Debate Struggles Highlight Age Concerns for Biden as Harris Faces Tough Poll Numbers Against Trump

Featured & Cover Debate Struggles Highlight Age Concerns for Biden as Harris Faces Tough Poll Numbers Against Trump

Joe Biden faced challenges during his debate with Donald Trump on Thursday night, raising questions about how his vice president, Kamala Harris, would handle a debate against the former president.

The two leaders met in Atlanta for their first face-off in nearly four years, with Biden’s age being a significant concern. At 81, he is the oldest president in U.S. history. During the debate, Biden struggled, sounding hoarse and losing his train of thought at one point. These issues intensified discussions among Democrats about whether he should continue as the party’s nominee.

With four months until Election Day, there’s no definitive front-runner to replace Biden. However, Vice President Kamala Harris is a potential candidate. At 59, she is significantly younger than both Biden and Trump, who is three years younger than Biden. If Biden were to step down, Harris would automatically assume the presidency, making her a logical choice for a potential switch in the Biden-Harris campaign.

Polls suggest Harris faces a tougher challenge against Trump than Biden. According to RealClearPolling averages, Trump leads Harris by 6.6 percentage points, with 49.3 percent support compared to her 42.7 percent. In contrast, Trump is ahead of Biden by only 1.5 points, with 46.6 percent to Biden’s 45.1 percent.

A Politico and Morning Consult poll conducted earlier this month showed that only a third of voters believe Harris would win the election if she became the Democratic nominee. Additionally, only 60 percent of Democrats think she would succeed.

Harris has faced criticism for not having a more prominent role in the Biden administration. Less than a year into Biden’s term, the White House issued a statement to counter claims that Harris had not met expectations. In November 2021, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, “For anyone who needs to hear it. @VP is not only a vital partner to @POTUS but a bold leader who has taken on key, important challenges facing the country—from voting rights to addressing root causes of migration to expanding broadband.”

Appointed by Biden to handle the border crisis, Harris has been criticized for the response to the influx of migrants since Biden took office. Immigration remains a top concern for voters, more than three years after Harris was named Biden’s border czar.

Harris’ reputation has struggled due to early missteps, and her approval rating reflects this. FiveThirtyEight’s polling averages indicate that less than 40 percent of Americans approve of her performance as vice president, with nearly half disapproving. Biden and Trump’s approval ratings are similarly low, with Biden’s approval around 38 percent and 56 percent disapproving. Trump has a 42 percent favorable opinion, while about 53 percent view him unfavorably.

Despite these challenges, Harris remains supportive of Biden’s candidacy. After the debate, she defended Biden in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, acknowledging his “slow start” but praising his “strong finish” in the 90-minute event. Harris emphasized, “What we saw tonight was the president making a very clear contrast with Donald Trump on all the issues that matter to the American people.”

When Cooper suggested that Biden’s debate performance was disappointing, Harris responded assertively, saying, “I’m not going to spend all night with you talking about the last 90 minutes when I’ve been watching the last three and a half years of performance.”

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