Special counsel Robert Hur’s shocking report on President Biden’s deteriorating mental state has Democrats wishing there was a way to change the 2024 ticket — but fearing the time to do so has already passed with the primary calendar in full swing and VP Kamala Harris polling worse than her boss, The Post has learned.
A well-placed Democratic operative said Friday that it is “realistic” Harris may replace Biden as a result of his diminished capabilities, though the person added that they suspected that the party’s slate of candidates would be the same as four years ago.
Worries about Biden’s health are reflected in polling showing a majority of Americans share concerns about his age. But veteran Democratic operatives told The Post there is little chance Biden will be replaced at this stage of the race, except by his own volition.
“The president owns the DNC lock, stock and barrel,” said strategist Brad Bannon. “The only way the DNC will have an opportunity to pick a nominee is if Joe Biden decides to step down.”
Top Democrats have publicly stood behind Biden despite his frequent gaffes and stumbles — even if they wish in private that someone else could fill his shoes.
“There are definitely some Democrats who have concerns about his viability in November,” Bannon said, “but I think that kind of sentiment is spotty and not particularly concentrated.”
Bannon added that pressure on Biden to step aside would be more acute if former President Donald Trump, 77, wasn’t the likely GOP nominee — with his own baggage to negotiate.
The only Democrat currently challenging Biden for the nomination is outgoing Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.). Other potential 2024 alternatives, like California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, have already thrown their weight behind the incumbent — giving the president even more power over his fate in any intraparty struggle.
Biden has also recorded convincing wins in the New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada primaries while Phillips has yet to get above 20% support in any contest.
“I think many Democrats who are concerned about the president’s political fortunes don’t like to talk about them because they have a personal loyalty towards Joe Biden,” Bannon suggested. “No one wants to undermine the president’s ability to beat Donald Trump.”
Democratic pollster John Zogby agreed that there is “very little chance” the DNC replaces Biden — saying that despite the “considerable amount of worry” and “dissent” in the ranks of the party, it’s simply too late to turn back.
“They’ve set up this entire year with the primary system in such a way that they’ve loaded it for Biden,” said Zogby, noting that replacing Biden with Harris would be an even “bigger worry” for Democrats.
The vice president has dismal approval numbers, with a December Monmouth University poll showing her at just 35% approval and 57% disapproval.
“There has been a sense that she lacks even Biden’s level of popularity and that she’d be an easy target for the Republicans to run against,” Zogby said.
Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) told The Post Friday that Democrats have confided to him that they are disappointed in Biden being the likely nominee, though none have gone as far as to moot swapping him out of the ticket.
“[Democrats] can’t stand the fact that he’s their nominee and that he’s going to drag the whole party down,” he said. “They’re worried they’re going to lose House and Senate seats because people are either going to switch parties and vote for Republicans because they can’t deal with him being in office anymore — or they’re just not going to go out and vote.”
The Democratic National Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.