Politics

Biden Enters Key Day Amid Pressure From Democrats to Step Aside

US President Joe Biden reacts to pro-Palestinian protesters, not pictured, at a reproductive freedom campaign rally at George Mason University in Manassas, Virginia, US, on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024. Biden on Monday said November's election would play a critical role in determining abortion rights and criticized restrictions on access to the procedure as cruel as he announced new executive actions designed to increase access to reproductive health care. Photographer: Julia Nikhinson/Bloomberg (Julia Nikhinson/Bloomberg)

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden faces one of the most consequential days of his presidency as he prepares for a high-stakes press conference and top allies seek to stem the flow of congressional Democrats calling for him to step aside as the party’s nominee.

Top Biden aides are heading to Capitol Hill to meet with Senate Democrats Thursday in an attempt to prevent further calls for the president to bow out of the race. Later, Biden will hold a press conference — a rarity for the 81-year-old president. His ability to handle questions at the event will be closely scrutinized and could have great bearing on whether or not more Democrats publicly call for him to be replaced. 

Biden’s disastrous debate performance in late June has raised concerns about his mental acuity and thrown his reelection bid into tumult. 

“It’s time to lock your knees and stiffen your spine and get behind this president. If you are spending more of your time on TV talking about Joe Biden than talking about Donald Trump and Project 2025, then — folks — you’ve got to do a course correction,” Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison said in an MSNBC interview Thursday. Project 2025 is a Heritage Foundation-led plan for a second Trump term, which calls for mass deportations, restrictions on reproductive care and making it easier to fire federal workers based on political views.

Amid all the hand-wringing among Democrats, new polling suggest the race remains a dead heat. Registered voters are closely divided 46-47% between Biden and Trump, according to a new Washington Post/Ipsos poll released Thursday. But the poll also found two-thirds of voters, including a majority of Biden supporters, say he should step aside in favor of a new Democratic nominee. 

The poll found that Vice President Kamala Harris, who is seen as a leading candidate to replace Biden if he bows out of the race, slightly leads in a Trump — 49%-47% — in a head-to-head match-up. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer invited senior Biden campaign advisers to brief senators and directly address their outstanding concerns.

Democratic Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, who has publicly said he fears Trump could win in November in a landslide, said he’s “looking forward” to the meeting with the Biden campaign officials. 

“We should have had it 10 days ago,” he said. 

On Wednesday, Vermont Democrat Peter Welch became the first sitting senator to directly endorse replacing the 81-year-old president, joining a growing number of House lawmakers in calling on him to step aside. 

“For the good of the country, I’m calling on President Biden to withdraw from the race,” Welch said in an op-ed in the Washington Post in which he warned about the dangers of another Donald Trump administration.

Biden’s position has not changed and he fully intends to lead the party into the election, aides said Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity. 

While the president so far has avoided a jailbreak among influential party members that might make his continued candidacy impossible, the new calls for him to step aside — delivered by Democratic lawmakers and prominent Hollywood donors — underscore how perilous Biden’s political position remains. 

 

Schumer is open to replacing Joe Biden as Democrats’ nominee, Axios reported. 

The New York Democrat is privately signaling his concern to donors, Axios said, citing three people familiar with the matter. He has publicly stood by Biden even as other senators have expressed worry about Biden leading the party’s ticket. 

“I’m for Joe,” Schumer told Bloomberg News, reiterating his catchphrase this week, when asked about the Axios report.

In a brief statement later released by his office, Schumer reiterated his support, which he said he has made clear “repeatedly publicly and privately.”

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier Wednesday said on MSNBC that Biden should quickly decide whether to stay in the race, even though Biden sent a letter to lawmakers Monday saying he has decided to do so.

--With assistance from Christian Hall and Josh Wingrove.

(Updates with new Washington Post/ABC News/Ipsos poll, Harrison comments)

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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