HOWARD KURTZ: Liberal pundits, urging Biden to withdraw, push convention scenario


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A growing number of left-leaning pundits are hopping off the Biden train and they’re trying to come up with a plan to enable the president to jump off as well.

The attacks from the right are one thing, but these are Joe Biden’s people, who say he’s been a good president, who say he’s accomplished a great deal, but who say his age renders him either too likely or too certain to lose to Donald Trump. It’s the one problem he can’t fix.

At the same time, a new report says the Resistance is growing frustrated and burned out.

Nate Silver, the data guru and hardly a right-winger, says: “Personally, I crossed the rubicon in November, concluding that Biden should stand down if he wasn’t going to be able to run a normal re-election campaign — meaning, things like conduct a Super Bowl interview. Yes, it’s a huge risk and, yes, Biden can still win. But he’s losing now and there’s no plan to fix the problems.”


Nate Silver

Nathaniel “Nate” Silver, editor-in-chief of ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight blog, speaks during a panel discussion at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas, U.S., on Saturday, March 8, 2014. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

After noting that an improving economy hasn’t helped him, Silver says “it’s become even clearer that Biden’s age is an enormous problem for him. As many as 86% of Americans say he’s too old in one poll, though numbers in the 70-to-75% range are more common — still an overwhelming majority in a bitterly-divided country.” 

And that wasn’t helped by the special counsel’s report calling him an elderly man with a poor memory.

“But even the most optimistic Democrats, if you read between the lines, are really arguing that Democrats could win despite Biden and not because of him. Biden is probably a below-replacement-level candidate at this point because Americans have a lot of extremely rational concerns about the prospect of a Commander-in-Chief who would be 86 years old by the end of his second term. It is entirely reasonable to see this as disqualifying.”

Wait, there’s more. 


“I can now point you to moments when he is faltering in his campaign for the presidency because his age is slowing him. This distinction between the job of the presidency and the job of running for the presidency keeps getting muddied, including by Biden himself. And what I think we’re seeing is that he is not up for this. He is not the campaigner he was, even five years ago…The way he moves, the energy in his voice.”

Ezra Klein, the uber-liberal New York Times podcaster, also wants the president out. 

“Step one, unfortunately, is convincing Biden that he should not run again. That he does not want to risk being Ruth Bader Ginsburg — a heroic, brilliant public servant who caused the outcome she feared most because she didn’t retire early enough.”

Despite what he called the “Kamala Harris problem,” Klein says to assume that Biden steps aside. “Then what? Well, then Democrats do something that used to be common in politics but hasn’t been in decades. They pick their nominee at the convention.” 

Silver agrees with this scenario as well.

I’m here to tell you, barring a major health scare, that’s not happening. Biden has been running for president since 1987 (I did a long interview with him during that campaign). He finally got the job. He likes being in charge. He’s not going to walk away.

Biden speaks in East Palestine

President Biden speaks after touring the East Palestine Recovery Site on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, in East Palestine, Ohio. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

And in fairness, Biden has made adjustments in the last two weeks. He now takes on-camera questions from reporters almost every day, sometimes longer than others. Just yesterday, he walked over to say, in the wake of Alexei Navalny’s murder, he’d be announcing a package of sanctions against Russia on Friday. And he’s given two televised speeches.

Still, liberal Times columnist Michelle Goldberg has been arguing since 2022 that Biden should step aside, and without a major change in strategy, “he should find some medical pretext to step aside in time for a replacement to be chosen at the Democratic convention.”

Moderate conservative Ross Douthat says flatly in his Times column that Biden should not be running for re-election.

As if the Times might be in danger of under-covering this issue, the paper also says that “anti-Trump voters are grappling with another powerful sentiment: exhaustion.”

“Some folks are burned out on outrage,” Rebecca Lee Funk, founder of the liberal activist group Outrage, told the paper. 

A Pittsburgh security guard said  “It’s crisis fatigue, for sure.”


How about the right? National Review’s Noah Rothman, who thinks Biden will narrowly win, explains the grand voting shift that has the Democrats in trouble:

“Despite his self-set reputation as a lunch-pail-toting nine-to-fiver with familial roots set deep in the carbon-rich soil of Scranton, Pennsylvania, Joe Biden has presided over the hemorrhaging of his party’s support among non-college-educated voters. The Democratic Party is increasingly dominated by degree-holders…The party is pinning all its electoral hopes on driving up turnout among this relatively affluent, highly educated slice of the electorate. The big problem with that plan is that there just aren’t enough of those voters…

“In 1999, according to Gallup’s historical surveys, working-class Americans identified more as Democrats than as Republicans by 14 points. Today, that has flipped, with the GOP enjoying a 14-point advantage over Democrats among those voters. Democrats have suffered similarly with young voters: Today, only 8% more voters between the ages of 18 and 29 associate themselves with the Democratic Party than with the GOP.” 

This is eye-popping for those of us who grew up with the Republicans holding the monopoly on wealthier college graduates and favoring aggressive military intervention abroad.

Rothman concludes: “Even with Trump at the top of the ticket, Democrats appear committed to a strategy that will produce, at best, the narrowest of re-election victories.”

Speaker Johnson, Donald Trump

House Speaker Mike Johnson’s campaign shared this image with Fox News Digital after he met with former President Trump at Mar-a-Lago. (Fox News)

On the other side, meanwhile, Nikki Haley gave a South Carolina speech to declare she’s not going anywhere. Plenty of Republicans have “surrendered” to pressure because “they didn’t want to be left out of the club. Of course, many of the same politicians who now publicly embrace Trump privately dread him. They know what a disaster he’s been and will continue to be for our party…I feel no need to kiss the ring. I have no fear of Trump’s retribution. I’m not looking for anything from him, my own political future is of zero concern.”

But the most important part of her appearance was when she choked up while discussing her husband (who Trump has taken vague shots at). He is a National Guardsman now serving a year-long deployment in Africa after an earlier one in Afghanistan.

“Michael is at the forefront of my mind,” Haley said, her voice breaking. “I wish Michael was here today, and I wish our children and I could see him tonight, but we can’t. He’s serving on the other side of the world.”

It was a striking moment because Haley is usually so scripted and disciplined. A burst of emotion in 2008 helped Hillary Clinton win the New Hampshire primary. The problem is that the press will write off Haley if Trump clobbers her in Saturday’s South Carolina primary, no matter how long she keeps campaigning.


A reporter asked Biden yesterday whether he’d rather run against Trump or Haley. He responded, “I don’t care,” while walking away.

But given that Haley is 52, I believe he and his advisers very much care. At 77, while projecting a much more vigorous persona, Trump is the one opponent who might help Biden neutralize the issue that most threatens his re-election campaign.