Some Biden donors in Florida are concerned about the candidate’s age and ability

Some Biden donors in Florida are concerned about the candidate’s age and ability

Some Biden donors in Florida are concerned about the candidate’s age and ability

Hampton Stephens planned to maximize his donation to President Joe Biden’s campaign ahead of the November election.

Stephens, a 49-year-old journalist and editor from Tampa, said Biden was never his first choice but he believed the candidate could beat the former president. Donald Trump has sent nearly $3,000 to the campaign and a related committee so far.

So Stephens observed Last week’s Biden-Trump debate.

“It was a disaster,” Stephens said. “I sincerely hope Biden decides to drop out of the race.”

Although Biden, 81, held a rally Friday in which he vowed to stay in the race, Floridians who have contributed to the president’s reelection effort in recent weeks are less certain. The Tampa Bay Times spoke to 10 Biden donors in Florida and found they are grappling with the same questions as Democrats across the country: To beat Trump in November, is it time for Biden to step aside?

So far, Biden has held firm. Relatively few Democratic leaders, donors and operatives have made public statements. urged him to abandon the race.

But his debate performance raised serious questions even among some of Biden’s biggest supporters.

Mark Brandt, a 77-year-old retired lawyer who lives in Dunedin, said he was concerned about Biden’s performance. He said he would support Biden if he stayed in the race, but added: “We may be stronger with someone else.”

Like many Democrats, Stephens said she ignored rumors about Biden’s mental state deteriorating recently. months. He cited a series of misleading videos, shared on conservative media, that made the president look especially old and confused.

But after the debate, Stephens said Biden’s age was a “huge political liability,” referring to the candidate’s declining poll numbers.

“I fell into the trap of thinking it was a bunch of misinformation,” Stephens said. Now, she believes Biden’s age is “something he can’t get over.”

Other local supporters remain committed to the candidate despite their doubts. They say Biden has led the country with stability and success and fear it may be too late for another Democrat to step in.

Laurie Chane, 59, said she is confident Biden’s Cabinet can support the elderly candidate.

“He surrounds himself with people he trusts, which is very different than Trump,” said Chane, a Tampa resident who has donated $375 to Biden. Chane said she appreciates the president’s economic and foreign policies, his ethics and his kindness.

“He did awful, but you can’t judge someone by one day,” Chane said of the debate.

St. Petersburg resident Rita Bateman agreed. Bateman, 71, has donated more than a dozen times to Biden since announced his candidacy last April. After his debate performance, he said he had contributed another $300.

“I wanted to say, ‘You’ve done so much good, tonight won’t erase it all,'” Bateman said.

Mardie J. Chapman, a retiree from St. Petersburg, wondered who would replace Biden if he stepped down. Chapman has made dozens of small donations over the past year.

Some donors say Vice President Kamala Harris is the obvious choice. But Chapman said his first thought was former first lady Michelle Obama. A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll showed Obama leading Trump by 11 points nationally, but Obama has said he has no intention of running.

Catch up on top news before rush hour

Become a Times subscriber to receive our evening newsletter, The Rundown

We’ll be breaking down Tampa Bay’s top stories on the environment, politics, business, education and culture every weekday.

You are all registered!

Want to receive more of our free weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let us begin.

Explore all your options

“I have a cup of coffee in my hand that I would vote for if I were the Democratic nominee,” said author Allen Wiener, 80, of Clearwater.

Elizabeth Meyer of Clearwater said she felt she was being asked the wrong question. For her, the question at hand is not whether Biden should drop out of the race, but whether Trump should.

“Comparing his crimes to Biden’s prime is not even equal,” said Meyer, 76. “It worries me that no one is asking that question.”

As the past few days have made clear — and interviews with Biden supporters have underscored — Democrats have not yet reached a consensus on how to handle the 2024 election. But if there’s one other thing many Biden supporters agree on, it’s that the party is running out of time.

“I wouldn’t want to be the one to have to make this decision,” said Wiener, a Biden supporter from Clearwater. “But they have to decide, and they have to do it right away.”