Democrats appear torn over Biden as concerns whether he can win deepen

After a day of private meetings on Capitol Hill, congressional Democrats appeared torn over whether Joe Biden should remain the party’s nominee, as concerns deepen over the 81-year-old president’s age, mental acuity and ability to win the White House for a second term.

Lawmakers emerged from closed-door gatherings on Tuesday stone-faced, appearing uneasy about Biden’s path forward, even if most weren’t ready to publicly call on him to step aside. Asked if the party was on the same page after a House Democrats meeting, Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee quipped: “We’re not even in the same book.”

Senate Democrats offered a similarly assessment. “We’ve got a ways to go,” Senator Peter Welch of Vermont told reporters, after a lengthy caucus meeting over lunch on Tuesday afternoon.

Hours after the House meeting, Representative Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey became the seventh congressional Democrat to call on Biden to step aside, a reflection of the deep disagreement with the party over how best to respond to Biden’s disastrous debate performance last month in which he appeared weak and confused while Donald Trump, 78, spewed a stream of unchecked lies.

“The stakes are too high – and the threat is too real – to stay silent,” Sherrill said in a statement. “I realize this is hard, but we have done hard things in pursuit of democracy since the founding of this nation,” she said in a statement. “It is time to do so again.”

Senate Democrats, meanwhile, have yet to prod the president to end his campaign, a move Biden himself has categorically and repeatedly ruled out.

The president’s adamance that he would stay in the race, outlined in a letter to congressional Democrats on Monday, appeared to have forestalled – for now – a flood of widespread defections, and possibly even beat back some public criticism.

“Right now President Biden is the nominee, and we support the Democratic nominee that will beat Donald Trump,” Representative Pete Aguilar of California, chairman of the House Democratic caucus, said at a news conference following the House Democrats meeting at the Democratic National Committee headquarters on Tuesday morning.

Aguilar said it was incumbent upon the president to prove to voters that he was up to the task, “campaigning and hustling” across the country, while demonstrating his ability to square off with the press at a news conference, scheduled for Thursday, at the end of the Nato summit in Washington.

Few Democrats were eager to talk to reporters, who lined the pavement, pelting lawmakers with questions, as fresh polling shows Biden falling farther behind Trump, the former president and presumptive Republican nominee viewed by the incumbent and his party as a singularly dangerous figure to American democracy. Most ignored the questions, some held a phone to their ear, and the Pennsylvania representative Summer Lee walked with headphones on, declining to stop.

“Joe Biden is, will be and should be our nominee,” the Florida representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a former DNC chair, said tersely after the meeting.

Biden’s closest allies were also eager to voice their support.

“We’re ridin’ with Biden,” Representative James Clyburn repeated several times as he strode toward a waiting car. The South Carolina Democrat is credited with reviving Biden’s successful 2020 campaign against his presidential predecessor Trump – and is seen as one of the few people whose opinion on the matter could sway the president.

“He’s our guy,” said Senator John Fetterman, the Pennsylvania Democrat who has emerged as one of Biden’s most vocal supporters in the days since the debate. “I’m with Joe,” Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer repeatedly said in response to any question about the president’s standing.

Several prominent Democrats, including senior members of the Black and Hispanic caucuses, have joined Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in voicing support for the president. On Tuesday morning, Representative Cori Bush, a Missouri Democrat facing a serious primary challenge, likened her fight for political survival to Biden’s and said the party must unite to defeat the influence of Trump-aligned “Maga Republicans”.

Lori Trahan of Massachusetts, a member of House Democratic leadership, said she shared her constituents’ “real concerns” about Biden’s “ability to beat Donald Trump”, given that a second Trump presidency would “do irreparable damage to women and to our country”. Demanding the president “act with urgency to restore Americans’ confidence so we can win in November”, Trahan said she would do “everything in my power to help”.

On Monday night Biden also held a private meeting with the Congressional Black caucus, a key support bloc representing voters who form a powerful part of Biden’s base, having fueled his surge to the Democratic nomination in 2020.

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“You’ve had my back, and I’ll continue to have yours,” Politico reported Biden saying in the meeting. “I need you guys. They were wrong in 2020, 2022 [when Democrats did much better than expected in midterm elections] and now. With you guys, I know we can win this thing.”

Congressional Hispanic caucus leaders, Nanette Barragán of California and Adriano Espaillat of New York, said on Monday: “We stand with President Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris.

“For the last year and a half, the Biden-Harris administration partnered with the Congressional Hispanic caucus’ initiative to take CHC on the Road. Through that initiative we have worked to empower Latino communities across the country.

“We look forward to our continued partnership on the road and legislative wins to benefit the American people.”

Prominent progressives have also rallied to the president’s side.

“The matter is closed,” Ocasio-Cortez, told reporters outside the Capitol on Monday evening. “He had reiterated that this morning. He has reiterated that to the public. Joe Biden is our nominee. He is not leaving this race. He is in this race, and I support him.”

In her re-endorsement of Biden she pointed to a lack of Republican calls for Trump to step aside, even after he was convicted on 34 criminal charges in his New York trial arising from hush-money payments made to an adult film star.

Fellow progressives Pramila Jayapal from Washington state, Jasmine Crockett from Texas, and Ilhan Omar from Minnesota have joined Ocasio-Cortez in their support for Biden.

On Monday, Ocasio-Cortez said Biden should “commit to the issues that are critically important to working people across this country.

“If we can do that and continue our work on student loans, secure a cease-fire [in Israel’s war against Hamas], and bring those dollars back into investing in public policy, then that’s how we win in November.

“That’s what I’m committed to, and that’s what I want to make sure that we secure.”

Source: US Politics -


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