For Biden, 2024 race is up to voters – not Democrats on Capitol Hill

The defiant US President has faced calls to drop out of the campaign for re-election.

President Joe Biden is trying to turn the page on his disastrous debate performance (AP)
President Joe Biden is trying to turn the page on his disastrous debate performance (AP) (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

For a defiant President Joe Biden, the 2024 US 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, legislators and their constituents who say he should bow out ahead of the race against Donald Trump this autumn.

The party has not fallen in line behind Mr Biden even after the events that were set up to reset his imperilled campaign and show everyone he was not too old to stay in the job or to do it for another four years.

On Saturday, a fifth Democratic legislator said openly that Mr Biden should not run again.

Representative Angie Craig of Minnesota said that after what she saw and heard in the debate with Republican rival Mr Trump, and Mr Biden’s “lack of a forceful response” afterwards, he should step aside “and allow for a new generation of leaders to step forward”.

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

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 Mr Biden steps aside or Democrats realize he will not, and learn to contain their concerns about the President’s chances against Mr Trump.

There were signs party leaders realise the stand-off needs to end. Some of the most senior legislators, including Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi and representative James Clyburn, were now publicly working to bring the party back to the president.

Ms Pelosi and Mr Clyburn had both raised pointed questions about Mr Biden in the aftermath of the debate.

Support for Donald Trump is growing (AP)
Support for Donald Trump is growing (AP) (Morry Gash/AP)

“Biden is who our country needs,” Mr Clyburn said late on Friday after Mr Biden’s interview with ABC aired.

On Saturday, Mr Biden’s campaign said the President joined a biweekly meeting with all 10 of the campaign’s nation co-chairs to “discuss their shared commitment to winning the 2024 race”. Mr Clyburn was among them.

But the silence from most other House Democrats on Saturday was notable, suggesting legislators are not all being convinced by what they saw from the president. More House Democrats are likely to call for Mr Biden to step aside when members of congress return to Washington at the start of the week.

Mr Biden had no public schedule on Saturday, as he and aides stepped back from the fervour over the past few days. But the President will head out campaigning again on Sunday in Philadelphia, intent on putting the debate behind him.

And this coming week, the US is hosting the Nato summit, with the President due to hold a news conference.

Kamala Harris will continue her campaign (AP)
Kamala Harris will continue her campaign (AP) (Evan Vucci/AP)

US vice president Kamala Harris plans to campaign in New Orleans.

The President’s ABC interview on Friday night – billed as an effort to get the campaign back on track – 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, Mr Biden is dug in.

Even within the White House there were concerns the ABC interview was not enough to turn the page.

Democrats are wrestling over what they see and hear from the President but are not at all certain about a path forward. They were particularly concerned that Mr Biden suggested that even if he were to be defeated in a rematch with Mr Trump, he would know that he gave it his all. That seemed an insufficient response.

As Biden’s camp encourages House legislators to give the president the chance to show what he can do, one Democratic aide said the Friday interview did not help and in fact made things worse. The aide expects more Democrats will likely be calling on Mr Biden to step aside.

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

That is despite Mr 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.