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Emotions are running high since last week's presidential debate. And that is understandable. Nothing less than the future of our democracy is at stake. The possibility of another four years of Trump is unimaginably scary.

When the date for the first debate was announced, I said to a number of people that I believed Biden wanted an early debate so that if it went badly, there was still time to withdraw and put a new candidate in place.

After the debate I posted the following on Facebook:

Tomorrow morning President Biden needs to watch the tape of this debate and ask himself if he is still fit to be President. And I hope Dr. Biden will tell him the truth. It's not too late for him to do the right thing and prevent the madman who was on the stage with him from destroying the country. He can release his delegates to nominate someone else.

I got some agreement and some pushback on this. And since then a lot has been written about Biden's candidacy and what should happen. I've been reading a lot and thinking a lot about this. So here are some more thoughts.

To start, let me make two clear statements:
  1. The single most important issue in this election is to prevent Donald Trump from becoming president again.
  2. No matter what happens between now and Election Day, we must vote for the Democratic candidate.
And let me follow this up with some questions:
  1. Can Biden defeat Trump?
  2. If Biden withdraws from the campaign, do we have a better chance to defeat Trump?
  3. Which alternative candidate is most likely to defeat Trump?
  4. Is Biden fit to govern?
  5. If Biden is fit to govern, can he convince the voters of this?
  6. If Biden is not fit to govern, can he acknowledge this?
My contention is that questions 1-3 are far more important than questions 4-6. And of those, question 2 is the most important. But let me address all of them, one by one.

1. Can Biden defeat Trump?

Right now, it looks like the answer is no. Even before the debate, Biden was trailing slightly in almost every swing state. Since the debate, his numbers have gotten worse. Not a great deal worse, but worse. And he no longer has a lead in three states that were not even considered to be in play: Maine, New Hampshire, and Virginia. (I think the reason the slippage was fairly small is that there are enough people like you and me to maintain a solid base of support that will never go away as long as Trump is the alternative.)

Of course a lot can happen between now and Election Day. People point to past campaigns where things shifted significantly. Dukakis once had a lead over Bush Sr. Hilary had a lead over Trump. But what needs to happen to elevate Biden's standing? And how likely is it that Biden will be able to swing voters back to his camp, or to build energy and enthusiasm for his candidacy sufficient to get people to the polls? Is there enough fluidity in the numbers to imagine a surge of support for Biden that isn't already there?

I don't think it's likely at all.

2. If Biden withdraws, do we have a better chance to defeat Trump?

We just don't know, do we?

But if we agree that Biden has little chance of defeating Trump, how much worse would it be if he steps down and is replaced on the ballot? There is nothing worse than losing. If Biden loses, or if someone else loses, either way we end up with the unthinkable. 

How bad would Biden's chance of victory need to be before you would say we need a stronger candidate?

(I think Trump and his campaign have a strong opinion about this. I think they would much prefer to run against Biden than anyone else. And I'd much rather not give Trump what he wants.)

3. Which alternative candidate is most likely to defeat Trump?

We don't know this either.

A number of names have been floated. But who can say which of them is the best choice if Biden steps down?

If Biden steps down soon, there is time to have some sort of vetting of candidates before the convention. I have to hope that if this happens, they'll come up with the best candidate.

4. Is Biden fit to govern?

First off, if he is not fit to govern now, he should resign the presidency. 

In an article published on July 2, the New York Times reported that
People who have spent time with President Biden over the last few months or so said the lapses appear to have grown more frequent, more pronounced and, after Thursday’s debate, more worrisome.
The article goes on to say
Mr. Biden was drained enough from the back-to-back trips to Europe that his team cut his planned debate preparation by two days so he could rest at his house in Rehoboth Beach, Del., before joining advisers at Camp David for rehearsals. The preparations, which took place over six days, never started before 11 a.m. and Mr. Biden was given time for an afternoon nap each day, according to a person familiar with the process.
Let's say, though, that these lapses, this exhaustion, do not disqualify President Biden from serving or from doing his job effectively. Then we still have to ask, Can Biden govern effectively for four more years?

If that is in serious doubt, he should not be running.

Many of us questioned Ronald Reagan's fitness when he ran for reelection in 1984. He was 73 years of age at the time. Many of us thought he was too old then.

Can we really ignore the evidence that Biden's mental and physical capacity is weakened? Must we, out of loyalty, stand with him steadfastly and without reservation?

Or is it fair, and even mandatory, to acknowledge that he should not be running for a second term.

5. If Biden is fit to govern, can he convince the voters of this?

The question really is, can enough voters be convinced to vote for Biden in the swing states so that he defeats Trump?

Whether he is fit or not, if he continues his campaign, a lot of voters who are right now leaning in a different direction need to be convinced to vote for him.

Can he make this happen?

This is really another way to think about Question 1. And I've already expressed my doubts.

6. If Biden is not fit to govern, can he acknowledge this?

So far, he has not. So either he still feels he is fit to govern and capable of defeating Donald Trump in November, or he is unwilling and unable to acknowledge the truth.


Honestly, I don't care if Biden is fit. I don't care if he's on his deathbed. I will vote for him.

But my vote and the votes of people like me don't matter. We're not the ones who need to be convinced. He will get our votes regardless. Even if we think he is not up to the task of governing through 2028, we will vote for him.

Has Biden done a good job as president? I think so. Does that matter? Not at all if he can't defeat Trump.

Is Biden a good man with a conscience? Without a doubt. Does that matter? Not at all if he can't defeat Trump.

Is Trump a liar, a convicted felon, and a narcissist who will destroy our nation's democracy? Yes. Does that matter? It's going to matter a whole hell of a lot if he isn't defeated in November.

I think Biden should withdraw because I don't believe he will defeat Trump. And maybe no one else can either. If he stays in the campaign and then loses, or if he withdraws and Trump still wins, the Monday morning quarterbacking will be deafening. And meaningless.

Four years ago, when we were in the throes of the Covid pandemic and all the Democratic candidates withdrew and threw their support behind Biden, they did so in the name of unity and because they recognized the need to defeat Trump. But I think we all thought of Biden as a one-term president who was unlikely to run for reelection because of his age.

I'm not sure why Biden is running for reelection. But, to be honest, I question his judgment in choosing to run.

I am getting older, and I know it is difficult to acknowledge the ways my mind and body are slowing down. I think Biden should step down because I question his fitness. But most of all, I doubt his ability to win in November.

What do you think? Do you think he is up to the task of governing through 2028? Do you think he will win reelection? Do you think another Democrat can win in November if Biden steps down?

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