In deep-blue L.A., Democrats feel worried, betrayed, stoic about Biden's future

Even in the heart of the most Biden-loving parts of Los Angeles County, the president is facing grumbles after his resounding failure of a performance at last week’s debate.

“Biden needs to go sit down, have his medication and take a nap. His time is up,” said Daisy Williams, who voted for Biden in 2020 but said she wouldn’t participate in November’s election after watching last week’s debate. “I’ve never seen something so crazy in my life. We in trouble … That debate was a joke.”

Biden’s debate performance — in which he delivered meandering, sometimes incoherent thoughts in a weak, raspy voice — has shaken among even the most ardent Democrats. While the party shuddered and its leaders hastily began arguing over whether to replace the incumbent president on the ticket, voters in the deepest blue parts of Los Angeles County mulled Biden’s future, too.

California — and Los Angeles County in particular, which supported Biden by 71% in 2020 — is a sea of support for the president. But some precincts in Inglewood and South Central L.A. are even bluer, delivering more than 94% support for the president in the 2020 election.

In a series of informal interviews, some residents in these areas said they'd stand by the president, while others said he should let someone else take on former President Trump in November, perhaps Vice President Kamala Harris.

In the West Athens neighborhood south of Inglewood, where one precinct’s support for Biden reached 95% in 2020, Williams expressed dismay at her options for president. If Biden stepped aside, she said she'd reconsider her decision not to vote.

The 65-year-old certified nurse’s assistant called the election a choice between “a criminal and a person that has dementia.”

Biden does not have any form of dementia, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said in a press briefing Tuesday.

Read more: 'A course correct': How Biden resets his campaign since he's likely not going anywhere

Biden has not publicly wavered from his commitment to running for reelection, though he has reportedly been discussing whether to step aside with his closest family members and advisors.

A CNN poll released Tuesday showed that 56% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning registered voters think their party would have a better chance at winning the election with a candidate other than Biden. The first polls released since the debate show Trump beating Biden.

But Daniel Rodriguez, a Democrat who voted for Biden in 2020 and plans to again in November, was unfazed by Biden's shaky debate performance.

“I did see that, but I just think he has a lot of things on his mind,” Rodriguez said. “He’s overwhelmed.”

As a caregiver for people between 50 and 90 years old, Rodriguez, 50, said his job is to advocate for the elderly and “have 100% their back.” His work, Rodriguez said, has shown him that some older adults remain sharp mentally even if they don't always express themselves well.

“I see people who really had a good head on their shoulders — they still got it going on, they’re still smart,” he said. “So [do] not give up on them, you know? … They have a say-so in this country.”

Janice Gatlin, 66, had the opposite reaction to the debate. She said she kept trying to turn away from the TV screen and Biden’s spectacular failure, but couldn’t stop looking and sat through the whole “upsetting” performance.

“Biden, he’s just at that age where it’s time to retire. Because he was lost! I was embarrassed for him. It hurt me, because I voted for him,” she said. Harris, she added, would be a good alternate. "Time for her to step up," Gatlin said.

Biden made a handful of public appearances after the debate, including a lively speech he gave the following day at a rally in North Carolina. Critics said he appeared more energetic because he relied on a teleprompter. But for Gatlin, it didn't matter — the president's debate performance, she said, showed he is no longer fit for office.

“He needs to step down and think about the country,” Gatlin said, adding that other countries are watching the U.S. election. “Nobody’s scared of him. He’s not even talking loud — no bass in his voice, nothing.”

For Antinya Walker, 19, who says she will be voting in her first presidential election this fall, the debate made her pick simple: She’s voting for Trump.

The Los Angeles resident, who was running an errand to a local Big Lots, said she believed Biden was against women’s rights. She blamed him for tightened abortion restrictions across the country — though Trump takes credit for appointing the conservative Supreme Court justices who led to Roe vs. Wade being overturned, undoing nationwide abortion access.

Abortion is widely seen as Democrats’ winning ticket in elections. But last Thursday, Biden struggled to articulate a clear vision for restoring abortion care access in the country, instead making a confusing metaphor to a pregnancy’s trimesters and bungling the Democrats' key issue. Walker said she stopped watching the debate after hearing Biden’s “horrible” response to the question.

“How are we supposed to have faith in a president that can’t even communicate right?” Walker said. “I feel like Trump is our best bet right now. I pray for America.”

Still, in this bluest part of L.A. County, Biden retains supporters, folks like Harvey Woodruff, a retired grocery store and security worker.

“He looked a little fatigued. The man’s on the job, what do you expect?” Woodruff said. He said he’s grateful for Biden’s running of the economy in the past four years. “Two thumbs up, excellent job. I see no reason why we cannot have him in there for another term.”

Trump presents a greater threat to the country's democracy, Woodruff said, adding that he expected Trump would pardon his own criminal conviction if he were elected president.

The 67-year-old was riding his bike from his Inglewood neighborhood, where 95% of votes went for Biden in 2020, to Darby Park, on his way to meet a friend at the beach. After watching Biden’s difficulty at the debate, Woodruff said he was reminded to have a checkup with his doctor.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.