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Most Democrats want Biden to stay in race but should be resign?
Robert Romano new
Robert Romano

President Joe Biden continues to command the confidence of just 55 percent of Democrats in the most recent CBS News-YouGov poll taken June 28-29 in the aftermath of Biden’s disastrous June 27 debate with former President Donald Trump, where Biden occasionally appeared confused and lost his train of thought and uttered unintelligible phrases.

Forty-five percent of Democrats think Biden should definitely step aside. Catastrophically, so do 70 percent of independents, with only 30 percent saying he should keep running. Unsurprisingly, 75 percent of Republicans say Biden should step aside, with 25 percent saying he should keep running — likely because they think he’ll be easy to beat in his current state.

Every single age group says Biden should go: 68 percent of 18-29-year-olds, 66 percent of 30-44-year-olds, 64 percent of 45-64-year-olds and 58 percent of 65-years-old-and-olders.

Along racial lines, the only group who thinks Biden should keep running are blacks, with 58 percent saying he should keep running but a sizeable plurality, 42 percent, say he should indeed step aside.

Otherwise, 68 percent of whites and 66 percent of Hispanics say Biden should step aside.

Besides the debate performance, and the near-universal calls for Biden to call it quits among political elites — except in his inner circle at the White House — the polls almost certainly give the question significant legs.

But how to pull off a stepping aside by Biden?

If Biden simply resigns the presidency, Kamala Harris would become president immediately, but not the party’s nominee. That wouldn’t be settled until the Democrats’ August convention, but it would give her the opportunity to declare herself the candidate and show she could do the job for several weeks before arriving at the convention. Presumably, the delegates pledged to Biden could also preemptively declare their support, and give Harris a presumptive nominee status.

That might be the cleanest break possible, but it would raise significant questions, namely, how long did the White House know of Biden’s condition? Also, what is Biden’s condition? When was he diagnosed? The White House has been attesting to Biden’s fitness the entire time, and so the question would immediately become: What did Harris know and when did she know it?

Clearly, there has been a deception over the extent of Biden’s mental health that has been downplayed for months and even years going back to the 2020 campaign, with a visible decline that many in the White House and the Washington, D.C. press corps have been a party to.

A similar break – but with even more glaring problems – would be if Biden simply said he was no longer seeking reelection. If he did that now, it would throw the Democratic nomination into even more chaos, and raise even more significant questions. Why?

This sort of “soft” stepping aside now advocated would be immediately followed by calls for Biden to resign. Foremost would be, if Biden is said to be unfit to serve as a presidential candidate, then he is definitely unfit to continue serving as President through the end of the year. It’s just more blood in the water.

All this has been occurring while Biden was presiding over some of the most serious national security concerns in recent memory: The botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, the ongoing war in Gaza and critically, being on the brink of world war with Russia over Ukraine as the conflict there continues escalating.

In other words, Democrats were willing to risk nuclear war and humanity’s potential extinction just to hold onto power. The reasons to stick with Biden are primarily political in nature, and have nothing to do with what is best for the country. Over poll numbers, essentially, since the only candidates who do worse against Trump in general election polls is everyone else. So the thinking would go, just stick with Biden and pretend like nothing is wrong, because the alternative all but guarantees defeat in November.

Unfortunately, the American people are left to only guess at what is ailing Biden and leading to his enfeeblement. Does he have Alzheimer’s? Dementia? Something else? Is he medicated? If so, with what?

Biden already has a poor relationship with Russia, but any impairment might make negotiating anything approaching a ceasefire or peace agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin practically impossible. Dealing with China, North Korea or Iran? Same problem. Weakness is provocative, and Biden is visibly weak — and Democrats let it happen.

At this point, any admission by Biden and the White House of unfitness to continue as a candidate — because of his age and mental acuity — will necessarily have political fallout that Democrats cannot possibly hope to avoid.

After lying to the American people about Biden’s health for some time now — for how long will have to be settled by historians — and posing significant and unnecessary national security dangers as a result, an insurmountable political challenge to Biden simply stepping aside is that if his mind really is failing, then he must resign immediately. And if not Vice President Harris and the Cabinet should invoke the 25th Amendment. But even, then good luck explaining why that wasn’t done months if not years earlier. The truth is going to come out.

It might very well be that every option before Democrats will undoubtedly hurt their chances of winning in November. Resigning would be the quickest, cleanest option but it would immediately catapult Vice President Harris into the role. Or just pretend nothing is wrong and continue whistling past the graveyard. Politically, sticking with Biden might indeed be the least bad option for Democrats, but for the country, it could be deadly.

— Robert Romano is vice president of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government Foundation.