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Democrats in disarray

Frictions continue over President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden board Air Force One after a campaign rally in Harrisburg, Pa. Associated Press/Photo by Manuel Balce Ceneta

Democrats in disarray

WASHINGTON—Congressional Democrats leaving a closed-door meeting on Tuesday morning mostly gave reporters the same message they delivered on their way in: There is little consensus among the party about what to do about President Joe Biden.

While many members described the gathering as a “family conversation,” Rep. Glenn Ivey, D-Md., described it as more of a forum.

“I think it was organized as a listening opportunity. It was giving people in the caucus a chance to speak to everybody else. I thought it was a good way to go,” Ivey said. “It wasn’t a back-and-forth; people were in line, made their statements.”

Something like 30 people spoke up, Ivey said. They shared their concerns and those of their colleagues and constituents about Biden’s age and fitness as a presidential candidate.

The meeting was the first time House Democrats have gathered since Biden’s disastrous performance in a debate against former President Donald Trump on June 27, during which Biden rambled, stumbled over responses, and froze mid-answer.

Democratic Reps. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, Lloyd Doggett of Texas, Mike Quigley of Illinois, Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, Angie Craig of Minnesota, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey and Adam Smith of Washington have publicly called for Biden to leave the race. They say Biden’s debate performance confirmed public fears about the president’s age and damaged Biden’s odds of defeating Trump in November.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., was on that list before, but on Tuesday, he told reporters he would back Biden.

“Whether I have concerns or not is beside the point,” Nadler said. “He’s going to be our nominee, and we have to support him. He has made it very clear he’s running, and that’s dispositive for me.”

I asked Nadler if that was because he had no other choice.

“Well, yes,” Nadler replied.

Nadler pointed out that Biden had captured 90 percent of Democratic votes in primaries so far.

On Monday, Biden sent a letter to congressional Democrats letting them know he had decided to stay atop the ticket. He had won voter support in the primaries, Biden argued. Nothing—not even party objections—would change that.

Rep. Lou Correa, D-Calif., agreed with the president.

“At the end of the day, the voters choose Biden as their nominee—not us in a closed room. Voters choose Biden as the Democratic nominee, remember that. Not us, not donors,” Correa said.

But from comments made Tuesday, it’s clear the seven House Democrats publicly calling for Biden to bow out of the race aren’t alone in their concerns.

Rep. Doggett of Texas was the first congressional Democrat to call on Biden to step down as a candidate after the debate. Leaving the meeting Tuesday morning, he said he presented his arguments again to his colleagues.

“The debate cannot be unseen,” Doggett said. “The president is running behind. We needed a surge, and we got a setback. While he’s convinced everyone that’s in that room that he has been a great president, there are too many people in the battleground states who have not been convinced. It’s a very serious matter.”

Doggett said he would support Biden if he officially became the party’s candidate. Democrats plan to complete a virtual nomination ahead of the party’s national convention Aug. 19-22. The virtual process will ensure the party’s nominee can appear on the ballot in Ohio ahead of that state’s filing deadline on Aug. 7.

For now, Ivey said he expects the president to work with congressional Democrats to quell their concerns. He noted that blocs within the party—the Hispanic and black caucuses, among others—would hold their own deliberations.

“I’m sure there are going to be a lot more meetings,” Ivey said.

Leo Briceno

Leo is a WORLD politics reporter based in Washington, D.C. He’s a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and has a degree in political journalism from Patrick Henry College.


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