Biden allies rally behind president amid voter concerns after debate

Several Democratic allies of the president fanned out on Sunday to defend keeping President Biden as their party’s nominee, even as some donors, commentators and voters worry that his debate performance last week raised fresh concerns about whether he can defeat former president Donald Trump in November.

“I think he’s the only Democrat who can beat Donald Trump,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a national co-chair of Biden’s reelection effort, told ABC News’s “This Week.” “I understand there’s a lot of hand-wringing and concern and pearl clutching amongst the commentariat. That’s great. That’s expected.”

Party leaders are also aware that there are worries that keeping Biden at the top of the ticket will hurt their chances of winning congressional seats in November.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) acknowledged on MSNBC’s “This Weekend” that House Democrats are involved in conversations over the future of Biden’s candidacy.

“One thing should be clear,” he added. “There is a big difference between our view of the world, the country and the future, and the extreme MAGA Republican view.”

Biden’s performance Thursday “certainly was a setback,” Jeffries said. “But … a setback is nothing more than a setup for a comeback.”

Some Democrats are not convinced.

In a Facebook post shared Sunday morning, former Democratic National Committee vice chair R.T. Rybak said the public has to push Democratic leaders to get Biden off the ticket.

“Our elected officials are staying shockingly silent in public, especially considering how many of them acknowledge privately that this has to happen,” he wrote. “They fear political retribution but they should really fear that if we lose this election because they didn’t have the guts to do what they know needs to be done, holy hell and history will come down on them like an anvil.”

“Call their offices, circulate this or write your own but speak up now. Worrying about this with each other in private won’t get this done,” he added.

When asked about the internal debate among Democrats, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), told MSNBC that that is exactly “what a real political party does.”

“There are very honest and serious and rigorous conversations taking place at every level of our party because it is a political party and we have different point of view,” Raskin said. “If you compare that to the nonexistent dialogue and conversation that took place in the Republican Party after Donald Trump’s criminal conviction on 34 counts, it’s remarkable.”

Still, a new poll shows some sign of a drop-off in voter confidence in Biden. About 55 percent of Democratic voters surveyed said they believe Biden should continue running, while 45 percent say he should step aside, according to a new CBS News-YouGov poll released Sunday. In February, the same poll found that 64 percent of Democratic voters said he should continue running while 36 percent said he should not.

The latest poll shows that a majority of all registered voters — 72 percent — do not believe Biden has the mental and cognitive health to serve as president. Just 27 percent believe he does have sufficient health to serve, down from 35 percent a month ago. The poll found that 49 percent of voters believe that Trump does not have the mental and cognitive health to serve as president.

The Biden campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the poll.

The campaign has spent the past three days tamping down concerns about the implications of Biden’s debate performance.

Jen O’Malley Dillon, Biden’s campaign chair, argued in a memo released Saturday that the debate “did nothing to change the American people’s perception, our supporters are more fired up than ever, and Donald Trump only reminded voters of why they fired him four years ago and failed to expand his appeal beyond his MAGA base.”

In an email to supporters titled “7 Things to Tell Your Friends After the Debate,” the Biden campaign sent a list of talking points Democrats can use when talking to their “panicked aunt,” “MAGA uncle” or — in an apparent dig at the hosts of the liberal podcast “Pod Save America,” who harshly criticized Biden’s debate performance — “some self-important Podcasters” about the debate.

On the list of suggestions, the Biden campaign argues that “actual voters perceived this debate very differently than those who pay attention to politics a lot” and that “the long-term impact of debates is overstated anyway.”

When asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” whether Biden should drop out, Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.) responded with a resounding “absolutely not.”

“If they weren’t engaged in a little bit of hand-wringing, they wouldn’t be Democrats,” Warnock said, but he dismissed calls from within the party to have Biden replaced at the top of the ticket.

MSNBC host Jen Psaki, a former Biden White House press secretary, dismissed an idea posed by a political commentator that Democrats should have an open nominating convention and tap a member of their deep bench to run for president instead of Biden.

Psaki said an idea like that would work in a fictional show like “The West Wing,” where “everybody would just convene and the president would endorse someone and everybody would just line up behind them and the public would be happy.”

“That is not how it would work” in real life, Psaki said, arguing that an open convention would not only ignore the wishes of primary voters but would also put several of the Democrats’ leaders at odds with each other and have the final decision land on a “group of inside Democrats, not the American public.”

“A lot of people [would be] angry,” she said. “And then you have a person who is untested, even if they’re great and they have enormous potential … with low name ID, and a party that’s divided and upset. That’s the potential outcome of an open convention.”

Similarly, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the former House speaker and a former chairwoman of the California Democratic Party, told CNN that trying to nominate a new candidate at this stage “could be chaotic.” Pelosi said it was clear now that Biden will be the nominee following months of primary elections.

“You would have to undo the nomination to do something else,” Pelosi said. “That would not be a reason to do it or not do it. The question is: Joe Biden’s decision to go forward is a decision that we will all embrace because of the record he has.”

And Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) — who was widely panned after a weak debate performance during his own election race in 2022 — dismissed concerns from other Democrats by suggesting that those “willing to walk away from Joe Biden” are “helping Trump.”

“The whole ‘Abandon Biden’ thing, that’s the dumbest s— I’ve ever heard,” Fetterman said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Republicans, meanwhile, continued taking a victory lap over what they saw as a successful performance by Trump on Thursday.

“Obviously, Joe Biden had a disastrous performance, which is why they’re talking about replacing him. But you also have to look at what Donald Trump was able to do,” Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), who’s believed to be on Trump’s list of finalists for the vice-presidential spot, told “Fox News Sunday.”

“He was funny, he was engaging. He was pushing back a little bit, but he was doing it with a good-natured demeanor,” Vance continued. “That’s what you need to be able to serve as president of the United States.”

Biden’s allies also pointed out that Trump had gone virtually unchallenged on the lies and falsehoods he shared onstage. Ahead of the debate, the Biden campaign had agreed with CNN that the moderators would not do live fact-checking.

“The guy told 30 some-odd lies and nobody checked him on it and said that was up to Joe Biden to do,” Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), who is largely credited with reviving Biden’s 2020 campaign, told CNN on Sunday. “If I ask you a question and you lie to me with the answer, I ought to follow up and give you what the facts are and see what your reaction to that would be. So that, to me, was not the way to plan the debate.”

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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