Voters across Georgia weigh in: Should President Biden stay atop the Democratic ticket?

Chris Hairie, 52, physical therapist, of Macon.

Credit: Joe Kovac Jr.

Credit: Joe Kovac Jr.

Chris Hairie, 52, physical therapist, of Macon.

President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign plunged into turmoil after he struggled in his nationally televised debate against former President Donald Trump.

Biden’s weak performance triggered another debate that hasn’t abated more than a week after the June 27 debate in Atlanta: Should the 81-year-old Democratic Party standard-bearer step aside for another candidate from within the party’s ranks?

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution spoke with voters across Georgia between Wednesday and Friday, asking them to share their thoughts. Most were Democratic supporters or independents who have been planning or weighing to cast a ballot for the Democratic presidential candidate in November.

Some said Biden should step aside. Others said he should stay the course.

Julia Asherman, 37, vegetable farmer, of Twiggs County.

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Credit: Joe Kovac

Julia Asherman, 37, Twiggs County:

Julia Asherman, a Middle Georgia vegetable farmer, described Biden’s debate performance as “extremely painful” to watch. She believes he “is visibly on the decline” and should step aside for a new nominee who offers “something fresh.”

“We need something that’s not just in opposition to Trump,” she said. “We need something that we actually have some hope for. I want to feel hopeful. I don’t want to feel despairing. I feel pretty despairing right now.”

Asherman, who lives just east of Macon, hopes party leaders are listening. “I’m very concerned that what the people want is not going to filter up.”

She also hopes Biden is reconsidering. “If you know you’re not the best one for the job, and if everyone doesn’t feel confident, then you gracefully bow out and your legacy will be remembered for not (expletive) the country for the rest of eternity.”

“If he’s not mentally capable, if he’s not in control himself, it makes us ask the question, ‘Who is actually in control behind the scenes?’ And that person needs to be elected.”

Asherman said his troubling showing onstage that night “almost validates” Republican criticism of Biden, that he is too old and can’t handle the grind of the office.

“Up until the debate,” she said, “I was, like, ‘Maybe they’re just being mean and unkind,’ and then I saw it and I was, like, ‘This is who’s going to do all the negotiations on behalf of our country with other world leaders?’”

Dwayne Marshall, 50, an investment consultant in Savannah, Georgia.

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Credit: Lawrence Conneff

Dwayne Marshall, 50, Savannah:

Dwayne Marshall, an investment consultant, said his support for Biden has not wavered since the debate.

“I think, at the end of the day, President Biden has done well by this country in his three and a half years thus far in office,” Marshall said. “I still have confidence in him. I still have belief in his ability to lead the country forward for the next four years. I’m still a big believer in the Biden-Harris administration and I still believe that he is the best leader for our country at this moment.”

Marshall said Biden’s debate performance might have raised questions about his health, but he’s confident the administration will address them and the president will remain on the ballot.

“I think anyone who looked at the debate last Thursday would naturally have some questions that they would want to see answered about the health of the president, but I believe those will be answered in the next couple of days,” Marshall said. “I still believe that he is our best leader for this moment in time, to carry us forward and to carry us to, hopefully, a successful outcome in November.”

Eric Sweeney, 58, of Atlanta, Georgia.

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Credit: Nicole Williams

Eric Sweeney, 58, Atlanta:

Eric Sweeney was wearing a Biden shirt while watching the AJC Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta.

But the self-described “partisan Democrat” rated Biden’s debate performance “a zero.” He said the president is “absolutely” too old to serve a second term and should “100 percent” let someone else be at the top of the ticket.

“And while I love the idea of an open process, I think the pushback from not going with (Vice President) Kamala (Harris) will be too tough and I also think, from my understanding, it’s just easier to transfer the money machine and the apparatus to Kamala. So, I just think that’s the easiest and obvious choice.”

Either way, he’ll vote for the Democratic candidate because he thinks Trump is “dangerous.”

Kimberly Alexander, 54, of Hampton, Georgia.

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Kimberly Alexander, 54, Hampton:

Kimberly Alexander plans to vote Democrat and thinks Biden should remain atop the Democrat ticket even though she only rated his debate delivery “about a four and a half.”

She said she grew up in Delaware, Biden’s home state, which he represented as a U.S. senator, and that he came to her history class. “So the integrity that he has, I don’t know that by opinion, I know that by personal contact.”

Alexander allowed she might be “a little less biased” about age in part because she’s older too. But she also thinks it would be disruptive to switch candidates now.

“That would be really hard for the country to recover from because he has such a strong knowledge base. FDR couldn’t walk but he was able to lead. Reagan was extremely old but he had a solid team,” she said.

Alexander also thinks it’s in Biden’s “DNA to do what’s best for the nation” and to be “openminded, to hear feedback.”

Biden also has “surrounded himself with solid, competent people so I’m less concerned. And to be frank, his competitor is no spring chicken either.”

Jaylen Prescott, 23, recent college graduate, of Monroe County.

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Jaylen Prescott, 23, Monroe County:

“I see a decline in his cognitive abilities,” said Jaylen Prescott, a recent college graduate who lives in the city of Forsyth, just north of Macon, and is a likely Democratic voter this fall.

Prescott, who majored in biology at Kennesaw State University, might still vote for Biden if he stays in the race, but would prefer “a better candidate.”

“I think anybody over the age of, like, 65 should not be able to run for president, honestly. … He doesn’t seem like he can make a full thought and make a full sentence, and I don’t feel like that’s somebody that I personally can support if they can’t even relay a message.”

Might he consider Harris as the party’s nominee?

“According to what I’ve seen in the polls,” Prescott said, “a lot of people don’t really care for her. I don’t think she can win.”

Maria Morales, 44, of Sugar Hill, Georgia.

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Credit: Nicole Williams

Maria Morales, 44, Sugar Hill:

Maria Morales said she was still processing Biden’s debate performance a week after it happened.

“I guess you could say I’m in denial of like, this is what we have today.”

But she thinks he should step aside for another candidate on the Democratic ticket. Who that would be, she’s not sure.

As for Trump, “I think, you know, he has this power over certain people and I really would love for him to use that to unite us and to better the country instead of singling people out.”

Who will she vote for in November?

“At this moment, I can’t answer that.”

Amber Luttrell (left), 46, of West Georgia, and Hope Allen (middle), 42, of Paulding County.

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Amber Luttrell, 46, West Georgia, and Hope Allen, 42, Paulding County:

Amber Luttrell and Hope Allen, who ran in the AJC Peachtree Road Race, are both planning to vote for Trump. They also think Biden should step down.

“I don’t think (Biden’s) age has anything to do with it. I don’t think he’s mentally fit to serve another term,” said Luttrell.

She’s also not a fan of Harris.

“I don’t like her at all. I think that she doesn’t take things seriously. She laughs and giggles inappropriately,” Luttrell said, adding that Harris hasn’t done enough to protect the U.S. border.

Allen also questions Biden’s mental faculties and thinks Harris “has not accomplished one thing” as vice president.

Kevin Randolph, 60, of Atlanta, Georgia.

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Kevin Randolph, 60, Atlanta:

Kevin Randolph rated Biden’s debate performance a “zero” and thinks Biden “definitely” should let someone else be at the top of the Democratic ticket.

“Too old! Narcolepsy!” he said of Biden, adding that 40s and 50s is “the prime age” to be president because of the long hours and stress.

Who should replace Biden?

“Maybe Ralph Nader, an independent. We need someone not affiliated with all the corporations. It’s becoming about corporations now, more than people.”

What about Harris?

“She put a whole lot of Black men in prison as a prosecutor. She was part of the problem, not the solution.”

Gina Ippolito, 34, of Savannah, Georgia.

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Credit: Lawrence Conneff

Gina Ippolito, 34, Savannah:

Gina Ippolito, a restaurant manager, said Biden is not her ideal candidate but she thinks it’s too late in the race to replace him as the Democratic nominee.

The debate “didn’t go well at all” for Biden or Trump, Ippolito said, adding that “it definitely wasn’t a confidence-boosting moment for Biden, but I’m definitely voting blue. For me it’s very polarized right now and I’d rather take the Democratic candidate, whoever it is.”

Ippolito isn’t sure how much a different candidate would change the outcome at this point.

“I think this is our best chance,” she said. “I’m in desperation mode at this point. And then maybe in the next four years we can get smart and really try to figure out what’s next, but it’s just a little bit too late in my opinion.”

Carolyn Brown, 69, retired office worker, of Macon.

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Credit: Joe Kovac Jr.

Carolyn Brown, 69, retired office worker, Macon:

Carolyn Brown watched Biden in his recent debate with Trump and found Biden’s performance “heartbreaking.”

“You see the will, you see the desire, you see what he’s wanting to do for the country,” Brown said, “but I just feel like it would be in his best interest and everybody else’s to graciously bow out.”

Brown, a retired BellSouth office worker and former bank teller, will likely vote for the Democratic nominee in the general election. Whoever that may be.

She thinks the party needs to find someone who can go toe-to-toe with Trump.

“It’s very scary,” she said, referring to the prospect of a second Trump presidency. “He has no restraints. And when you look at a person that’s already conniving, already deceptive, and now with the leniency that he’s gotten from the Supreme Court, I feel like he would turn that into exactly what he’s wanting, a dictatorship.”

Edward Stephens poses for a photo outside Normal Bar in Athens, Ga. on July 3, 2024.

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Credit: Fletcher Page

Edward Stephens, 38, Athens:

Edward Stephens didn’t watch the presidential debate. He was busy, but it wasn’t necessary because he already has his mind made up.

”The Democrats could run a log, and I would vote for it in this election,” said Stephens, who works for an e-commerce business.

He admits he doesn’t like the Biden-Trump rematch. He’d rather “someone from the younger generation” be the Democratic candidate because Biden “maybe is past his prime-ability age.”

Stephens says he would support Harris, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg or anybody else on the Democratic “roster” if they took Biden’s place as the nominee. But he thinks it isn’t time for that yet.

”It’s awfully late in the game,” he said. “I think it has the potential to backfire and leave us more vulnerable (if Biden remains in the race), but I don’t think any infighting is going to do the party any favors.”

Stephens said he could have considered a Republican candidate. But not Trump. That’s a non-starter.

”I think there is a lot of cowardice among many Republican leaders nationwide in allowing a criminal, a liar, someone who is completely unfit to do anything but serve his own self interests to run for the position with the highest responsibility in this country,” he said. “That is infuriating to me.”

Jackie Weaver poses for a photo during the Banks County Democrats Fourth of July cookout on July 4, 2024.

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Credit: Fletcher Page

Jackie Weaver, in her 60s, Alto:

Jackie Weaver voted for Trump in the 2016 presidential election, remaining aligned with the Republican Party she supported for roughly five decades.

Trump’s first term killed off her lifelong association with the political party. Weaver remains a Biden backer, even after his debate performance.

”Trump lied to me once,” Weaver said. “I’m not going to be lied to again.”

Weaver said she was “quite depressed” about the debate. She admits it “did not go well” for Biden.

But she contends Trump’s falsehoods during the showdown, such as stating that Biden supports late-term abortions and that his policies have created jobs only for people in the U.S. illegally, made it impossible for Biden to reasonably discuss topics.

”How do you respond to such outrageous lies?” Weaver said. “How was he supposed to go back and address this lie and then address the next one? It’s like dodging bullets from a machine gun.”

So Biden should stay atop the ticket?

“All the way because of the team. It’s not just a president you’re voting for. You’re voting for a whole team of people.”

Chris Hairie, 52, physical therapist, of Macon.

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Credit: Joe Kovac Jr.

Chris Hairie, 52, Macon:

Aside from, say, Michelle Obama stepping in as the Democratic nominee for president, Chris Hairie, off the top of his head, had no idea who might be a viable candidate to replace Biden.

But Hairie, a physical therapist who moved to Middle Georgia from New York state in the 1990s, believes replacing Biden is a must for Democrats, due in large part to the president’s unsteady appearance and concerns for his health during and after the June 27 debate.

“It was not a good look,” said Hairie, noting that Biden’s continued candidacy may “make it much easier for Trump to win.”

Hairie, a likely Democratic voter come November, thinks Biden doesn’t seem as aware of things and wonders “if he can make quick decisions anymore.”

“I don’t know why four years ago they didn’t find a better candidate than Biden,” Hairie said. “Given his age and even though he won (in 2020), with him four years older it was going to be a much harder sell.”