Joe Biden faces doubts from Democrats about his 2024 re-election

Biden's verbal stumbles and occasionally meandering responses during the debate heightened voter concerns that the 81-year-old might not be fit to serve another four-year term.
Last Updated : 03 July 2024, 04:26 IST

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Washington: Some elected Democrats loyal to President Joe Biden raised fresh questions on Tuesday about his 2024 re-election bid, with one calling for him to step aside, a shift after many defended him in the wake of last week's shaky debate performance. Whether Biden continues his 2024 bid for president after his halting debate performance against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is largely his decision, Democrats and political strategists have said.

But Biden is facing pressure. Some donors have called for him to step aside, and other Democrats are worrying openly that he is not equipped to beat Trump in November.

There are 25 Democratic members of the House of Representatives preparing to call for Biden to step aside, according to one House Democratic aide.

A second House Democratic aide said moderate House Democrats in competitive districts - often called "frontliners" - were particularly concerned after getting hammered with questions from voters in their districts this week.

"It looks like the dam has broken," the source said. A Reuters/Ipsos poll taken after the debate showed one in three Democrats think Biden should end his re-election bid. US Representative Lloyd Doggett became the first congressional Democrat to call for Biden to withdraw from the presidential race on Tuesday.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi emphasized Biden's multiple legislative accomplishments during an interview with MSNBC but said it was legitimate to ask whether his debate performance was a one-night thing or a broader health problem. She said Trump should be given the same scrutiny.

"I think it's a legitimate question to say, 'Is this an episode or is this a condition?' And so when people ask that question, it's legitimate, of both candidates," Pelosi said.

After the debate, Pelosi had shown strong support. "Joe Biden’s decision to go forward is a decision that we will all embrace because of the record he has and the performance that will come with it," she said then.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday that Biden did not have an "episode," just a bad night.

Biden, speaking at a campaign event in Virginia on Tuesday evening without a teleprompter, acknowledged his debate performance was not the best, but blamed it on a lack of sleep and said his campaign had raised $38 million since the debate.

“The fact is that you know, I wasn’t very smart. I decided to travel around the world a couple times, going through around 100 time zones ... before ... the debate. Didn’t listen to my staff and came back and nearly fell asleep on stage," he said. "That's no excuse but it is an explanation.”

Biden's verbal stumbles and occasionally meandering responses during the debate heightened voter concerns that the 81-year-old might not be fit to serve another four-year term.

"He has to be honest with himself," Democratic Representative Mike Quigley, a moderate from Illinois, told CNN on Tuesday. "It's his decision. I just want him to appreciate at this time just how much it impacts, not just his race, but all the other races coming in November."

US Representative Jim Clyburn told MSNBC he would support Vice President Kamala Harris to be the Democratic nominee if Biden stepped aside.

Representative Jared Golden, a Maine Democrat, predicted in an opinion piece published in the Bangor Daily News on Tuesday that Trump would win the election.

The White House said Biden was suffering from a cold on the night of the debate.

The president and his campaign are working to bolster support. Biden will hold a meeting with Democratic governors on Wednesday and speak to lawmakers this week, White House officials said.

The meeting on Wednesday, which will be held at the White House but may be largely virtual with governors attending remotely, will give the president a chance to reassure leaders in his party that he is of sound mind.

Biden will also meet with leaders from Capitol Hill this week as he seeks to shore up support among party stalwarts and tamp down talk that he should step aside, one official said.

One of the House Democratic aides said members were disappointed about the lack of outreach thus far. The meetings are part of a broad effort to stabilize the president's re-election bid after his halting, stumbling display on the Atlanta debate stage. His team held difficult phone calls on Sunday and Monday with important campaign funders who questioned whether Biden should stay in the presidential race.

Asked why Biden had not done more media interviews or press conferences after his debate raised questions, Jean-Pierre pointed to his visit to a Waffle House in Atlanta on the evening of the debate and subsequent interactions with supporters.

Asked whether Biden had Alzheimer's disease, Jean-Pierre said no.

Biden is scheduled to do an interview with ABC and plans to hold a news conference at the NATO summit next week. The Democratic Hill aide said a lot was riding on the ABC interview, with lawmakers looking to see that he can handle rapid-fire questions and not just orchestrated campaign appearances. Meanwhile, Biden's campaign said it and its Democratic allies raised $264 million in the second quarter, including $127 million in June and a record "grassroots" fundraising haul on the day of Biden's debate.

Published 03 July 2024, 04:26 IST

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