Though Biden says he's staying in race, top Democrats express doubts

Washington — Nearly two weeks after a disastrous debate, President Biden remains adamant that he’s staying in the race amid circling doubts and reserved expressions of support from members of his party.

He said this week in a letter to congressional Democrats he’s “firmly committed” to running, but some Democrats in Congress are still saying Mr. Biden faces a decision about continuing his campaign, suggesting that his future on the ticket remains an open question.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, when asked Wednesday morning whether Mr. Biden has her support to lead the ticket, deferred to Mr. Biden, saying that “it’s up to the president” to decide if he’s going to run.

“We’re all encouraging him to make that decision,” she said on MSNBC. “Because time is running short.”

The response fell short of a ringing endorsement for the president’s reelection bid, though Pelosi complimented the president on his speech at an event marking the 75th anniversary of NATO on Tuesday night, saying he was “absolutely spectacular.” And she touted his record and standing within the Democratic caucus. 

“He’s beloved, he is respected and people want him to make that decision,” Pelosi said, adding that “I want him to do whatever he decides to do.”

President Joe Biden pauses while speaking during a NATO 75th anniversary celebratory event at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium on July 9, 2024 in Washington, DC.
President Joe Biden pauses while speaking during a NATO 75th anniversary celebratory event at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium on July 9, 2024 in Washington, DC.

Andrew Harnik / Getty Images

Meanwhile, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado on Tuesday night expressed doubt that the president will be able to beat former President Donald Trump in November, in the most critical comments made publicly by a Senate Democrat so far in the aftermath of the debate. 

Donald Trump is on track, I think, to win this election, and maybe win it by a landslide, and take with him the Senate and the House,” Bennet said on CNN, though he stopped short of calling on Mr. Biden to step aside. 

The Colorado Democrat pointed to where the president stands in polls at this point, as compared to where he stood against Trump at this time in 2020, as well as where Hillary Clinton stood against Trump in 2016, saying “this race is on a trajectory that is very worrisome.” 

Explaining why he isn’t calling on the president to step aside, Bennet said that “we’re all here this week, to have this discussion, to have this debate,” about the president’s prospects, though he added that the White House has “done nothing” to demonstrate a plan to win the election following the debate.  

The comments come after congressional Democrats met on Tuesday, following a July 4 holiday recess that kept them out of Washington since the debate last month. House Democrats met Tuesday morning for what one member described as a “listening session.” And Senate Democrats held a lengthy meeting Tuesday afternoon that left some touting unity within the caucus, though most remained tight-lipped about the details of the meeting. Neither meeting appeared to yield a path forward for the party. 

Particularly in the Senate, Democrats have adopted a wait-and-see approach, with no Senate Democrats having publicly called for the president to step aside. Instead, a number of Democrats, like Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, have outlined that they want to see more from the president, saying he “must do more to demonstrate he can campaign strong enough to beat Donald Trump.”

Outside of the Capitol, another admission about the president’s ability to serve another term made waves late Tuesday, when a video surfaced from TMZ showing ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos saying about the president that “I don’t think he can serve four more years.” Stephanopoulos conducted the first interview of the president last week since his debate about the path forward. 

The developments come as top Democrats have continued to back the president, albeit with reserved statements of support. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries reiterated his support for the president this week, saying, “I made clear publicly the day after the debate that I support President Joe Biden and the Democratic ticket. My position has not changed.” 

After Tuesday’s meeting, Jeffries told reporters that members had an opportunity to express themselves, and “those discussions will continue throughout the balance of the week.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, repeatedly asked about the president’s ability to serve another four years during a weekly news conference following the Senate meeting, simply said “I’m with Joe.” 

Kate Farrell contributed to this report. 

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