"Wasn’t just a horrible night": Democrats say party must be "honest" about Biden's viability

Some party members are urging the Biden campaign to be more honest about his condition

Published July 2, 2024 4:04PM (EDT)

Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., left, and Peter Welch, D-Vt., attend a Senate Judiciary Committee markup in Hart Building on Thursday, May 11, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., left, and Peter Welch, D-Vt., attend a Senate Judiciary Committee markup in Hart Building on Thursday, May 11, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Democrats are publicly sharing their concerns about President Joe Biden’s re-election and urging his campaign to be open about his condition after Biden’s disastrous debate performance last Thursday.

Sen. Peter Welch, D-Vt., criticized the Biden campaign for dismissing concerns about the president’s health and well-being, Semafor reported. “The campaign has raised the concerns themselves,” he told the outlet. “So then to be dismissive of others who raise those concerns, I think it’s inappropriate."

The senator stressed the importance of having a Democratic candidate strong enough to beat Donald Trump, especially in light of Monday’s Supreme Court ruling granting the president immunity for “official acts.” Though Welch said Democrats respect Biden immensely, the party must do everything it can to ensure victory come November.

“Passivity is not the response that is going to work for us. We all have to be self conscious,” Welch said. “We all have to be acutely aware that our obligation is to the country, even more than the party. That’s the obligation we have — what’s best for the country.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., expressed similar concern in an interview with 12 News. “I think like a lot of people I was pretty horrified by the debate,” said. “The blips of President Biden and the barrage of lying from President Trump were not what one would hope for in a presidential debate.”

Whitehouse said he was surprised by Biden’s shaky performance, as he hadn’t seen the president in such a state before. If the Democrats are to keep Trump out of office, Whitehouse said they need to take a more aggressive approach.

“I’ve been critical of the campaign all along, so the upside is that this could be the jolt that they need to make a more compelling case against Donald Trump and for President Biden and the goals Democrats want to achieve," Whitehouse said.

Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., argued that Democrats need to be “honest with ourselves” and accept that Biden’s debate performance “wasn’t just a horrible night,” Politico reported.

Though Quigley said Biden has served the U.S. “extraordinarily for 50 years,” he told CNN’s Kasie Hunt that Biden too “has to be honest with himself” about the viability of his candidacy, as the November election “will have implications for decades to come."

“It probably takes up to a week to get decent polling … I do think that’s probably the only thing out there right now that could change his mind or influence that critical decision that, again, only he can make," Quigley said.

On Tuesday, Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) became the first Democratic lawmaker to publicly call on Biden to drop out of the race. 

“My decision to make these strong reservations public is not done lightly nor does it in any way diminish my respect for all that President Biden has achieved,” Doggett said in a statement. “Recognizing that, unlike Trump, President Biden’s first commitment has always been to our country, not himself, I am hopeful that he will make the painful and difficult decision to withdraw. I respectfully call on him to do so.”

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Former Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan also called for Biden to withdraw and for Vice President Kamala Harris to take his place. In an opinion piece for Newsweek, Ryan stated his love and support for Biden while arguing it was time for the president to step down and pass "the torch to the next generation." 

"Joe Biden's debate performance was deeply troubling," Ryan wrote. "But it isn't just about a 90-minute debate and a terrible performance. This election needs to be about generational change — something about which I have been shouting for more than a year now."

He praised Harris's comments in a CNN interview on debate night. "Across cable news stations, the Vice President's performance was stellar, a ray of light in the darkness.

"In short, she is ready for the job. And, more importantly, she deserves a chance to go to the American people and show us her mettle," he wrote.

Despite concern, right now there are no signs that Biden, supported strongly by his family, will drop out of the race.

By Marin Scotten

MORE FROM Marin Scotten

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