Sooo, Let’s Check in on Democrats and Joe Biden

The first Democratic Congress member has called for Biden to step down. Meanwhile, Democratic governors reportedly held a secretive meeting to express concerns about the president. He even seems to be losing Nancy Pelosi. Here's what you need to know.

Sooo, Let’s Check in on Democrats and Joe Biden

It hasn’t even been a full week since the presidential debate, which was an unequivocal PR disaster for President Biden, but the fallout only seems to be escalating: After several days of frenzied speculation, reports about sharpening internal concerns, and frantic donor calls, on Tuesday, the first Democratic Congress member called for the president to step down as the nominee. That member—Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), co-chair of the, err, “House Songwriters Caucus”—thanked Biden and lavished praise on the president for his public service and achievements, but concluded, “Our overriding consideration must be who has the best hope of saving our democracy from an authoritarian takeover by a criminal and his gang.”

It really seems like Democrats were just waiting for someone to go first because since Doggett’s statement, more comments ranging from vaguely shady to explicitly frustrated with Biden have trickled in. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi herself said of Biden’s condition on Tuesday that “it’s a legitimate question to say is this an episode or is this a condition.” And Doggett’s statement also came within minutes of some pretty eyebrow-raising reporting from CNN’s Jake Tapper, which involved a secretive meeting among Democratic governors expressing concerns with the incumbent president. “On the call, some of the governors expressed surprise that a few of them had not heard from Biden himself about his debate performance. There was a strong sentiment … that they needed to hear from Biden directly on the matter,” Tapper wrote. The governors “were worried about going public with their concerns out of fear that it would lead to Biden digging in further.”

ICYMI: Biden is… old. He is the Democratic Party’s nominee for an incredibly high-stakes election, in which a Republican president—Trump—could enact a terrifying, long-term agenda including a national abortion ban if elected. On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that any president (which includes a future, second-term President Trump) could effectively commit any crimes they want with total immunity. So, voters are understandably pretty concerned that Biden seemed confused, incoherent, and generally unfit for the task of saving democracy during last week’s debate. It doesn’t exactly help that the latest post-debate polls show Trump received a significant bump, while Biden’s numbers have dropped even further, both on the national level and in key swing states. Other leaked internal polling from Puck News shows Biden not just sinking in battleground states, but flailing to the extent that states like Virginia, New Hampshire, and even New Mexico appear to be distinct possibilities for Trump.

Biden’s campaign has maintained that the president stepping down as nominee isn’t even remotely on the table. But also on Tuesday, Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC)—Biden-Harris campaign co-chair—told MSNBC he “will support” Vice President Kamala Harris if Biden “were to step aside.” If—and, at this juncture, that’s still a pretty-fucking-big if—Biden were to “step aside,” he could do so voluntarily with Harris as the presumptive nominee, or be forced to should he face a successful contested convention in August. 

Biden’s campaign surrogates have been in full damage control mode since the debate, mostly pushing the messaging that despite having a weak performance, he’s still honest and resilient, or something. The refrain we’ve been hearing: “I know I’m not a young man. I don’t walk as easily as I used to. I don’t talk as smoothly as I used to. I don’t debate as well as I used to, but I know what I do know: I know how to tell the truth. I know right from wrong,” which Biden said at a post-debate speech and also posted on Twitter. According to a Monday report in Bloomberg, Democrats have even mulled nominating Biden as early as mid-July instead of the August 19-22 convention in an effort to put all the chatter to rest—a scheme that actually sounds like it would achieve quite the opposite!

On Tuesday afternoon, Tapper, who moderated Thursday’s debate, criticized the Biden team’s spin on his show during the opening monologue: “There is a pattern, a discernible pattern, of Democratic officials seemingly trying to convince you, the public, to not believe what you saw and what you heard with your eyes and with your ears on Thursday night.” Tapper also had Biden national co-chair Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) on the show and pushed back on Coons’ attempts to deflect from questions about Biden’s fitness with (fair!) criticisms of Trump’s continued lies. “This is not the discussion that we’re having,” Tapper said, pushing Coons on why Biden has yet to hold a full-length press conference and address reporters’ questions.

Other than Biden’s top surrogates like Coons, high-profile Democrats have become increasingly vocal with not just their questions about Biden’s fitness, but the way his campaign has responded to backlash. “I really do criticize the campaign for a dismissive attitude towards people who are raising questions for discussion. That’s just facing the reality that we’re in,” Vermont Sen. Peter Welch told Semafor on Monday. “But that’s the discussion we have to have. It has to be from the top levels of the Biden campaign to precinct captains in the southside of Chicago.” 

Also on Monday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said he was “horrified” with Biden’s debate performance and called on the president’s staff to be more transparent about the president’s day-to-day capabilities: “I think people want to make sure that this is a campaign that’s ready to go and win,” Whitehouse explained. “That the president and his team are being candid with us about his condition, that this was a real anomaly and not just the way he is these days.” And Julian Castro, former President Obama’s Housing and Urban Development secretary and a Democratic presidential candidate in 2020, told MSNBC on Tuesday he “[believes] that another Democrat would have a better shot at beating Trump,” and “Democrats would be well to find another candidate.”

Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois didn’t outright call on Biden to step down, but told CNN on Tuesday that the president needs to be “honest with himself” about his standing, as his decision on whether to stay in the race could impact House and Senate races “for decades to come.” Meanwhile, Adam Frisch, the Democratic nominee in Colorado’s competitive third district, where he almost beat Lauren Boebert in 2022, did directly call on the president to drop out: “Only in politics is stating the opposite rarely done. It has been clear to me for some time—and the debate only reinforced it—neither candidate should be running for president.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the president announced his first post-debate interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, which will be previewed on Friday and air on Sunday, and… I have no idea what’s going to happen next! Will he drop out? Will he tell us all to go fuck ourselves? Will he just rehash the same old line about Trump having the morals of a back-alley cat??? I wish I could say “All will be known soon,” but given that American politics is predicated on half-lies, half-truths, and a total dearth of transparency, I don’t think that’ll be the case.

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