To a defiant Biden, the 2024 race is up to the voters, not to Democrats on Capitol Hill

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — To a defiant President Joe Biden, the 2024 election is up to the public — not the Democrats on Capitol Hill. But the chorus of Democratic voices calling for him to step aside is growing, from donors, strategists, lawmakers and their constituents who say he should bow out.

The party has not fallen in line behind him even after the events that were set up as part of a blitz to reset his imperiled campaign and show everyone he wasn’t too old to stay in the job or to do it another four years.

On Saturday, a fifth Democratic lawmaker said openly that Biden should not run again. Rep. Angie Craig of Minnesota said that after what she saw and heard in the debate with Republican rival Donald Trump, and Biden’s “lack of a forceful response” afterward, he should step aside “and allow for a new generation of leaders to step forward.”

Craig posted one of the Democrats’ key suburban wins in the 2018 midterms and could be a barometer for districts that were vital for Biden in 2020.

With no public schedule on Saturday, the president and his aides were taking a step back from the fervor over the past few days. But Biden will head out campaigning again on Sunday in Philadelphia. And this coming week, the U.S. is hosting the NATO summit and the president is to hold a news conference.

Vice President Kamala Harris planned to campaign Saturday in New Orleans.

The president’s ABC interview on Friday night stirred carefully worded expressions of disappointment from the party’s ranks, and worse from those who spoke anonymously. Ten days into the crisis moment of the Biden-Trump debate, Biden is dug in.

With the Democratic convention approaching and just four months to Election Day, neither camp in the party can much afford this internecine drama much longer. But it is bound to drag on until Biden steps aside or Democrats realize he won’t and learn to contain their concerns about the president’s chances against Trump.

Even within the White House there were concerns the ABC interview wasn’t enough to turn the page.

Campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez has been texting lawmakers and administration officials are encouraging them not to go public with their concerns about the race and the president’s electability, according to a Democrat granted anonymity to discuss the situation.

Most Democrats have stayed quieter in recent days, allowing the president’s team the space to show them — and Americans — he is up for the job with the rallies, interview and flurry of public events.

But Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, without breaking with Biden at this point, are pulling together meetings with members in the next few days to discuss options. It was clear that discontent among Democrats on Capitol Hill has not subsided, and privately many would prefer to see the president not run.

Many lawmakers are hearing from constituents at home and fielding questions. One senator was working to get others together to ask him to step aside.

Yet some senior lawmakers were now trying to bring the party behind their presumptive nominee. “Biden is who our country needs,” Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, who had raised questions about Biden in the aftermath of the debate, said after the interview.

Following the interview, a Democratic donor reported that many of the fellow donors he spoke with were furious, particularly because the president declined to acknowledge the effects his aging. Many of those donors are seeking a change in leadership at the top of the ticket, said the person, who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Biden roundly swatted away calls Friday to step away from the race, telling telling voters at a Wisconsin rally, reporters outside Air Force One and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he was not going anywhere.

“Completely ruling that out,” he told reporters the rally.

Biden dismissed those who were calling for his ouster, instead saying he’d spoken with 20 lawmakers and they had all encouraged him to stay in the race.

Concern about Biden’s fitness for another four years has been persistent. In an August 2023 poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, fully 77% of U.S. adults said Biden was too old to be effective for four more years. Not only did 89% of Republicans say that, but so did 69% of Democrats. His approval rating stands at 38%.

Biden has dismissed the polling, citing as evidence his 2020 surge to the nomination and win over Trump, after initially faltering, and the 2022 midterm elections, when polls suggested Republicans would sweep but didn’t, largely in part over the issue of abortion rights.

“I don’t buy that,” when he was reminded that he was behind in the polls. “I don’t think anybody’s more qualified to be president or win this race than me.”

At times, Biden rambled during the interview, which ABC said aired in full and without edits. Asked how he might turn the race around, Biden argued that one key would be large and energetic rallies like the one he held Friday in Wisconsin. When reminded that Trump routinely draws larger crowds, the president laid into his opponent.

“Trump is a pathological liar,” Biden said, accusing Trump of bungling the federal response to the COVID pandemic and failing to create jobs. “You ever see something that Trump did that benefited someone else and not him?”

Republicans, though, are squarely behind their candidate, and support for Trump, who at 78 is three years younger than Biden, has been growing.

And that’s despite Trump’s 34 felony convictions in a hush money trial, that he was found liable for sexually abusing advice columnist E. Jean Carroll in 1996, and that his businesses were found to have engaged in fraud.


Miller and Mascaro reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Joey Cappelletti in Saugatuck, Michigan, and Aamer Madhani in Washington contributed to this report.

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