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Murky situation continues after Senate Democrats huddle with Biden campaign brass

‘Some of my concerns have been allayed, some have been deepened,’ Blumenthal says

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., walks to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee office in Washington for a meeting with Biden campaign officials on Thursday.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., walks to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee office in Washington for a meeting with Biden campaign officials on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Following a meeting with President Joe Biden’s top campaign aides, Senate Democrats showed no signs of trying to convince the president to end his reelection bid — but they said he must show more vigor to prevent a full rebellion.

As they streamed in for the week’s final vote Thursday afternoon, some Democratic senators offered the embattled president free advice while stopping short of calling for a new presidential nominee.

“Some of my concerns have been allayed, some have been deepened. Joe Biden has to go to the American people, not just in one meeting, not just in one press conference” and demonstrate he can beat Donald Trump and serve another four-year term, said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. “I need to see more data and analytics that show a path to victory.”

But Blumenthal, as other House and Senate Democrats have this week, indicated he could still support a Biden reelection bid. Such double-talk has created a murky and chaotic situation, with the Democratic nominating convention still over a month away.

“As of now, he is the Democratic nominee. He has my support. I believe that he can continue consistently and aggressively to allay my concerns, and more importantly, the questions that have been raised by the American people,” Blumenthal said.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., leaves the Senate Democrats’ meeting with President Joe Biden’s campaign advisers at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The other member of the Connecticut delegation, Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, told reporters following the meeting his stance remained unchanged. He said earlier this week that Biden needs to show that he is capable of defeating Trump, the expected Republican nominee, and serving another four-year term. Murphy also has said the Democratic Party needs to move past its current drama.

One of the chairs of the president’s reelection committee, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., noted her position with the campaign and told reporters she is sticking with Biden. And Biden’s final 2020 primary foe, Vermont independent Bernie Sanders, said of Biden: “There’s a good chance he’s going to win again.”

But Sanders also signaled he wants to see more from Team Biden, saying, “I think the Biden campaign has got to be stronger and clearer not only in defending their own record, but in creating an agenda for the future, especially for the needs of the working class of this country.”

Senate Democrats met with Mike Donilon, a longtime Biden aide and speechwriter; Steve Ricchetti, a Biden counselor; and the chair of the president’s reelection campaign, Jen O’Malley Dillon.

A number of Senate Democrats declined to comment on the closed-door session, held at the office of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

But Sen. Thomas R. Carper, from Biden’s home state of Delaware, said Biden has “got a great story to tell” and simply needs to show more gusto “in telling it,” adding: “We need to be providing a lot of echo.”

A few hours before Biden was scheduled to take reporters’ questions during an early evening press conference at the conclusion of a NATO summit in Washington, Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan said she was not sure if the party would resolve its internal squabble over the weekend. She did say Democrats were united on one thing: “We’re anxious to prosecute the case against Donald Trump, who by the way, is the person that’s the convicted felon in this situation.”

The private meeting came hours after a new Washington Post-ABC News-Ipsos poll showed 67 percent of U.S. adults believe Biden should drop out of the presidential race following his dismal debate with Trump on June 27. More than half of Democrats, 56 percent, said the president should bow out. Yet, the same national survey put Biden in a tie (46 percent to 46 percent) with Trump.

Other post-debate polls, however, show Trump leading Biden by 5 percentage points or more nationally, and in many battleground states. In a memo that leaked Thursday, top Biden campaign aides dubbed the debate a mere “setback,” and that such polls might be a shift, but were not showing a “sea change” in the race.

Sen. Peter Welch, D-Vt., and a dozen House Democrats have called for the president to drop out of the presidential race. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., told CNN he wants Democrats to have a “discussion” about Biden’s ability to win, warning Trump could win in a “landslide.”

Sen. Peter Welch, D-Vt., right, snacks on popcorn as he and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., leave the Senate Democrats’ meeting with President Joe Biden’s campaign advisers at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Bennet was mostly mum on Thursday’s session, saying only that it was a “good discussion.” Welch said after the meeting he was still “at where I’m at.” And Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, in a tight race of his own in a key battleground state, merely called it a “good meeting.”

Rep. Hillary Scholten, D-Mich., on Thursday became the latest elected Democrat to urge Biden to step aside — though, like the others, she did not sketch out what would happen if he did so, nor endorse another potential nominee. Scholten, in a tough reelection bid of her own, said in a statement that Democrats “must have a standard bearer who will fight morning, noon and night for our civil and voting rights, and unite the free world against the rising tide of authoritarianism.

“Joe Biden has been that leader for so long; this is not about the past, it’s about the future,” she added. “It’s time to pass the torch.”

One Democratic senator provided a lighter moment to cap what has been a serious and tense week in Washington.

Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., let reporters know both his lunch order and that he was still standing by Biden as he exited the lunch-hour session.

“I know you’re all wondering,” he yelled, “but I went with turkey and cheese and Doritos, although Cheetos was close, and Joe Biden is my guy.”

On the House side, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said Democratic lawmakers were still mulling.

“Those conversations have been candid, comprehensive and clear-eyed, and they continue,” the New York Democrat said. “Until that process has concluded, I’m not going to address what any outside stakeholders may have to say about this matter.”

John T. Bennett, David Lerman, Briana Reilly, Caitlin Reilly, Jim Saksa and Nina Heller contributed to this report.

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