Key Democrat on National Security Calls on Biden to Quit Race

(Bloomberg) -- A key House Democrat on national security matters called on President Joe Biden to bow out of the presidential race.

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Adam Smith, the top-ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, is the most senior House Democrat so far to publicly urge replacing Biden as the party’s nominee. He privately made his views known to colleagues on Sunday but decided to go public Monday in an interview on CNN.

“I think he should step aside,” Smith said. “I think it’s become clear that he’s not the best person to carry the Democratic message.”

Vice President Kamala Harris, Smith said, would be a “much better, stronger candidate.” He urged Biden and his inner circle to put personal feelings aside.

“I am pleading with them,” Smith said. “Take a step back.”

Smith, a pragmatic and understated lawmaker, spoke as foreign leaders headed to Washington for a three-day NATO summit and lawmakers returned to the Capitol amid ongoing fallout from Biden’s disastrous debate performance.

Biden sent a letter to congressional Democrats earlier Monday declaring he is committed to seeing out his reelection campaign and urging lawmakers to stop talking about seeking an alternative nominee so the party can unify behind the campaign.

A House Democratic aide said that the Monday Biden letter does not solve anything and many House lawmakers want a personal call from Biden to reassure them. The aide said Biden needs to do a lot more outreach to House Democrats to stem doubts about his performance

On Sunday, Smith was joined by Representatives Mark Takano, Joe Morelle and Jerry Nadler in privately saying Biden should go, during a call of senior party leaders organized by House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

Representative Jim Himes of Connecticut also expressed deep concerns that Biden cannot win on the call according to a person familiar with the discussion. Vulnerable Pennsylvania Democrat Susan Wild said in a statement that she also expressed such concerns during the session.

Jeffries has remained silent on Biden’s candidacy in the wake of the June 27 debate performance, after initial comments of support for the Biden-Harris ticket the following morning.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has also been largely quiet but reaffirmed his support for Biden on Monday.

“I’m for Joe,” he told reporters at the Capitol.

--With assistance from Roxana Tiron and Steven T. Dennis.

(Updates starting in fourth paragraph)

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