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Voters zero in on Democrats’ handling of Biden

Some are surprised by lawmakers’ withdrawals of support

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, center, and Democratic members of the Texas legislature at the Capitol in Washington, July 13, 2021 Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite

Voters zero in on Democrats’ handling of Biden

When U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, called for President Joe Biden to end his reelection bid last week, it caught some of his Austin-area constituents off guard.

“Usually, he would tell us he was going to do something like this,” said George Placencio, a voter from Doggett’s district. “Usually he puts out an email he sends out to his constituents in his district, and I get them.” Placencio didn’t waste any time in sending his congressman an email expressing his disappointment.

“I don’t know why he did this,” he said. “It’s too late to be calling for this.” Placencio still plans on voting for Doggett in November’s general elections.

In Austin and throughout the country, Democratic voters have mixed feelings about how their elected representatives are responding to the obvious signs of the president’s advanced age. Six House Democrats besides Doggett have publicly called for Biden to step aside as a candidate, and other lawmakers have voiced concerns about his ability to beat former President Donald Trump in the November election. Still others, including voters like Placencio, believe it’s time to double down on the party’s current direction.

“I don’t know where this came from,” Placencio said. “It’s a panic; they’re panicky. It’s too late in the game to change candidates, to me. We need all the help we can get [in Texas]. We need to stay together.”

Steve Fischer, who runs a private law practice in Austin, said he expected at least some Democrats would demand Biden end his campaign after his disastrous debate performance on June 27, when he rambled, stumbled over responses, and froze mid-answer. But Fischer never expected Doggett would make the first call.

Doggett has a long political history in Texas, having represented Austin in the House of Representatives since 1996. He came closest to losing reelection in 2010 when he won 52 percent of the vote. In 2022, he secured reelection with 76.8 percent of the vote, beating out Republican challenger Jenny Garcia Sharon.

Fischer—although he’s not necessarily concerned for Doggett this coming year—says other Democrats could struggle in their races because of Biden’s unpopularity.

“There are 254 counties in Texas and not many of them are Democratic. It’s become pretty much a Republican state,” Fischer said. “[Democrats] don’t have any statewide elected officials. Zilch.”

Leslie Currens is a Democratic precinct chairwoman in Doggett’s district. She is tasked with encouraging voter participation. Following Biden’s debate performance, Currens supports replacing Bidenin the race—and quickly. She believes there’s a shrinking window of opportunity for Democrats to pivot.

“I thought it was quite brave of him; he was one of the first,” Currens said of Doggett’s call for Biden to step down. “You will take flak for that kind of statement because no one knows what the right answer is. We’re all kind of holding our breath. We can do better—we should do better for the country by offering a better candidate.”

She noted Biden has been a good president, but she believes a younger candidate would almost immediately perform better with voters.

While Fischer, Placencio, and Currens may differ in their views on Biden, they agree about who should succeed him if a replacement becomes necessary: Vice President Kamala Harris.

From a legal standpoint, Fischer thinks Harris has the edge because she can more easily access the $230 million raised by the Biden-Harris campaign. Her name is also on the ticket already.

Conor Dowling, professor of political science at the University of Buffalo and an expert in campaign finance, agreed with that assessment.

“My understanding is that Vice President Harris could theoretically take over the Biden-Harris campaign account because she is on the Statement of Candidacy and Statement of Organization with the [Federal Election Commission], and campaign finance law permits the party’s VP candidate to use the (joint) account,” Dowling told WORLD.

If Democrats nominated someone besides Biden or Harris, funds would likely first have to go through a nonprofit or a leadership political action committee before reaching a new candidate, Dowling explained.

“They could be transferred to federal and state parties,” he said.

Although he likes the idea of Harris as Biden’s successor, Placencio believes the discussion is moot for the time being. “That would be up to Biden. Biden has to step aside, you know? And he’s not willing to do that,” he said. “That’s not right for us to force somebody old out. To me, Biden is hanging in there to take out Trump. He’s a threat. That’s the only reason he’s doing it.”

Leo Briceno

Leo is a WORLD politics reporter based in Washington, D.C. He’s a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and has a degree in political journalism from Patrick Henry College.


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