‘Political suicide mission’: Congressional Black Caucus member Rep. Ritchie Torres switches tack on Biden

Democratic Rep. Ritchie Torres of New York, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said in a statement Wednesday that “There must be a serious reckoning with the down-ballot effect of whomever we nominate,” a marked reversal from his approach just days ago.

On Monday, Torres said that the intra-party controversy was “self-destructive” worrying that it could weaken Biden’s candidacy, should he remain the nominee.

Now Torres has gone public in becoming much more explicit about Biden’s candidacy, saying to CNN: “If we are going on a political suicide mission, then we should at least be honest about it.”

This remark comes after a call between Biden and members of the CBC Monday evening that attempted to solidify the president’s support among this key bloc of Democrats. Many prominent members of the CBC have staunchly supported Biden as questions swirl around his candidacy.

Torres, who represents much of the Bronx, seems not to be sold on Biden remaining at the top of the ticket, instead focusing on polling as an indicator for viability.

“What matters is not how we feel but what the numbers tell us,” he said. “An unsentimental analysis of the cold hard numbers — which have no personal feelings or political loyalties — should inform what we decide and whom we nominate.”

Despite the Biden campaign’s effort to reassure congressional allies this week, reaction from Democrats on Capitol Hill showcased the headwinds facing the president. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made headlines when she told MSNBC on Wednesday that it’s up to Biden “to decide if he is going to run” – despite Biden’s repeated public comments this week that he’s not leaving the race – the second time in as many weeks Pelosi has signaled the effort to replace Biden is not over. Pelosi’s office later issued in a new statement that “Speaker Pelosi fully supports whatever President Biden decides to do.”

Torres wasn’t the only Democrat from New York to express skepticism of Biden’s chances this fall and the potential harmful impact he could have on down-ballot races. Moderate Rep. Pat Ryan announced Wednesday that he was the eighth House Democrat to call on Biden to step aside in the presidential race.

“For the good of our country, I am asking Joe Biden to step aside – to deliver on his promise to be a bridge to a new generation of leaders,” Ryan wrote on X.

On Tuesday, Torres posted on X about the Cook Political Report reclassifying six states away from Biden and toward former President Donald Trump with the caption “alarming and sobering.” CPR’s classifications now align more closely with CNN’s own Race Ratings, which already had many of the states CPR reclassified as leaning toward Republicans.

Torres sits in a safely Democratic seat, having won election with 82% of the vote in 2022. Biden also won the area handily in 2020.

CNN’s Haley Talbot contributed to this report.

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