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Doggett urges Biden to end campaign as GOP steps up pressure

Quigley: Biden’s decision ‘will have implications for decades to come’

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, on Tuesday called for President Joe Biden to drop his bid for reelection.
Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, on Tuesday called for President Joe Biden to drop his bid for reelection. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Concerns about President Joe Biden’s erratic debate performance are spilling from newspaper editorial pages and the donor class to members of Congress as fears grow among Democrats that more than the White House could be at stake.

On Tuesday, Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas became the first Democratic member of the House to publicly call on Biden to abandon his campaign against former President Donald Trump. 

“President Biden saved our democracy by delivering us from Trump in 2020. He must not deliver us to Trump in 2024,” Doggett said in a statement. He noted that polls showed Biden trailing Democratic senators and Trump in key states. 

“I had hoped that the debate would provide some momentum to change that. It did not. Instead of reassuring voters, the president failed to effectively defend his many accomplishments and expose Trump’s many lies,” he said. 

In light of that, Doggett said, Biden should “make the painful and difficult decision to withdraw.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre later told reporters that Biden staying in the race did not jeopardize democracy.

“What we believe is that this is a president that … is going to continue to fight for democracy and is going to continue to focus on making sure that we get Roe v. Wade into law … make sure that IVF is not taken away from families, make sure that contraception is not taken away from families, make sure that we fight for our voting rights,” she said at Tuesday’s White House briefing.

“There are so many things that we need to continue to fight for, and at the end of the day, this is a president that has delivered working closely with Congress and doing some of these things in a bipartisan way,” she said.

Doggett’s recommendation came after Biden’s team spent a weekend tamping down concerns about Biden’s electability even as lawmakers called on him to recognize what staying in the race could mean.

“He clearly has to understand … that his decision not only impacts who’s going to serve in the White House the next four years, but who’s going to serve in the Senate, who’s going to serve in the House and it will have implications for decades to come,” Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., said Tuesday morning on CNN

Quigley called Biden “a very proud person who has served us extraordinarily well for 50 years.” But, he added, “I just want him to appreciate … just how much [his decision] impacts not just his race, but all the other races coming in November.”

“Like a lot of people, I was pretty horrified” by Biden’s debate, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., told WPRI-TV on Monday. He urged Biden and his campaign “to be candid about his condition” and explain whether “this was a real anomaly, and not just the way he is these days.”

Democrats have a 51-49 working majority in the Senate, but the seat of West Virginia’s Joe Manchin III — who was elected as a Democrat but said he would become an independent after deciding not to seek reelection — is now rated Solid Republican by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales. Even if Democrats hold every other seat, a 50-50 split would mean a Republican majority if Trump wins, since the vice president breaks ties.

In the House, Democrats need to flip four seats to take back the majority they lost in 2022. 

Republicans are already using questions about the president’s cognitive abilities, however, to hammer vulnerable Democrats. In Pennsylvania, Republican challenger Dave McCormick’s campaign produced a video hitting Democratic Sen. Bob Casey for defending Biden and expressing faith in the president’s ability to do the job.

“Bob Casey, you’re really not worried about Biden’s ‘bad’ debate performance?” McCormick said Monday on X. “The Pennsylvanians I’ve heard from sure are. Our troops deserve a commander-in-chief with the strength and acuity to lead in a crisis.”

After years of having to answer — or ignore — questions about Trump’s volatile behavior and frequent lies, the GOP is trying to put Democrats, especially in battleground districts, on the defensive.

Within a day of the debate, GOP operatives put that strategy into action, asserting that Democrats knew that Biden was not able to fulfill his constitutional obligations but sought to tamp down those concerns for political reasons. 

Speaker Mike Johnson on Friday called on the members of Biden’s Cabinet to decide whether it is time to use their power under the Constitution’s 25th Amendment to remove him from power.

The National Republican Congressional Committee also released a video containing statements by Democrats defending the president. 

“The entire world knows Joe Biden isn’t fit to serve,’’ said Will Reinert, spokesman for the NRCC. “Yet if extreme House Democrats cannot bring themself to say that publicly, why would Americans ever think they would do the right thing for the good of the country?”

In a memo released Monday, Jack Pandol, communications director of the NRCC, said Republicans are planning to “weaponize House Democrats’ blind allegiance to their doddering Commander in Chief.” 

The stakes are especially high for House races. With Republicans strongly favored to take control of the Senate, flipping the House could be seen as a key firewall on one-party rule. Democrat Adam Frisch, who nearly flipped a seat in Colorado’s 3rd District in 2022 and is running again, also urged Biden to step aside on Tuesday. 

“I thank President Biden for his years of service, but the path ahead requires a new generation of leadership to take our country forward,” he said in a video message posted on social media.

Most Democrats, however, had refrained from a public denunciation of Biden. 

“House races have always been about the strength of our candidates, combined with the fact that Democrats deliver when in charge while extreme Republicans sow chaos,” said Viet Shelton, spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Shelton cited recent internal polls showing Democrats outrunning their Republican opponents across the battleground, adding “that hasn’t changed after the debate.”

For their part, Democrats were seeking to shift the conversation from Biden to Monday’s Supreme Court ruling, which held that presidents are immune from federal prosecution for official acts. In brief comments Monday night, Biden denounced the decision, calling it “a dangerous precedent because the power of the office will no longer be constrained by the law.”

The Democratic National Committee took out ads on the homepages of three swing-state newspapers — The  Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Arizona Republic — that highlighted the ruling and portrayed Trump as a threat to democracy.