Biden’s fitness for office is under scrutiny. Others are asking: What about Trump’s?


With President Biden’s 2024 campaign in crisis mode following last week’s disastrous debate performance, and polls showing a small but significant swing in former President Donald Trump’s direction, many dismayed Democrats and other critics have complained about what they perceive as a double standard on the question of the candidates’ fitness to hold office.

“Given who Republicans have chosen as their nominee, it’s pretty ironic that it’s Democrats who are worried about their choice of candidate,” MSNBC host Rachel Maddow said this week.

Maddow then proceeded to list all of Trump’s legal troubles, including his recent convictions on New York felony charges of falsifying business records.

📣Debating the debate

In the hours after the debate had wrapped up, a Biden campaign memo declared that Biden had won and that “the more they saw of Donald Trump’s erratic and vindictive behavior, the more they remembered why they voted against him in 2020.”

Top Biden surrogates like former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also sought to shift attention away from Biden’s performance and onto Trump’s.

“How can you have a legitimate debate when somebody’s totally lying and you have to dispel their falsehoods?” Pelosi said.

While many outlets, including Yahoo News, conducted fact-checks of what each candidate said at the debate, Biden’s halting and confused delivery became the story. Several leading editorial boards promptly called for Biden, 81, to step aside so Democrats could have a better chance of defeating Trump.

“To Serve His Country, President Biden Should Leave the Race,” the New York Times wrote.

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s editorial board embraced the same frame to make the opposite argument. “To serve his country, Donald Trump should leave the race,” it wrote back.

“President Joe Biden’s debate performance was a disaster. His disjointed responses and dazed look sparked calls for him to drop out of the presidential race,” the paper said. “But lost in the hand wringing was Donald Trump’s usual bombastic litany of lies, hyperbole, bigotry, ignorance, and fear mongering. His performance demonstrated once again that he is a danger to democracy and unfit for office.”

❓The question of fitness

The divide over whether Democrats should continue to support Biden’s candidacy extends well beyond the editorial pages of the country’s newspapers. Polls conducted following the debate and released this week have shown that a majority of Democrats now believe Biden is not fit for a second term as president.

While that sentiment is not limited to Biden, it has been a bigger issue for him than Trump. In April, a poll released by Pew Research Center found that 65% of registered voters believed had little or no confidence that Biden has the physical fitness to do the job of president, while 40% said the same about Trump.

↪️Biden camp tries to move on

Last week’s debate stumbles, watched by more than 50 million people, have proven difficult for the Biden campaign to simply brush aside, despite its initial attempts to do so.

“Did you see the awesome clips of our supporters on the tarmac doing the Cupid Shuffle at 2am on the night of the debate?” a Biden fundraising email told supporters the weekend following the debate. “Well, no, probably not, because the media is busy hyperventilating and trying to manifest drama to boost ratings.”

And in a video call with supporters on Monday, Biden’s deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks continued that line of attack, saying, “The media has spent a ton of time blowing this out of proportion. We are not going to be in a defensive posture on this campaign.”

🦺Damage control

It’s clear that the damage to Biden’s campaign goes well beyond the media narrative.

Some Democratic officials have begun openly calling for him to withdraw from the race, even though just weeks remain before he could receive his party’s official renomination.

In a Milwaukee radio interview that aired Thursday, Biden’s posture seemed at least somewhat defensive.

“I had a bad night,” Biden said. “And the fact of the matter is that I screwed up. I made a mistake.”

Now, as Biden himself has acknowledged, his task is twofold: reassuring voters about his own fitness for office, while trying to make the race about the man he still hopes to beat in November.

“And, you know, we’re going to win this election,” Biden told Ingram. “We’re going to just beat Donald Trump. And like we did in 2020, we’re going to beat him again.”

➕Read more

  • Biden Tells Allies He Knows He Has Only Days to Salvage Candidacy. “Biden has emphasized that he is still deeply committed to the fight for reelection but understands that his viability as a candidate is on the line.” [The New York Times]

  • Biden family is ‘all in’ on president continuing in 2024 race, source says. “The first lady is all in. The family’s all in.” [CNN]

  • Who could replace Biden as the Democratic nominee? “Here’s the not-so-short shortlist of hypothetical Biden replacements — along with how they rank among voters in a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll.” [Yahoo News]

  • As Biden team suggests there can be no alternative, DNC rules provide a path if Biden were to step aside.‘Joe Biden will be the Democratic Party’s nominee for president,’ the talking points read.” [NBC News]

  • Democratic governors to President Biden: ‘Path to victory is the No. 1 priority.’ “But while several governors said afterward they “have his back,” they also stressed their top goal is finding a “path to win.” [USA Today]

  • Trump allies intensify Harris attacks as Biden replacement talk builds. “Trump’s campaign and his Republican allies appear to be laying the groundwork for an all-out assault on Harris.” [Reuters]

  • ‘KHive’ and ‘coconut-pilled’: Kamala Harris sees a sudden social media renaissance. “X listed ‘Kamala’ among its trending topics in politics with roughly 188,000 posts, many offering some mix of genuine support and ironic bemusement.” [NBC News]



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