Democrats unsure whether Biden will pass key tests to stay nominee

Democrats unsure whether Biden will pass key tests to stay nominee

Democratic lawmakers and donors are expressing uncertainty about whether President Biden will be able to pass several key tests over the next few days to remain the party’s likely nominee for president.

And while they acknowledge that it’s ultimately up to Biden to decide whether to continue his bid for a second term, some are publicly beseeching him to take a close look at the polls and weigh whether he is truly up to the task of beating former President Trump in November.

Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) on Wednesday became the first Democratic senator to call on Biden to withdraw.

And earlier in the day, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) suggested Biden still may change his mind about running for reelection and urged her colleagues to give the president some space to contemplate it.

“I want him to do whatever he decides to do. And that’s, that’s the way it is. Whatever he decides, we go with,” Pelosi said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“I’ve said to everybody, ‘Let’s just hold off. Whatever you’re thinking, either tell somebody privately, but you don’t have to put that on the table until we see how we go this week,’” she said.

Pelosi’s remarks were striking given that Biden adamantly informed Democratic lawmakers in a letter Monday that he plans to stay in the race, declaring, “I am firmly committed to staying in this race, to running this race to the end, and to beating Donald Trump.”

And her comments, given her standing in the party, give cover for other Democrats to make their own assessments on Biden’s future.

“I thought Speaker Pelosi nailed it pretty well this morning,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said.

Whitehouse said last week he was “pretty horrified” by Biden’s disastrous debate performance and has urged Biden’s campaign to be “candid with us about his condition.”

Democratic lawmakers are looking ahead to several key events in the next few days.

The biggest test will be Biden’s solo press conference Thursday to wrap up the three-day NATO summit in Washington, which will give Democratic lawmakers, donors and media pundits a chance to watch closely how Biden handles tough questions.

Another key moment will come at a special meeting Thursday afternoon with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, when Democratic senators will hear from three of Biden’s top advisers: Mike Donilon, Steve Ricchetti and Biden campaign Chair Jen O’Malley Dillon.

And Monday, Biden will sit down with NBC’s Lester Holt for an extended interview that will be aired in its entirety and without edits, giving voters another chance to judge the president’s mental fitness and energy.

A Democratic senator who requested anonymity said how Biden handles these tests and others over two weeks will go a long way in showing whether he is up to the job of winning a second term and serving four more years in the Oval Office.

“We’re in some unknown territory right now. We’ll have to feel our way through,” the lawmaker said. “There’s not a lot of precedent.”

The senator predicted “the next week or so is probably the crunch time.”

Several Democrats continued to express concerns over Biden’s chances of beating Trump in the fall and said his campaign hasn’t yet shown that it has a clear vision for victory in November.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who told colleagues at a meeting Tuesday that he thinks Biden will lose, said if Biden’s problems had been fixed since the debate, “we wouldn’t even be talking” about it.

“It ought to be fixed by this point,” he said.

But when asked if Biden should drop his reelection campaign, Tester retorted, “Come on, now.”

A Democratic bundler told The Hill that Biden’s advisers are unlikely to reassure senators when they meet Thursday on Capitol Hill.

“I do think that that sentiment is — it doesn’t matter what the staff says if people think the principal can’t execute,” the source said.

The bundler added that Biden campaign and Democratic National Committee (DNC) aides in previous calls and briefings have failed to put forth a convincing plan to ease lawmakers’ and donors’ concerns.

“There’s no path that they’ve laid out that explains that they’re going to win this race besides saying they’re going to. And people are getting more and more agitated,” the bundler said.

Tester was one of three Democratic senators, along with Sens. Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Michael Bennet (Colo.), who told colleagues bluntly during a closed-door lunch meeting Tuesday that Biden can’t beat Trump.

Brown told reporters Wednesday that he is hearing “concerns” about Biden from Ohio voters.

“I hear legitimate concerns from people in Ohio about the president. I listen to those, but my job is to continue to work for my state to fight on prescription drug prices and jobs,” he said.

Democratic lawmakers say the next few days will be critical to determining whether Biden should continue his bid for a second term because they hope to resolve the debate over his future before the DNC holds virtual proceedings to certify his nomination, possibly as soon as July 21.

Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.), one of the Democratic senators who has voiced “concern” about Biden’s ability to beat Trump in the general election, said the turmoil within the party needs to be resolved soon, before any roll-call vote of delegates.

If Biden remains in the race, he would collect 3,894 delegate votes during a roll call, barring the defection of any delegates who are pledged “in all good conscience” to support him.

“The DNC rules committee made that decision when they thought that Ohio’s legal requirements were going to force an earlier vote,” Smith said of the possibility of an early delegate roll-call vote to cement Biden’s lock on the nomination. “I think that’s going to be up to the rules committee to decide what to do.

“I don’t think we need more time to hash this out,” she said, reflecting the broader sentiment among Senate Democrats that they would like to soon settle the question of whether Biden or someone else should head the ticket.

Democrats speculate the DNC could vote to give Biden the nomination as soon as July 21, though no official timing has been announced.

The Ohio state Legislature initially decreed that Biden needed to be certified as the Democratic nominee for president by Aug. 7 in order to appear on the Buckeye State’s ballot, which then prompted the DNC to signal it would hold virtual proceedings to certify Biden’s nomination before the convention.

Ohio has since passed legislation to ensure Biden will appear on its ballot, but the DNC hasn’t indicated it will change its plans to move forward with a virtual roll call before the convention.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told The Hill on Wednesday that he doesn’t think the DNC needs to postpone the virtual proceedings to certify Biden as the party’s nominee well before the convention.

“I don’t think they need to postpone it as of yet. I think that issue is one they can continue to consider,” he said, indicating that the party could reach consensus in the next couple of weeks.

Alex Gangitano contributed.

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