The Democrats Going Public With Their Concerns Over Biden

Two sitting Dems have called for him to drop out. Others said they were “horrified” by the president’s performance.

Joe Biden looks over his shoulder at Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Lloyd Doggett, who appear to be talking about Biden in disconcerting tones.

Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Lloyd Doggett and Joe BidenMother Jones; Bonnie Cash/Pool/CNP/ZUMA; Drew Angerer/Getty

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Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) on Tuesday became the first Democrat in office to call for President Biden to drop out of the general election in the wake of his disastrous debate performance last week.

In a lengthy statement, Doggett said Biden “should make the painful and difficult decision to withdraw” in order to reduce the likelihood of a second Trump term.

“Instead of reassuring voters [at the debate],” Doggett said, “the President failed to effectively defend his many accomplishments and expose Trump’s lies.”

“Our overriding consideration must be who has the best hope of saving our democracy from an authoritarian takeover by a criminal and his gang,” he continued. “Too much is at stake to risk a Trump victory—too great a risk to assume that what could not be turned around in a year, what was not turned around in the debate, can be turned around now. President Biden saved democracy by delivering us from Trump in 2020. He must not deliver us to Trump in 2024.”

On CNN Tuesday night, Doggett defended his call for Biden to drop out, saying that while he thinks the president should be doing more interviews with journalists, “I think the setback that has occurred will be difficult to overcome under any circumstance.”

On Wednesday, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), became the second sitting House Democrat to call for Biden to exit the race, in an interview with the New York Times. Grijalva told the paper Democrats need to “put up a fight” against Trump, who he called an “anti-democratic, authoritarian despot.” He said that Biden should drop out to help facilitate a win for the Democrats, but added that he would support him if he remained in the race: “What he needs to do is shoulder the responsibility for keeping that seat — and part of that responsibility is to get out of this race.” He floated Harris as a potential alternative, the Times reported.

The Biden campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Mother Jones in response to Doggett’s and Grijalva’s statements.

These comments come on the heels of other Democrats publicly raising alarm over Biden’s ability to serve. (Meanwhile, some Democrats have publicly defended Biden and said they planned to stand by him.) Voters, too, are worried. As my colleague Stephanie Mencimer covered this weekend, a post-debate poll conducted by CBS News showed that nearly half of registered Democrats do not think Biden should be running for re-election, with the top reason being his age.

Let’s take a look at some of the concerns other Democrats have raised in recent days:

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

The congresswoman praised Biden’s policy record on MSNBC on Tuesday, but added, “I think it’s a legitimate question to say, ‘Is this an episode or is this a condition?’…of both candidates.”

Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.)

On MSNBC on Tuesday, Clyburn said Democrats should back Vice President Kamala Harris as the nominee if Biden does step aside.

“I will support [Harris] if he were to step aside,” Clyburn said.

“This party should not in any way do anything to work around Ms. Harris,” he continued. “We should do everything we can to bolster her, whether it’s in second place or at the top of the ticket.” (Last week on MSNBC, Clyburn blamed Biden’s performance on “preparation overload.”)

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro

The former Obama official and mayor of San Antonio told MSNBC on Tuesday that he believes “that there are stronger options out there for Democrats—we have a of stable of folks that I think could do a better job, including Vice President Harris,” he said, pointing to a new CNN poll out today that shows Trump with a six-point lead over Biden, compared to a two-point lead over Harris.

Gov. Andy Beshear (D-Ky.)

“The debate performance was rough, it was a very bad night for the president,” Beshear told local press. “But he is still the candidate, only he can make decisions about his future candidacy. So long as he continues to be in the race, I support him.”

Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vt.)

Welch became the first Senate Democrat to call for Biden to drop out of the race in an op-ed published with the Washington Post on July 10, writing, “We cannot unsee President Biden’s disastrous debate performance. We cannot ignore or dismiss the valid questions raised since that night.”

“I understand why President Biden wants to run. He saved us from Donald Trump once and wants to do it again,” Welch continued. “But he needs to reassess whether he is the best candidate to do so. In my view, he is not. For the good of the country, I’m calling on President Biden to withdraw from the race.” Welch appeared to endorse Vice President Harris as his preference for Biden’s replacement, calling her “a capable, proven leader,” adding that there are also “other electable, young, energizing Democratic governors and senators in swing states.”

Welch previously blasted the Biden campaign as “dismissive” of concerns about the president’s viability as the Democratic nominee.

“I really do criticize the campaign for a dismissive attitude towards people who are raising questions for discussion. That’s just facing the reality that we’re in,” Welch previously told Semafor, adding that Democrats have an “existential responsibility” to prevent Trump from winning a second term in office.

“Passivity is not the response that is going to work for us. We all have to be self-conscious,” he continued. “We all have to be acutely aware that our obligation is to the country, even more than the party. That’s the obligation we have—what’s best for the country.”

But for all his criticism, Welch stopped short of calling for Biden to drop out at that point, instead saying the “challenge” for the campaign would be to overcome the “damage” of the debate and get Biden out in front of the public.

Welch subsequently went further on CNN, saying that Biden is not the only Democrat who could beat Biden, and that the Biden campaign has “to take a clear-eyed view of what happened as a result of the debate, and can they move on, or do they have to re-evaluate?”

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.)

Dingell told CNN that more public appearances won’t undo the damage of Biden’s debate performance.

“One interview isn’t going to fix this,” Ms. Dingell told CNN, adding, “I think the campaign’s got to listen to people. And by the way, I think the campaign needs to listen to us.”

Several hours after Dingell’s remarks, ABC News announced that Biden planned to sit down for his first post-debate interview. A clip will air on Friday; the full interview will air on Sunday and Monday.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)

“I think, like a lot of people, I was pretty horrified,” Whitehouse told CBS affiliate WPRI of Providence on Monday of Biden’s debate performance. He added that the president’s condition “was a surprise” and “I have never seen that happen before.”

“I think people want to make sure that this is a campaign that’s ready to go and win, that the president and his team are being candid with us about his condition, that this was a real anomaly and not just the way he is these days,” Whitehouse added.

Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.)

“This decision not only impacts who’s going to serve in the White House the next four years, but who’s going to serve in the Senate, who’s going to serve in the house, and it’ll have implications for decades to come,” Quigley told CNN this morning, echoing concerns that Biden’s nomination could hurt Democrats in races down the ballot.

“It’s his decision,” Quigley continued, “I just want him to appreciate at this time just how much it impacts not just his race, but all the other races that are coming in November.”

Former Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio)

In an opinion piece for Newsweek published Monday, the former congressman called for Harris to be the new Democratic nominee, characterizing Biden’s debate performance as “deeply troubling.” In a post on X linking to his piece, Ryan said Harris “has significantly grown into her job, she will destroy Trump in debate, highlight choice issue, energize our base, bring back young voters and give us generational change.”

Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-Wash.)

Gluesenkamp Perez told ABC affiliate KATU of Portland: “The truth, I think, is that Biden is going to lose to Trump…I think the damage has been done by that debate.” But she stopped short of calling for Biden to drop out, saying he’s already been established as the nominee.

Rep. Summer Lee (D-Pa.)

According to CBS News, Lee said on a radio interview that time “is running out” for Biden to make a decision and for the Democrats to potentially put up a nominee. “If our president decides this is not a pathway forward for him, we have to move very quickly,” Lee said. “There’s not going to be time for a primary. That time is past.”

And she made her support for Harris clear: “The vice president is the obvious choice,” Lee said. “She’s sitting right there. She’s already been in the White House.  And has the name recognition. And has been on the trail … and the optics of pushing aside a Black woman… it’s not good.”

Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-N.H.)

Kuster, who leads the New Democrat Coalition, a group of 100 moderate House Democrats, told CNN she has “conveyed concerns to both the White House and the [Biden] campaign” about how the president’s “well-being” could impact House races.

“In order to respond to our constituents’ concerns, we need to demonstrate that the president is fit not just for the job, but for the campaign,” Kuster continued. “They [the insurrectionists] almost killed me on Jan. 6. The stakes are very high. I’m trying to save our democracy.”

Rep. Vicente Gonzalez Jr. (D-Texas)

Gonzalez told NOTUS last week that the Trump-Biden matchup is “old versus crazy,” and that it’d be “great” to have crazy versus something else.

Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-Ill.)

Garcia echoed concerns that Biden’s candidacy could affect down-ballot Democrats, telling NOTUS on Friday: “There is a great responsibility being borne by [Biden] and the first lady to make the most responsible decision that will enable Democrats to continue to formulate a winning ticket up and down the ticket.”

Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.)

Moulton said in a statement Wednesday night that he has “grave concerns about [Biden’s] ability to defeat Donald Trump,” which he called “imperative for the future of our democracy.” “The unfortunate reality is that the status quo will likely deliver us President Trump,” Moulton continued. But, like others, he seemed to stop short of explicitly calling for Biden to leave the race, instead saying he is “taking time to seriously consider the best strategy for Democrats to win this election and set our country on a positive path forward.”

Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine)

In an op-ed published Tuesday with the Bangor Daily News, Golden wrote: “While I don’t plan to vote for him, Donald Trump is going to win. And I’m OK with that.” He added that he rejects “the idea that Trump will end our democratic system.” (It’s worth noting that Trump won his district in 2016.)

Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.)

“I believe he should step aside for the next generation of leadership,” Craig wrote in a statement calling on Biden to leave the race. “The stakes are too high.”

As my colleague Ruth Murai noted, Craig’s position should be no surprise. The Minnesota congresswoman had questioned Biden’s candidacy well before the debate, as early as 2022.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)

Though he stopped short of urging Biden to step aside, Schiff expressed considerable alarm over the president’s ability to beat Trump. “Given Joe Biden’s incredible record, given Donald Trump’s terrible record, he should be mopping the floor with Donald Trump,” Schiff said during an appearance on Meet the Press.

Schiff also appeared to allude to multiple reports that Biden’s inner circle, including family members, have been urging the president to remain in the race.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)

The Connecticut senator seemed doubtful that Biden’s television interview following the debate would be enough to quell the anxiety among Democrats. “I don’t know that the interview did enough to answer those questions,” Murphy said on CNN’s State of the Union. “This week is going to be absolutely critical. I think the president needs to do more.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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Our team has been on fire lately—publishing sweeping, one-of-a-kind investigations, ambitious, groundbreaking projects, and even releasing “the holy shit documentary of the year.” And that’s on top of protecting free and fair elections and standing up to bullies and BS when others in the media don’t.

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2) If you’re not ready to donate but you’re interested enough in our work to be reading this, please consider signing up for our free Mother Jones Daily newsletter to get to know us and our reporting better. Maybe once you do, you’ll see it’s something worth supporting.

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