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Democrats' private fears about Biden are slowly going public

Democrats have been sharing concerns about President Biden in private conversations amongst themselves and some of those concerns are becoming public as the week goes on.
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Democrats have been sharing concerns about President Biden in private conversations amongst themselves and some of those concerns are becoming public as the week goes on.

Updated July 10, 2024 at 15:48 PM ET

Despite President Biden's efforts to quell dissent and keep his party unified behind his candidacy, congressional Democrats continue to raise concerns that he will lose in November — and take down ballot Democrats with him.

Lawmakers have said both publicly and privately that the party is badly fractured on the issue, giving heightened power to drips of information from individual members who choose to voice their opinions. Public concern began to pick up after CNN reported that Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., privately told fellow senators at a Tuesday closed-door meeting that he worried that Trump would win in a landslide and take the House and Senate with him.

"It's true that I said that," Bennet repeated in an interview on CNN. "Donald Trump is on track, I think, to win this election and maybe win it by a landslide and take with him the Senate and the House."

Bennet previously chaired the Senate Democrats' campaign committee.

It is a high stakes battle within the party as most members agree there is little time to change course if Biden chooses to step aside.

Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley, asked about Sen. Bennet's comments, told NPR, "I do share those concerns and so do many of my colleagues."

Asked if Biden should withdraw, Merkley added, "I think President Biden should look at all of the information and carry on detailed conversations with key leaders, including Leader Schumer and Leader Jeffries, and should do what's best for the nation." He acknowledged that leaders and rank and file members are "extremely worried."

Biden campaign officials are set to meet directly with senators on Thursday, according to a Senate leadership source who was granted anonymity to speak about private plans.

Democrats will hold a special meeting at their campaign headquarters near the Capitol to hear from senior Biden advisers Mike Donilon and Steve Ricchetti and Biden campaign Chair Jen O'Malley Dillon, according to the source.

Fears about Biden have been reverberating among frontline Democrats who are running in highly competitive districts and states. On Wednesday, New York Rep. Pat Ryan joined Rep. Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey as the latest at-risk Democrats calling on Biden to step aside.

Even some close allies like former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., have carefully avoided speaking directly to questions about whether Biden should drop out. Speaking in an interview on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Pelosi reiterated that she believes Biden has been a great president, but she took a careful approach to questions about his future.

“It’s up to the president to decide if he is going to run,” she said. “We’re all encouraging him to to make that decision. Because time is running short.”

The public panic is frustrating Biden loyalists who say Democrats are undermining the president and their own chances in the election by publicly venting their concerns. Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., told reporters Biden is a great president and he doesn't think the venting is helpful.

"He’s the only one that’s kicked Trump’s ass in the election," Fetterman said. "And it’s going to be close like it was always going to be close and I think he’s going to win on that."

Asked about Bennet’s comments, Fetterman said, “Well, I hope he got out whatever he hoped out of it.”

Merkley, asked about the path forward for the party, told NPR, "Democratic leadership and just Democratic members of Congress are extremely worried."

Copyright 2024 NPR

Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.
Jeongyoon Han
[Copyright 2024 NPR]