Democrats lean toward accepting Biden even as party members voice concerns

Many House Democrats appeared ready to accept Joe Biden as their nominee, despite widespread concern about his electoral viability, as prominent Black, Hispanic and progressive lawmakers rally behind the president during a crucial day of meetings on Capitol Hill.

Lawmakers emerged from a closed-door meeting on Tuesday morning stone-faced, appearing uneasy about Biden’s path forward, even if most weren’t ready to publicly call on him to step aside as concerns deepen over the 81-year-old president’s age, mental acuity and ability to win the White House for a second term. Asked if the party was on the same page, Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee quipped: “We’re not even in the same book.”

Arriving at the Democratic National Committee headquarters on Capitol Hill, the New York congressman Jerry Nadler told reporters any concerns he may have about Biden’s candidacy were now “beside the point”.

“He’s going to be our nominee, and we all have to support him,” he told reporters ahead of Tuesday morning’s meeting. It was previously reported that Nadler had told colleagues in private that Biden should abandon his re-election bid.

Six House Democrats have so far called for Biden to step aside, however, evidence of a party in disarray over how best to respond to Biden’s disastrous debate performance last month in which he appeared weak and confused while Donald Trump, 78, spewed a stream of unchecked lies.

Related: The Democrats who have called on Joe Biden to step down

Others Democrats are reported to have said in private that they believe Biden should go, with Patti Murray of Washington state, the Senate president pro tempore, the latest to issue a statement expressing concern. Democratic senators were set to meet for their weekly lunch on Tuesday afternoon to discuss concerns about Biden’s candidacy.

Few Democrats were eager to talk to reporters, who lined the pavement, pelting lawmakers with questions, as fresh polling shows Biden falling farther behind Trump, the former president and presumptive Republican nominee viewed by the incumbent and his party as a singularly dangerous figure to American democracy. Most ignored the questions, some held a phone to their ear, and the Pennsylvania representative Summer Lee walked with headphones on, declining to stop.

“Joe Biden is, will be and should be our nominee,” the Florida representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a former DNC chair, said tersely after the meeting.

Yet Biden’s closest allies were eager to voice their support.

“We’re ridin’ with Biden,” Representative James Clyburn repeated several times as he strode toward a waiting car. The South Carolina Democrat is credited with reviving Biden’s successful 2020 campaign against his presidential predecessor Trump – and is seen as one of the few people whose opinion on the matter could sway the president.

Prominent progressives have rallied to the president’s side. The matter of Biden’s hold on the Democratic nomination for president is “closed”, the progressive congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said in a full-throated endorsement of his candidacy on Monday night.

Several prominent Democrats, including senior members of the Black and Hispanic caucuses, have joined Ocasio-Cortez in voicing support for the president. On Tuesday morning, Representative Cori Bush, a Missouri Democrat facing a serious primary challenge, likened her fight for political survival to Biden’s and said the party must unite to defeat the influence of Trump-aligned “Maga Republicans”.

In response Biden came out fighting this week with an open letter to Democrats insisting he wasn’t dropping out and a surprise interview on MSNBC in which he said he had not felt well during the debate and railed against party “elites” he said were behind calls for him to quit.

“I have spoken to the president over the weekend,” Ocasio-Cortez told reporters outside the Capitol on Monday evening while voicing her support. “I have spoken with him extensively. He made clear then and he has made clear since that he is in this race.

“The matter is closed. He had reiterated that this morning. He has reiterated that to the public. Joe Biden is our nominee. He is not leaving this race. He is in this race, and I support him.”

The Texas Democratic representative Jasmine Crockett added on X: “Let me make this crystal clear … JOE BIDEN IS THE NOMINEE. He said he’s not stepping down & so I … AM RIDING WITH BIDEN; Period!”

On Monday night Biden also held a private meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus, a key support bloc representing voters who form a powerful part of Biden’s base, having fueled his surge to the Democratic nomination in 2020.

“You’ve had my back, and I’ll continue to have yours,” Politico reported Biden saying in the meeting. “I need you guys. They were wrong in 2020, 2022 [when Democrats did much better than expected in midterm elections] and now. With you guys, I know we can win this thing.”

Congressional Hispanic Caucus leaders, Nanette Barragán of California and Adriano Espaillat of New York, said on Monday: “We stand with President Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris.

“For the last year and a half, the Biden-Harris administration partnered with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ initiative to take CHC on the Road. Through that initiative we have worked to empower Latino communities across the country.

“We look forward to our continued partnership on the road and legislative wins to benefit the American people.”

Ocasio-Cortez, from New York City and popularly known as AOC, is a key member of the Squad, an informal grouping of high-profile House progressives. In her re-endorsement of Biden she pointed to a lack of Republican calls for Trump to step aside, even after he was convicted on 34 criminal charges in his New York trial arising from hush-money payments made to an adult film star.

A fellow House progressive, Pramila Jayapal from Washington state, underlined that point in a statement, saying: “Any reporter or pundit who is asking about or talking about the aftermath of President Biden’s debate performance and his health should also be spending at least the same amount of time and energy talking to Republicans about why they are still supporting a convicted felon who incited an insurrection and wants to be dictator on day one.” On Tuesday, she declined to answer reporters’ questions and said she would support the nominee – whoever that may be.

Jayapal, Ocasio-Cortez and other leading congressional progressives have clashed with Biden but ultimately backed his legislative agenda.

On Monday, Ocasio-Cortez said Biden should “commit to the issues that are critically important to working people across this country.

“If we can do that and continue our work on student loans, secure a cease-fire [in Israel’s war against Hamas], and bring those dollars back into investing in public policy, then that’s how we win in November.

“That’s what I’m committed to, and that’s what I want to make sure that we secure.”

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