Cracks emerge in Biden's support among Democrats

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Cracks are beginning to emerge in President Biden’s backing within the Democratic Party, fueling questions about whether he will remain at the top of the ticket in the final stretch to Election Day.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), a nearly 30-year veteran in the House, shattered Biden’s wall of public support among elected lawmakers on Tuesday, becoming the first Democratic member of Congress to publicly call on him to withdraw from the 2024 race.

“I represent the heart of a congressional district once represented by Lyndon Johnson. Under very different circumstances, he made the painful decision to withdraw,” Doggett said in a statement. “President Biden should do the same.”

Moderate Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine), meanwhile, published an op-ed in the Bangor Daily News Tuesday that said “Donald Trump is going to win. And I’m OK with that,” while rejecting Biden’s core argument that former President Trump is “a unique threat to our democracy.” Golden’s district broke for Trump by just more than 6 percentage points in 2020.

And former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a close Biden ally, told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell it is “legitimate” to ask both candidates “is this an episode or is this a condition,” raising questions about the veteran Democrat’s confidence in Biden as a candidate. Later in the day, however, her spokesperson Ian Krager said, “Speaker Pelosi has full confidence in President Biden and looks forward to attending his inauguration on January 20, 2025.”

While the dam has not yet broken — the vast majority of Democratic politicians, including those most senior in the party, are sticking by Biden — the comments from lawmakers on Tuesday mark a shift in tone that suggests an erosion of Biden’s support since the debate, a concerning reality for the incumbent’s campaign.

Some Democrats say that with the first lawmaker on the record calling for Biden to step aside, others may follow suit.

“I would think but not sure,” one House Democrat, who requested anonymity to discuss the sensitive topic, told The Hill in a text message when asked if Doggett’s call will prompt others to come out of the woodwork.

To be sure, the White House, Biden’s campaign and his top surrogates have been clear that their candidate has no plans to step out of the race, and they are plowing ahead with his run. Biden spoke at a rally over the weekend, is scheduled to visit Wisconsin on Friday, and will sit down with ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos for his first postdebate interview this week.

But the deteriorating public support among Democrats is coming into clearer focus day-by-day — and it is not limited to sitting lawmakers.

Adam Frisch, the Colorado Democrat vying for Rep. Lauren Boebert’s (R-Colo.) seat, said Biden “should do what’s best for the country and withdraw from the race.” Former Obama Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, who went up against Biden for the Democratic nomination in 2020, said the president should step aside from the nomination, telling MSNBC “there are stronger options out there for Democrats.”

And former Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), another Biden opponent in 2020, called on Vice President Harris to replace Biden as the party’s nominee.

“These videos are gonna be on TikTok, they’re gonna be on Instagram, they’re gonna be on all social media platforms,” Ryan told The Hill in an interview. He expressed concern that Biden is “not looking ready to take on [Russian President] Vladimir Putin or Donald Trump or anybody else, that is now in the consciousness of every American.”

“There’s no overcoming that other than asking him to not run.”

Early polling is also putting a spotlight on Biden’s slipping support within the Democratic Party and among the general electorate.

A CNN poll released Tuesday found that 56 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning registered voters said they thought the party has a better chance of winning the White House with a nominee other than Biden, an uptick from 53 percent in January. Meanwhile, 43 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning respondents said the party should stick with Biden.

A survey from CBS News published Monday found that 72 percent of registered voters said they do not think Biden has the mental and cognitive health to serve as president, up from 65 percent on June 9. Just 27 percent of respondents said Biden is up for the job.

The break in Biden’s public support among Democrats is emblematic of conversations underway behind the scenes where, according to sources, lawmakers are concerned about the party’s chances come November with Biden atop the ticket.

One House Democrat told The Hill on Friday, one day after the debate, that “it’s time for him to step aside,” noting that it is the shared sentiment among many in the caucus.

“We all were hanging out this morning, a bunch of us together at something. There’s nobody at this point that I spoke with who doesn’t think it’s time for him to step aside,” added the lawmaker, who requested anonymity to discuss the sensitive deliberations.

A second House Democrat, who similarly requested anonymity, would not say whether Biden should withdraw from the race but did disclose that members are worried about his standing as the party’s nominee.

“There’s a lot of talk —  talk here, talk from friends at home — saying we need someone who can articulate our message, and we didn’t see that last night,” the lawmaker said. “A lot of people are saying it … [A] majority of people I’ve spoken with today.”

Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), who served in House Democratic leadership for more than two decades before stepping down earlier this year, reiterated on Tuesday that he would support Harris if Biden were to step aside, giving credence to the notion that the president may relinquish his spot as the party’s presumptive nominee.

In an interview later in the day with “The Hill on NewsNation,” the veteran South Carolina Democrat said he plans to speak with Biden on either Tuesday or Wednesday, when he will tell the incumbent what he really feels, which will not include advice to “get out of the race.”

At the same time, however, Clyburn said he hopes Biden’s team delivers answers to the electorate.

“I think that the American people want an explanation, they need to be reassured,” Clyburn said, referring to the aftermath of Thursday’s debate. “And I hope that over the next several days you’ll do that.”

Caroline Vakil contributed.

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