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Analysis | Biden’s arguments for staying in the 2024 race, parsed

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Analysis | Biden’s arguments for staying in the 2024 race, parsed


There are surely good reasons for President Biden to resist pressure to drop out of his 2024 reelection race. They’re just not always the ones he and his team put forward.

In recent days, Biden and his campaign have offered a number of justifications for why he shouldn’t cave to that pressure and pass the torch to someone else. Often, the suggestion is that he’s best-positioned to take on Donald Trump or even the only one who can defeat him — despite Biden’s poor poll numbers. Even more often, it involves a novel reading of the electoral landscape that bears little resemblance to the available data.

So as Democrats continue their lengthy internal debate, we thought it worth parsing some of the arguments put forward by the incumbent and his team.

“All the data shows that the average Democrat out there who voted — 14 million of them that voted for me — still want me to be the nominee, number one. … I wanted to make sure I was right, that the average voter out there still wanted Joe Biden. And I’m confident they do.”

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“I’m getting so frustrated by the elites … in the party who — they know so much more.” (Monday MSNBC “Morning Joe” interview)

There is clearly an effort afoot to pitch this as powerful people trying to push Biden out. But it’s not just the “elites” who want Biden to step aside, nor is it clear that the “average” Democratic voter wants him to stay. Indeed, as much as half of Biden’s base wants him out, according to multiple polls, and it appears the average Democratic voter is straddling the fence.

In a post-debate CNN poll, Democratic-leaning voters said 56 percent to 43 percent that their party would have a better chance with “someone else.” A New York Times-Siena College poll showed Democrats split almost evenly on whether their party should have a different nominee. In a CBS News-YouGov poll, 46 percent of Democrats said Biden shouldn’t be running, versus 54 percent who said he should.

Yes, polls can be off. But even if these are off by a few points, that’s a huge proportion of the base that wants someone else — even long after the primaries ended with Biden as the presumptive nominee.

“Number two, remember all this talk about how I don’t have the Black support? Come on. Give me a break. Come with me. Watch. Watch.” (“Morning Joe”)

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It would be shocking if Biden didn’t win a strong majority of Black voters. But the real question is how much support he bleeds among this extremely important and often overwhelmingly Democratic group. And virtually every poll shows him struggling, relative to past Democrats.

Democrats haven’t taken less than 80 percent of the Black vote since at least 1972, and Biden won them 92 percent to 8 percent in 2020, according to the Pew Research Center’s Validated Voter survey.

A large-sample May poll from the Pew Research Center showed Biden ceding about twice as many Black voters — 18 percent — in a head-to-head matchup with Trump. That poll showed more than half of Black voters wanted to replace Biden in the race.

“The New York Times had me down 10 points before the debate — nine now, or whatever the hell it is. … New York Times had me behind before anything having to do with this [debate] — had me behind 10 points. Ten points, they had me behind. Nothing’s changed substantially since the debate in the New York Times poll.” (Friday ABC News interview)

The Times-Siena poll just before the debate actually had Biden trailing by between three and seven points, not 10 points, depending on whether you include third-party candidates and whether you focus on likely or registered voters.

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(Indeed, no high-quality poll this year — as compiled by FiveThirtyEight — has shown Biden trailing Donald Trump by double digits.)

Biden’s deficit in the Times-Siena poll grew after the debate to between five and eight points, depending on how you slice it. The shifts in this and other polls have generally been within the margin of error, but there have been enough polls showing a small shift against Biden to logically assume there has been a shift.

Other polls since then also suggest voters are even more concerned about Biden’s age and acuity and view him less positively. His deficit in the national FiveThirtyEight average of polls has grown by about two points since the debate, and his average approval rating has hit an all-time low of about 37 percent.

“Pres Joe Biden is the only person standing between us and another Donald Trump term …” (Biden spokesman T.J. Ducklo on Saturday)

While not explicitly saying that only Biden can beat Trump, that has been the tenor of much of the pushback. Biden and his allies will often note that he’s the only candidate who has actually beaten Trump (in 2020), for instance.

For what it’s worth, Biden said in December that “probably 50” Democrats were capable of defeating Trump. Months earlier, Biden said that he wasn’t the “only” one who could beat Trump and protect democracy but that he was “best-positioned” to do it. (Trump, it bears noting, has been involved in a total of only three competitive campaigns, including the 2016 primaries and general election.)

As for whether Biden is best-positioned? The limited polling we have shows other Democrats performing similarly to Biden in some cases and better in a couple of cases. Michelle Obama leads Trump by double digits in a Reuters-Ipsos poll, and Vice President Harris did slightly better than Biden in the CNN poll (though worse than Biden in other polls).

And many other potential candidates are far less well-known, which often depresses poll numbers. That leaves open the possibility that voters could find them more compelling than a president with a 37 percent approval rating.

The fact that many Democratic Senate candidates are currently running better than Biden in their states would surely suggest that someone else could at least theoretically be stronger in the presidential race. Of course, that’s just in theory.

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“I don’t care what those big names [liberals and Democrats suggesting he drop out] think. They were wrong in 2020. They were wrong in 2022 about the red wave. They’re wrong in 2024. … Not only were they wrong, I said they were wrong beforehand. … I was not surprised; I predicted it.” (“Morning Joe”)

Biden was counted out by some in the 2020 primaries, after losing the first three states. (His big win in South Carolina put him on course for victory.) But he was the widely acknowledged favorite in the general election throughout. And general elections are more predictable, because of partisanship.

As for 2022, while plenty of analysts and politicians floated the possibility of a “red wave,” that generally didn’t come from liberals and Democrats. And high-quality polling was not as troubling for Democrats then as it is now. Indeed, predictions of a red wave largely ignored the quite-accurate polls.

“I carried an awful lot of the Democrats the last time I ran in 2020.” (ABC News)

Biden did over-perform most key Democratic Senate candidates in the 2020 election — 8 of 10, to be exact — making it plausible that his performance helped them.

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There is some question about how much of that was voters just not liking Trump, but exit polls showed a slight majority of voters (52 percent) had a favorable opinion of Biden at the time.

That said, Biden’s image is in a far different place now; his favorable rating is about 38 percent. (Favorability is more of a personal measure, while approval pertains to job performance.)

“But if any of these guys don’t think I should run, run against me. Go ahead. Announce for president. Challenge me at the convention.” (“Morning Joe”)

There is no plausible path for anyone else at the convention if Biden doesn’t drop out. But that’s not because the base doesn’t want it, necessarily; it’s because the vast majority of the delegates are pledged to Biden after his performance in the primaries.

“The voters — and the voters alone — decide the nominee of the Democratic Party. How can we stand for democracy in our nation if we ignore it in our own party? I cannot do that. I will not do that.” (Monday letter to fellow Democrats)

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It’s valid to point out that Biden was the overwhelming choice of Democratic primary voters. Big-name Democrats could have challenged him. They didn’t, for a variety of reasons, and he won big.

Having delegates pick the new nominee or coronating Harris is clearly less of a democratic process.

But the idea that urging him to drop out is ignoring democracy is a bit of a stretch. His allies aren’t talking about delegates overturning the results; they are talking about persuading Biden to willingly drop out in light of new evidence raising concerns about his ability to campaign. And voters who were reluctant to vote for him in the primaries didn’t have a real, viable alternative.





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Washington Post heir ‘retired’ his personal assistant against her will: lawsuit

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Washington Post heir ‘retired’ his personal assistant against her will: lawsuit


The son of the Washington Post’s late publisher Katharine Graham allegedly kicked his longtime personal assistant to the curb because she was too old, according to a lawsuit.

Valrie Riddick was a loyal helper to Stephen Graham for 24 years — once even hauling her laptop and a printer to the hospital to keep working while she underwent emergency surgery, she claimed in court papers.

But in December, Graham decided he was “retiring” the 72-year-old — then forced her to work for the next three months and train her thirty-something replacement, Riddick contended in her Manhattan Supreme Court filing.

Valrie Riddick claims she handled everything for Graham, seen here with his then-wife, Cathy. Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Riddick was stunned, since she planned to keep working “for pressing economic reasons,” including paying for her children’s college and renovating the home she intended to live in when she retired, she said in the litigation.

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“Rather than take her concerns and employment needs seriously, and completely discounting her 24 years of dedicated and effective work, Mr. Graham was more interested in gaslighting her into believing she had somehow wanted to abruptly lose her job at 72-years-old,” Riddick said her age discrimination case.

Graham, also 72, a professor of English literature at Bard College, had Riddick by his side “through two marriages [and] over multiple homes,” including a Manhattan townhouse, a home in Nantucket and a farm at the Graham family home in Virginia, she said. His household staff featured 10 employees, including housekeepers, a chef, a chauffeur, a gardener, a yacht captain, “and more,” according to court papers.

Riddick is seeking unspecified damages.

“We’re moving for expedited trial preference to get Ms. Riddick’s case before a jury of working people as soon as possible. In age discrimination cases, justice delayed is justice denied,” said her lawyer, Shane Seppinni.

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Advice | Asking Eric: Friend fears pilot’s lifestyle will lead to divorce

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Advice | Asking Eric: Friend fears pilot’s lifestyle will lead to divorce


Dear Eric: A friend of mine, who is like a sister to me, and her husband just had a baby. The husband seems like a good guy, and while I have always been warm to him, I’ve also had a bad gut feeling about him due to his job as a pilot.

It’s a super stressful job with high divorce rates, long times away from home, and ample opportunities to cheat (quite frankly, for both of them). The relationship was certainly easier when she was traveling with him on some of his trips, but a baby is naturally going to change that aspect. They were never huge on having kids, so it seems like a baby is almost a desperate attempt to save a marriage.

I’ve always felt in the back of my mind that the marriage is destined to end in divorce and it’s almost like watching a slow car crash developing. I could compartmentalize her handling divorce as long as she was childless. Obviously, the result would be more catastrophic now that the baby is in the picture.

Every day, I pray and hope that my gut is wrong and that this marriage lasts, but I am also worrying about preparing for the worst, which is to comfort my friend and her baby through the hurt of divorce.

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Is praying for my friend’s marriage all I can do at this point? Should I let my friend run her own race? Am I overly prejudiced against pilots?

— Sky High Divorce Rates

Sky High: Is this marriage in trouble or have you let your imagination take off into the stratosphere? What we have to go on: a gut feeling and perhaps one too many viewings of the Leonardo DiCaprio movie “Catch Me If You Can.” What we don’t have: information from your close friend that would indicate there’s turbulence in this marriage.

I’m curious what makes you think their new baby is a desperate attempt to save the marriage rather than a family planning choice that they made. I think you’ve let yourself get pretty far down the runway and a return to the gate is in order.

While there are some online sources that list a high rate of divorce for airline pilots, figures from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 5-Year Data (2009-2022) put the percentage of pilots who have ever divorced at 30, which is in line with the national average. But numbers reflect the story of the past and present, they don’t necessarily dictate the future. There are plenty of professions with high stress and frequent travel, and people stay married in them all the time.

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Test your thinking here. Your anxiety appears to be coming from a well-intentioned place, but ask yourself how much of this is actually happening in your friend’s marriage and how much is coming from thin air.

By all appearances, this is an arrangement that works well for your friend and her husband. Assume the best until you hear otherwise. Stay grounded.

Dear Eric: Eight years ago our daughter was married to an absolutely wonderful guy whom we love like a son. Early on in the wedding planning, her soon-to-be father-in-law promised a small sum toward the wedding, which I didn’t expect but thanked him for. We never received it.

My son-in-law’s parents are quite well-to-do so it was not due to an economic shortfall. I’ve been holding a grudge ever since, although my wife has advised me to forget it.

Recently, our daughter gave birth to a son and we immediately offered to take care of expenses toward the circumcision ceremony. The mother-in-law offered to bake! They arrived at the ceremony and stood by as we all set up for the party. They watched as we broke everything down. As we were loading all the gifts and supplies in the car in the pouring rain, the father-in-law handed me a very small gift bag that we forgot and said, “I looked for the smallest thing to help you out!”

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I was livid! Frankly, I was ready to spend the night in jail! Am I wrong in my feelings?

In-Law: This guy sounds like a real piece of work. It’s one thing to have different ideas about generosity and labor, as it seems your two families do. (Maybe the baking felt equivalent to them, which is fair.) But it’s another thing to rub it in.

He could have a weird sense of humor or he could relish pushing your buttons. What can we do when someone pushes our buttons? Disable the control panel.

Avoid him when you can but drop the grudge. It’s just souring your happy family moments, which means he gets you coming and going.

(Send questions to R. Eric Thomas at eric@askingeric.com or P.O. Box 22474, Philadelphia, PA 19110. Follow him on Instagram and sign up for his weekly newsletter at rericthomas.com.)

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Judge dismisses Alec Baldwin’s ‘Rust’ case, blaming prosecutor conduct

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Judge dismisses Alec Baldwin’s ‘Rust’ case, blaming prosecutor conduct


Alec Baldwin’s “Rust” shooting trial was dismissed Friday, after a judge ruled that prosecutors improperly withheld potential evidence from the defense team. The ruling was a shocking end to the Emmy Award-winning actor’s years-long effort to clear his name after a prop gun discharged in his hand on a film set in 2021, releasing a live bullet that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded the film’s director.

Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer said in her ruling that prosecutors had failed to properly inform defense lawyers of live ammunition in their possession, which may have been connected to the shooting. “The state’s woeful withholding of this information was intentional and deliberate,” she said.

The actor had been on trial for involuntary manslaughter since Tuesday, as prosecutors argued that his reckless handling of a prop gun on the set of the low-budget western made him responsible for fatal shooting.

Baldwin’s lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the case late Thursday, alleging that prosecutors hid evidence that could have helped determine the source of the live round found in Baldwin’s revolver, on a film set where only blanks were supposed to be used.

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The potential evidence in question was a collection of rounds in the possession of Troy Teske, a friend of the “Rust” armorer’s stepfather, Thell Reed. Teske gave the live rounds to personnel at the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office earlier this year, after armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed’s involuntary manslaughter trial concluded with her conviction. The defense claimed that knowledge of the rounds had not been shared with them, despite their request to examine all ballistic evidence.

“The State is attempting to establish a link between Baldwin and the source of the live ammunition. The only way it can do that is by demonstrating that the live rounds were brought to the set by the movie’s armorer, given the State’s assertion that Baldwin should have been aware of her youth and inexperience and therefore the possibility that she brought live rounds to the set,” the defense team wrote in its motion. “The State not only failed to disclose the evidence—it affirmatively hid it under a file number that is unaffiliated with the Rust case.”

When the concerns were brought up in court on Friday, the judge donned a pair of blue gloves, cut open the manilla packet containing the ammunition and asked for a crime scene technician to identify each of the rounds. As Sommer questioned the technician, it was revealed that at least one of the bullets was similar to a dummy round found on the “Rust” set.

After the judge sent the jury home Friday to look into the matter, special prosecutor Kari Morrissey called herself as a witness, testifying that the ammunition in question did not match live ammunition collected from the “Rust” set, and had never been brought to New Mexico — let alone the film set — prior to the shooting.

The defense was aware of the ammunition in question, Morrissey argued, but the rounds weren’t formally presented to the defense team as evidence because they did not appear to match the rounds that were found on the set of the western. “This has no evidentiary value whatsoever,” she said.

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But Sommer thought otherwise, and the judge excoriated the prosecution in her ruling.

“If this conduct does not rise to the level of bad faith, it certainly comes so near to bad faith as to show signs of scorching prejudice,” she said in her ruling. She said that Baldwin’s defense team should have been made aware of the ammunition earlier, and it was now too late for them to incorporate it into their defense. Therefore, not even the declaration of a mistrial could remedy the situation; the case had to be dismissed with prejudice — meaning Baldwin cannot be retried.

As Sommer began laying down her reasoning for dismissing the trial, Baldwin’s sister, Beth Keuchler, began sobbing in the stands.

The actor himself – who had for much of the proceedings maintained an unfazed and calm demeanor – put his face in his hands, then embraced his attorneys and wife. He later left court without taking questions from the dozens of reporters the case had drawn into New Mexico.

The dismissal marks the prosecutorial team’s second major misstep in Baldwin’s case. He was initially charged, along with the movie’s armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, of two counts of involuntary manslaughter in January 2023 — more than a year after the shooting. But about three months later, the charges against the actor were dropped after “new facts were revealed that demand further investigation and forensic analysis,” prosecutors said at the time, noting that the charges could be refiled.

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In January, a grand jury indicted Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter once again, leading to the trial that was tossed out Friday.

William Triplett in New Mexico contributed to this report, which has been updated.



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