but will be running on mobilizing issues that we are confident will bring him to victory this November.”

But much of the data from the Times poll at least is not moving in the right direction for the Biden campaign. In a race that includes the third-party and independent candidates, Trump’s lead increased by 2 points to a 5-point lead, 42 percent to 37 percent.

Independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr. had 8 percent.

The Times noted in its account of the poll that its survey taken before the debate was more favorable to Trump than the national polling average had been. It said one possible explanation is that Republicans were more responsive to pollsters than Democrats, potentially signaling enthusiasm for Trump after his criminal conviction in May.

Other breakdowns of the poll showed some other concerns for Biden. Trump led him among voters 18 to 29 years old by 8 points and among Hispanics by 9 points, both key parts of recent Democratic coalitions.

Respondents listed the economy and inflation as the top issue they’re concerned about, as they did in the Times poll before the debate and in many other polls. Trump was comfortably ahead with those who put it at the top of their list.

Biden improved his lead among likely female voters from before the debate from 5 points to 8 points, but Trump gained among likely male voters from 12 points to 23 points.

The poll was conducted among 1,532 registered voters from June 28 to July 2. The margin of error was 2.8 points.

Update: 3:13 p.m. EDT

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