June 28, 2024

Biden’s bad debate… where do we go from here?

In the first Presidential Debate, Biden delivered a uniquely poor performance. Here is a night-of-the-debate note from MVP Executive Director, Billy Wimsatt, about what it means and what comes next.
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Hey MVP fam – 

I’m still reeling from the debate. Someone sent out a note: “I need a hug!” which really captures how I think a lot of us are feeling right now…

I’ve been up late making calls to political friends to game out scenarios and wanted to share some very early thinking in case it is helpful to you.

We don’t know exactly what will happen next: Will Dems call for Biden to step aside? Will he listen? If so, who replaces him?

For now, here are my key takeaways:

1. This definitely means the election cannot be about Biden. 

As MVP partner Black Voters Matter says, it has to be “about us.” 

This election is about the movement and the people, not the person. In some ways, Biden’s performance was so bad that it could finally clarify for everyone: No one is going to save us from Trump except us. So maybe that’s a small silver lining.

2. We’re facing three scenarios.

(These are wildly speculative % likelihoods:)

  • A. Biden remains the candidate, and we work like hell to carry him across the finish line (70-90% chance)
  • B. He passes the torch to Kamala Harris (5-25% chance)
  • C. There’s a brokered convention and either Kamala or someone else gets nominated (1-10% chance)

3. If Biden’s polling plummets, he could face an insurmountable chorus of calls to step aside. 

If that happens, we need to be prepared to:

  • A. Support the heck out of Kamala Harris – not because she’s perfect, but because she’s our vehicle for defeating Trump and passing a progressive agenda in 2025.
  • B. Support whichever candidate emerges from a brokered DNC convention (for the same reasons).

4. In any scenario, we need to frontload funding to grassroots voter engagement infrastructure. 

Whether it’s Biden, Harris, or anyone else, funding local organizing in swing states is our best strategy to win.

If this upside-down election cycle has taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. The dust might not settle on this for another two weeks or two months. 

But the basic math stays the same. The voters who will tip this election could fit in a football field – likely 10,000+ voters in 1-3 states – and likely youth and/or voters of color, who need to be persuaded by trusted messengers they know and relate to, to vote for the Democratic presidential candidate vs. staying home, voting for a spoiler, or skipping the top of the ticket.

That means year-round organizing groups like these will need to do the heavy lifting of voter turnout and persuasion to make sure we win by 10,000 votes instead of lose by 10,000 votes. And they need our support now more than ever.

Those are some initial thoughts… 

What are you thinking? Seeing? Hearing? 

This is a leadership moment for all of us.

Sometimes bad things lead to good things… hoping this will be one of those times…

We are in this together!

Billy Wimsatt, MVP Executive Director
(On behalf of the MVP team)

ps. – Share this with anyone who could use some grounding.

pps. – Just hours before the debate, we sent out a new election strategy memo, Bat Signal 3. After Biden’s debate performance, it is only more relevant than ever. Give it a read for a deeper dive into the strategy to beat Trump…no matter what happens with Biden.


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