Joe Biden Maintains Support of Key Democrats Despite Tense Candidacy Talks
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Joe Biden Maintains Support of Key Democrats Despite Tense Candidacy Talks

The divide among Democrats over the fate of Joe Biden’s re-election campaign widened on Tuesday after lawmakers held tense and somber talks on whether to support the US president or urge him to drop his bid.

After Biden pledged on Monday to stay in the race and called for party unity, he won endorsements from several key Democrats, including members of the congressional black caucus, the congressional Latino caucus and other progressive lawmakers.

But he also faced another departure from Mikie Sherrill, a moderate Democrat from New Jersey who serves on the House Armed Services Committee.

“I know President Biden cares deeply about the future of our country,” she said Tuesday afternoon. “That’s why I’m asking him to announce that he will not seek reelection.”

Overall, Biden’s position as the Democratic nominee remains uncertain, with many in the party saying their stance on his qualifications will hinge on his performance on the campaign trail and at public events in the coming days.

“That remains to be seen,” Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said at the end of a lunch with other lawmakers when asked whether Biden should remain atop the Democratic ticket.

Earlier in the day, several House Democrats spoke in favor of retaining Biden, saying the ongoing fight to replace him would hurt their chances of defeating Donald Trump in November.

“I think once (Biden’s) decision is fully made, he’s going to start doing more harm than good (challenging his candidacy),” Maxwell Frost, a 27-year-old Florida Democrat, said after leaving a House caucus Tuesday. “And I believe his decision has been made.”

Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat and the party’s ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee who privately said over the weekend that he wanted Biden to drop out of the race, said he now supports the president.

“The president made it very clear yesterday that he was running. For me, that’s decisive; we have to support him,” he said.

But other Democrats feared Biden’s determination to keep going had doomed the party to defeat against Trump and the Republicans, with polls showing Biden trailing both nationally and in key battleground states.

“He just has to resign because he has no chance of winning and my colleagues have to recognize that,” said Mike Quigley, a Democratic lawmaker from Illinois.

Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee who wants Biden to drop out of the race, told the Financial Times he now doubts the president will end his re-election bid.

“Within 10 or 11 days of the debate, it was almost universally known that people wanted another candidate,” Smith said. “At this point, I’m not sure the president would do the right thing and concede.”

One Democratic lawmaker who attended the meeting with colleagues Tuesday morning said the mood during the two-hour discussion was unusually “sober” as politicians grappled with high stakes amid fears that Trump could win the election.

However, he added that there was not enough support to put significant pressure on Biden to withdraw.

“There was more negativity than positivity toward the president,” the lawmaker said. “But the truth is he won the primary, so it has to be his decision. I don’t see any big move … by House Democrats (to remove him from office).”

Anthony Coley, a former senior official in the Biden and Obama administrations, said: “I think the Biden White House and campaign have effectively stemmed the tide unless he screws things up again this week.”

Underscoring the seriousness of the discussion, lawmakers were not allowed to bring phones into the meeting.

“This needs to be resolved as quickly as possible,” Jim Himes, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, told the FT.

Many House Democrats were undecided about their position on the president’s viability. New Jersey Rep. Andy Kim, who is running for U.S. Senate, said he was considering whether to call on Biden to resign.

“There were concerns even before the debate,” Kim said. “I feel it and I still hear it from people.”

Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern said he would “let this play out and then I’ll have more to say.” He added: “He was a great president.”

Harley Rouda, a former U.S. congressman, said many of his colleagues were simply not ready to officially say Biden should withdraw.

“Ideally, Joe would do the right thing,” Rouda told the FT. “What he did was phenomenal, but it’s not a decision based on what he did. It’s a decision based on what’s best for our country right now.”

Biden is expected to address the NATO summit in Washington later Tuesday, but his biggest public appearance this week could come at a news conference Thursday evening. He is then scheduled to travel to Michigan, a key battleground state, for a campaign rally.

The drama over Biden’s future could overshadow Trump’s Republican nominating convention in Milwaukee next week. Speaking on Fox News on Monday night, Trump said he expected Biden to remain in the race.

“It looks to me like he might stay. He’s got an ego and he doesn’t want to give up. He doesn’t want to do this,” Trump said.

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