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Biden stems bleeding among Hill Democrats but future still on life support

President Joe Biden on Monday prevented the dam from breaking within the Democratic Party on his political future — for now. He faced only one new public call to withdraw from the race, bringing the total to six sitting members of Congress, even as lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill for the first time in more […]

President Joe Biden on Monday prevented the dam from breaking within the Democratic Party on his political future — for now.

He faced only one new public call to withdraw from the race, bringing the total to six sitting members of Congress, even as lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill for the first time in more than two weeks to a barrage of reporters.

But Biden’s candidacy remains on life support, with a range of Democrats still noncommittal on standing by the president unless he does more to alleviate their concerns.


Top Democrats such as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) stuck by Biden, but the support further down the rung was shaky.

Schumer’s deputy, second-ranking Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), described his confidence level in Biden as “high” but conceded the president’s debate debacle has “raised a national discussion about his competence and ability to finish the campaign.”

Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), who chairs Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, denied there was any unease about Biden impacting down-ballot candidates. But Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN), his vice chairwoman, was another story entirely. She stood in sharp contrast and refused to say whether she still backed Biden as the presumptive Democratic nominee.

“I have a lot of concerns, and I’m not the only one,” Smith said. “I’ve been hearing a lot of concerns from folks back home in Minnesota. Our party is having a big, robust discussion about what comes next and what we should do.”

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Senate President pro tempore Patty Murray (D-WA), who’s third in line to the president behind the speaker of the House, also questioned Biden’s viability and stopped just short of saying he should drop out.

“We need to see a much more forceful and energetic candidate on the campaign trail in the very near future in order for him to convince voters he is up to the job,” Murray said. “At this critical time for our country, President Biden must seriously consider the best way to preserve his incredible legacy and secure it for the future.”

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who’s among the battleground Senate races Democrats must defend to retain chamber control, would only go so far as to say she supports the “Democratic ticket” rather than Biden personally. She blamed her busy campaign schedule for not stumping with Biden in her hometown last week when he made a stop in Madison.

“My constituents are asking a lot of questions and have some concerns,” Baldwin said.

Biden was defiant Monday, both in writing and on the airwaves, in his refusal to exit the 2024 contest.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), left, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), center, and Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), walk to speak with reporters outside the White House after a meeting with President Joe Biden, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

“The question of how to move forward has been well-aired for over a week now,” he wrote in a letter to congressional Democrats. “It’s time for it to end. We have one job. And that is to beat Donald Trump.”

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The president also phoned into MSNBC’s Morning Joe, a popular morning talking show for Democratic lawmakers and liberal politicos, to extend a challenge to party “elites.”

“Run against me. Go ahead. Announce for president,” Biden said. “Challenge me at the convention.”

His more defensive and abrasive strategy has, at least for now, appeared to quiet the storm. Influential “Squad” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, (D-NY), said “the matter is closed” and “Joe Biden is our nominee.”

Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, became the sixth sitting lawmaker to say Biden should go but was the lone member to say so on the airwaves even as members returned to the capital.

“The president’s performance in the debate was alarming to watch, and the American people have made it clear they no longer see him as a credible candidate to serve four more years as president,” Smith said.

Vulnerable red-state Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) also raised concerns but declined to say Biden should exit the 2024 contest.

Even Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), who reportedly led a closed-door resistance to drum up a group of Senate Democrats to urge Biden to withdraw, stopped short of taking such a public stance. Warner, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the party should engage in “conversations about the strongest path forward.”

“As these conversations continue, I believe it is incumbent upon the president to more aggressively make his case to the American people and to hear directly from a broader group of voices about how to best prevent Trump’s lawlessness from returning to the White House,” Warner said in a statement.

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Another area Biden must still address is mega Democratic donors fleeing the campaign and the party amid the uneasiness about sticking with him. House and Senate Democrats will have separate caucus-wide meetings Tuesday, marking the first time since before the debate that the party will have an opportunity to air its dirty laundry and chart a path forward privately.

“One of the most important things for Democrats in the country is to beat Donald Trump,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) said. “It’s important that we have in-person family conversations about the best way to do that.”

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