Democrats fear Biden could jeopardize their chances of flipping the House

Democrats fear Biden could jeopardize their chances of flipping the House


Washington
CNN

In the days since President Joe Biden’s Disappointing Debate PerformanceSeveral Democrats running in competitive districts have expressed concern to the Biden campaign and the White House that keeping the president at the top of the ticket not only hurts the party’s chances of retaining the presidency, but also the goal of win again The House of Representatives is out of Republican control.

Democratic lawmakers have expressed a belief that Biden could suppress voter turnout, which will be the deciding factor in a number of key races, and thus hurt their ability to win in November, according to multiple sources familiar with the conversations.

Democratic Rep. Jared Golden, who represents a largely rural district in Maine that twice backed former President Donald Trump, said Tuesday in opinion He said he expected Trump to win in November, “and I agree with that.”

Washington Rep. Mary Glossenkamp Perez said Tuesday she believes Biden will lose but stopped short of calling on him to drop out of the race.

“About 50 million Americans watched that debate. I was one of them for five very painful minutes,” Glosenkamp-Perez told CNN affiliate KATU when asked if Biden should stay in the race. “We all saw what we saw, and you can’t undo that, and the reality, I think, is that Biden is going to lose to Trump. I know it’s hard, but I think the damage has been done because of that debate.”

In particular, Democrats in the toughest general election showdowns are feeling the heat.

“The leaders are not shying away from telling the campaign how they feel,” one Democratic lawmaker familiar with the conversations told CNN. “They’re saying they’ll lose if they have to run with Joe Biden.”

Retiring Rep. Anne Kuster, who represents a contentious swing seat in New Hampshire, told CNN she has been in contact with the White House and the Biden campaign “about concerns about the president’s safety that are impacting House races, particularly tough districts.”

“In order to address the concerns of our voters, we need to demonstrate that the president is fit not only for the job, but for the campaign,” Koster said. “Joe Biden has always done the right thing for his country, and that’s why I expect this issue to be resolved. And that Democrats will unite behind the ticket.”

Another Democratic House member from a blue state told CNN on Wednesday that the last 24 hours have started to look different.

The congressman described the flood of messages from delegates and rank-and-file Democratic voters over the past 24 hours as all saying essentially the same thing: “I love and respect the president, but it’s time.”

The Democratic representative said this is the first time since Biden’s disastrous debate performance that delegates and rank-and-file Democratic voters have expressed a desire for Biden to step down.

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Another Democratic lawmaker said their assessment of Biden’s nomination was, “It’s over, we’re just waiting for the announcement.” [Biden] He’s not there yet, and it’ll take him a while to get there, but it’s over.

Asked if Biden’s scheduled interviews and events over the next few days would change that, the lawmaker said he didn’t think so. “It’s about the data,” the member said, noting that “the situation is getting worse.”

The representative also said that a full phone call between congressional Democrats is scheduled. As of Wednesday afternoon, the time of the call had not been set.

White House Try to calm fears on Tuesday.White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre opened her briefing by saying, “First of all, I want to say that we understand the concerns. We understand them. The president did not have a great night.”

“We do not detract from what the American people saw,” she added later.

Asked if Biden regularly presents himself the way he did in the debate, Jean-Pierre cited a speech Biden gave: He spoke in North Carolina the day after the debate: “He understands that he is not a young man,” she said, adding that his focus will be on continuing to “deliver for the American people on the issues he cares about.”

Asked about Democrats’ concerns, Biden campaign spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said: “The president has spoken personally with numerous elected officials in Congress and across all battleground states since the debate.”

Rep. Susan Del Bene, a Democrat from Washington state and chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, reiterated her strong support for Biden in a statement.

“The stakes are incredibly high in this election, for all of us. That hasn’t changed since last week,” DelBene said. “The choice in November is clear: Democrats who want to govern responsibly versus radical Republicans who are obsessed with tax breaks for billionaires, curtailing reproductive freedom, and defending Trump’s attacks on our democracy. Our candidates are authentic leaders with proven records, and I remain confident that Democrats will retake the majority.”

Democrats face an uphill battle to retain control of the Senate. Republicans need to pick up just a seat or two — depending on which party wins the White House — to flip control, and the contest will come down to whether Democrats in red states can defy the partisan tilt in their states.

But the house is a different story.

Republicans control the House by a narrow margin, and 17 of those Republican lawmakers were elected in communities that backed Biden in 2020. The imbalance that has overwhelmed the current Republican majority underscores the dangers of razor-thin margins, but it underscores how even the lower chamber can act as a bulwark against the White House.

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“I know that I and others stress the importance of flipping the House as the last firewall in a Trump presidency,” said another Democrat in contact with the Biden campaign.

But the response Democrats are getting is largely to hold the line until the president and his inner circle can assess the damage done and chart a path forward.

“The Biden campaign has heard a lot of concerns from strong supporters across the country but has asked for time to process and digest the incoming polling data and chart a strategy moving forward,” one Democratic lawmaker told CNN.

“Everyone stands with the president as his campaign assesses the damage done to him,” the representative added.

The prevailing line from the campaign is that Biden had a bad debate night, and that shouldn’t diminish the record he has built in his first term, especially compared to the threat posed by Trump.

But some Democrats aren’t willing to wait.

Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas on Tuesday had become First Democratic member of Congress calls on Biden to withdraw from the presidential race, while Growing number Many Democratic leaders say they want him to step down for the good of the party and the country.

Another prevailing sentiment that lawmakers shared with the campaign in recent days was their desire for the president to hold more media events and interviews if he was serious about putting his debate performance in the rearview mirror.

Rep. Gregory Meeks, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, acknowledged the day after the debate that the night had been tough for Biden, and said the president should take steps to prove he is capable of a second term by holding more public meetings and answering tough questions from the press.

“I think he has to do more,” Meeks told reporters.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, agreed.

“He clearly needs to get his message out to the public. I think his strategy has to be to continue to engage,” Thompson said Friday.

The White House said Tuesday that Biden will participate in a campaign event on Friday in addition to Interview with ABC NewsThey also announced a press conference next week as part of the NATO summit hosted by Washington, D.C.

But the concern among a handful of Democrats, who CNN granted anonymity to speak candidly, was whether Biden’s greater visibility would help stem the ticking of worries about the president’s ability to stay at the top of the ticket.

“It would be helpful if he could show that he can relax and go out and speak fluently, but it would hurt if he was all written out on a teleprompter and looked exhausted. It all depends on what the audience sees,” another House Democrat told CNN.

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Standing publicly with Biden

Publicly, House Democratic leaders stood behind Biden, but they also shifted the conversation to what they could control: taking back the House.

“We’re going to win the House in November,” House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries told reporters when asked about his reaction to Biden’s performance the day after the debate.

Sources told CNN that Biden called Jeffers as well as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday, the first time Biden has spoken with Democratic leaders since the debate.

House Democratic leadership is holding a call on Wednesday, a source familiar with the matter told CNN.

The day after the debate, Jeffries and former President Barack Obama held a fundraiser for the New York Democratic House campaign, focusing specifically on the need for Democrats to regain control of the House, and raised $3 million, according to a source familiar with the matter.

In another attempt to calm concerns, the Biden campaign also sent an email to the chiefs of staff of House Democrats on Wednesday outlining the latest poll numbers and praising the recent $127 million in fundraising, a source familiar with the matter shared with CNN. The campaign said the polls reflect a tight race, noting that polls are “a snapshot in time” and can fluctuate.

House Democrat Pete Aguilar, the third-ranking Democrat in the House, told CNN that Biden had a “tough night” in the debate, but added, “That’s all the more reason why I’m working every day from now until November to flip the House.”

Meanwhile, old-guard Democratic Reps. Jim Clyburn and Nancy Pelosi weighed in on Tuesday, with Clyburn backing Biden but saying that if he wasn’t at the top of the ticket, he would back Vice President Kamala Harris.

Pelosi, the former House speaker, said the question voters were asking about whether Biden’s debate performance last week was an “episode” or a “condition” during an interview on MSNBC on Tuesday was a “legitimate question.”

The former spokeswoman also said she’s heard “mixed” reactions to the discussion from donors and others in her Democratic network. “Some say, ‘Well, how can we subjugate [nomination] “The process of becoming possible is a complex one. Others say, ‘Joe is the right guy for us. We like him and we trust him.’”

“It will be up to Joe Biden,” she added.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

CNN Sunlyn Serfaty contributed to this report.

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