Democratic lawmakers’ concerns surround Joe Biden’s position as the party’s presidential nominee, despite campaign efforts


Democratic lawmakers continue to question President Joe Biden’s standing as their presidential nominee, two days after he declared in a letter that he was “determined” to stay in the race, aimed at consolidating their support behind him. Many politely suggested that he could still change his mind if polls continue to show him trailing.

“I think the president and his team really need to evaluate the evidence that is there with a cold, analytical eye and answer the question for themselves: What is the best way to achieve the goal of saving our democracy from a catastrophic Trump presidency?” Sen. Peter Welch, a Vermont Democrat, said Wednesday. “I hope that the concerns that are being raised are being heard, even if they are not being recognized yet.”

Only eight Democrats have publicly called on Biden to step aside, but a larger number are operating under the premise that Biden may still be deliberating, with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying on Wednesday: “It is up to the president to decide whether to run. We all encourage him to make that decision because time is running out.”

Pelosi, who is known for her precision, confused some members but also provided an opening for others, according to interviews with multiple lawmakers and aides.


Pelosi commented on the matter on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program on Wednesday, July 10.

After a group of Democrats from the California House of Representatives gathered at the Capitol on Wednesday, many expressed similar sentiments.

“The president has to decide what he’s going to do,” Democratic Rep. Scott Peters told CNN.

When confronted with the reality that Biden has stated he wants to stay in the race, Peters responded, “I don’t think the week is over. I think he’s got to keep his eyes open as more and more data comes in.”

Democratic Rep. Jared Huffman told CNN that just because Biden has said he has decided to stay in the race doesn’t mean it’s final.

“That’s not how it works,” Huffman, who has expressed concerns about Biden, told CNN. “We all understand this as a decision by President Biden. I will just say that good leaders always continue to consider new information and changing circumstances and sometimes make different decisions based on that. So this is going to be fluid for a while.”

Even Rep. Jim Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat who has been a vocal Biden supporter, told reporters Wednesday that he has “no idea” whether Biden’s decision to stay in the race is final. “You’ll have to ask him.”

Sen. Joe Manchin, an independent from West Virginia, told CNN on Wednesday when asked if he really thought Biden could change his mind, “if you can’t change your mind, you can’t change anything,” adding that he has always believed that “rational people do the right thing.”

Francis Chung/POLITICO/AP

Rep. Jared Huffman leaves a meeting of the Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives at the Democratic National Committee headquarters on Capitol Hill on July 9, 2024.

The high-stakes meetings on Capitol Hill that began Tuesday also did little to resolve Democratic divisions over Biden’s future. House members who left a nearly two-hour meeting at the DNC argued that they were still in the process, and several factions within the Democratic Party — including lawmakers representing the most competitive districts — held private meetings with Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries, who has vowed to bring his concerns to the White House.

New York Democrat Ritchie Torres, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, reversed course on Wednesday, worrying that Biden at the top of the ticket could hurt Democrats’ chances of winning back the House of Representatives. Torres said in a statement Wednesday that “there needs to be a serious reckoning with the down-ballot effect of whoever we nominate,” having called the controversy within the party “self-defeating” two days earlier.

Torres clarified his criticism, saying in a statement to CNN: “If we’re going on a political suicide mission, we should at least be honest about it.”

In the past two days alone, moderate Democratic Reps. Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey and Pat Ryan of New York have called on Biden to step aside, bringing to eight the total number of Democrats in Congress who have made public statements against Biden.

At a Senate luncheon Tuesday, three Democratic senators — Michael Bennet of Colorado, Jon Tester of Montana and Sherrod Brown of Ohio — expressed concerns to their colleagues that Biden could not defeat Trump in a rematch in November.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call/Sipa USA/File

Rep. Ritchie Torres, a Democrat from New York, is seen at the U.S. Capitol after the final votes of the week on June 28, 2024.

On Thursday, the Biden campaign will send top officials, including Biden senior advisers Mike Donilon and Steve Ricchetti and campaign chair Jen O’Malley Dillon, to brief Senate Democrats at a special meeting, a sign that questions remain about Biden’s future.

Democrats say both openly and privately that one of the challenges for them right now is that they want to see more of the president.

“The president needs to be more active, he needs to be present in contingencies, answer questions and interact with voters to show that the debate performance was an anomaly,” said Maine Independent Senator Angus King.

Many members told CNN they will keep a close eye on Biden for the rest of the week, including the press conference he is scheduled to give at NATO on Thursday.

The number three Democrat in the House of Representatives, Rep. Pete Aguilar of California, said Tuesday, “Let’s see,” referring to coming events.

“We’ll see how this plays out,” said Democratic Rep. Jim Costa of California.

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