Biden camp works to stem growing Democratic unease over reelection prospects

Republished from Kentucky Lantern


President Joe Biden faced perhaps the most consequential day yet for his ailing reelection campaign Thursday, with a press conference at the NATO annual meeting scheduled for late afternoon, as private talks among Democrats on Capitol Hill about his fitness for office extended and calls for him to withdraw from the race spread.

Biden’s solo press conference is his first since a disastrous June 27 debate performance shook his party’s confidence in his chances to defeat former President Donald Trump in November’s election.

Elected Democrats have urged Biden to hold more unscripted events to show his frail and sometimes incoherent showing at the debate was an isolated incident.

Biden has argued that the concerns voiced since the debate have come from party “elites.”

But a Washington Post-ABC News-Ipsos poll published Wednesday night showed he had much deeper problems with Democratic voters. By a 42%-26% margin, Democratic respondents said Biden should step aside rather than continue his campaign.

The same survey showed 77% of Democrats would be satisfied with Vice President Kamala Harris taking over at the top of the ticket, though a majority of all respondents, 53%, said they would be unsatisfied.

Defections on the Hill

Top Biden campaign surrogates will meet with Senate Democrats Thursday, hoping to quell their anxiety.

House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York will speak to reporters around midday Thursday. Jeffries pledged to relay the concerns of some of his members directly to Biden, according to reports.

Eleven Democratic members of Congress, including Michigan Rep. Hillary Scholten on Thursday, have publicly called for Biden to leave the race and allow a Democrat with a better chance of defeating Trump to lead the ticket.

Wednesday’s defections, like the others that have trickled out for nearly two weeks since Texas Rep. Lloyd Doggett made the first public call July 2, came from various corners of the party without a discernible ideological, geographic or electoral pattern.

In that single day, they were: Rep. Pat Ryan, a youthful moderate in a hypercompetitive reelection race in a New York swing district; progressive Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat from a deep-blue district who is retiring at year’s end after nearly three decades in the chamber; and Sen. Peter Welch of Vermont, the first member of the Senate ­— Biden’s professional home for 38 years — to call for the president to withdraw.

Biden also lost the support of a major Democratic campaign contributor, movie star George Clooney, who just last month hosted a massive fundraiser for the reelection effort. But Clooney wrote in a New York Times op-ed Wednesday that Biden’s appearance at that event more closely resembled the struggling debater than the successful candidate of 2020.

The calls to step aside have generally focused on the danger Democrats believe Trump poses. The former president, deeply unpopular in his own right, will be the first convicted felon to be a major party’s nominee, has voiced plans to take an authoritarian approach in his second presidency and is accused of leading a violent effort to overturn his election loss in 2020.

“This is not just about extending (Biden’s) presidency but protecting democracy,” Blumenauer wrote.

Top Democrats in Congress have not publicly broken with the president but have sometimes given less-than-full endorsements.

Early Wednesday, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, a revered leader among Democrats in Washington, appeared to leave space for Biden to exit the race, saying in an MSNBC interview that Biden must “make a decision” about staying in the race — despite consistent messages from the president that he has, in fact, decided to continue.

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