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Up the Proverbial Creek? Democrats Fear Replacement Scenarios As Much As Keeping Biden

*Washington (CNN) — They’re not writing anything down. They’re not making any firm commitments. But between staring into phones that started buzzing about three minutes into the debate and haven’t stopped since, several of Joe Biden’s leading possible Democratic replacements and top aides have started to think through what an unprecedented last-minute fight into the August convention might look like.

They’re already carefully monitoring their prospective opponents’ moves as they go, looking both for openings and ways to call them out for getting ahead of the president. Multiple people connected with other candidates, for example, noted the “interesting timing” of an already-scheduled fundraising appeal that Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s PAC texted out on Friday evening that reads almost like a mission statement for her and points out how she won in her key presidential battleground state.

More than two dozen top Democratic officials, political operatives and donors tied to Biden and to many of the people most discussed as potential substitutes – many of whom asked for anonymity to discuss the most politically fraught situation most have ever encountered – say they’re terrified by nearly every scenario: Going forward with Biden, a Kamala Harris nomination, a nomination of someone else who would in that case have beaten the first Black female vice president, long nights of multiple ballots spilling ideological and personal feuds on national television, even just revelations of embarrassing details about people who have never been vetted by a national campaign.

“It would be a Category 5 hurricane,” said one top Democratic official nervous about Biden considering what would happen if the president stepped aside. “People don’t understand the sheer destruction that would be unleashed.”

To others, that stems from a prisoner’s mentality that doesn’t consider how much resistance there is to Trump.

“I think we can absolutely swap and win,” said a major Democratic donor. “If Joe Biden’s the nominee, we’re all in. If someone else is the nominee, we’re all in.”

A CBS News/YouGov poll out Sunday morning found only 55% of registered Democratic voters saying Biden should continue running, with 45% saying he should step aside. Biden campaign aides have spent the last couple of days pointing to metrics like some of their best grassroots fundraising days and a surge in job applications since Thursday.

None of the speculation matters if a president who will be three months older by the next scheduled debate doesn’t step aside. So far, he has stuck to an apologetic but defiant posture in public while in private saying he knows how bad his performance was but that he still thinks his candidacy is the only way forward. And since he won all the primaries, he controls most of the delegates, which means that they can only vote for someone else if he decides to pull out.


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