Democrats see Tuesday as make-or-break day for Biden’s political future | CNN Politics (2024)

Democrats see Tuesday as make-or-break day for Biden’s political future | CNN Politics (1)

President Joe Biden speaks to supporters during a campaign rally at Sherman Middle School on July 05, 2024 in Madison, Wisconsin.

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After President Joe Biden’s reelection efforts spiraled into chaos following his debate fiasco last month, Democrats who have both stood by and abandoned Biden since then see Tuesday as a decisive day for the president’s political future.

Numerous Democrats inside Biden’s administration and others close to the White House and campaign have told CNN over the past few days that the conclusions drawn within a morning House Democratic caucus meeting – followed by a Senate Democrats’ gathering in the afternoon – will likely seal the president’s fate.

While Biden has said the “Lord almighty” alone could drive him to abandon his campaign, top Democrats have said the decision ultimately lies with party leadership, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

“Chuck and Hakeem are going to have to say, ‘The Congress is turning on you,’” one top Democrat told CNN on the only scenario that could convince Biden to abandon his candidacy. “That’s basically the bottom line.”

Schumer and Jeffries both publicly backed Biden on Monday after the president launched an offensive across airwaves, campaign calls and congressional caucus meetings to shore up support. But both leaders will face their entire caucuses, which have seen support erode from senior members of committees. The degree of that erosion could force Democrats’ hand to decide one way or another - especially once Democrats begin to worry that appearing on a ballot under Biden harms their own election chances.

Jeffries listened as he was confronted with concerns and frustrations from all factions of the caucus during House Democrats’ Tuesday meeting.

The open mic format, during which roughly 30 lawmakers spoke, was designed so Jeffries and his leadership team could hear directly from members during the group’s first in-person meeting since the presidential debate.

But instead of a united front, Democrats emerged from the meeting without consensus or a clear path forward.

While Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn, a staunch Biden ally, called the meeting “very positive,” another Democratic member in the meeting told CNN that there was a sense of “sadness” in the room from “talking about someone you love who is in obvious decline.”

Democrat Rep. LloydDoggett, the first sitting House Democrat to call on Biden to withdraw his candidacy, said that he expects more Democrats to join his ranks following the caucus meeting, the opposite of what most party leaders were hoping for.

“The debate cannot be unseen. The president has been running behind. We needed a surge. We got a setback. He is a great man who’s made a great contribution to the country, but he shouldn’t leave a legacy that endangers us that we surrender to a tyrant,” Doggett said, referring to former President Donald Trump.

Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton, another one of the six House Democrats to publicly call for Biden to step aside, said he shared how he got to his position in the closed-door meeting with his colleagues.

“Everyone was listening very carefully to a variety of positions in the room. And that’s exactly the kind of debate and discussion that we should be having as a party. This is what democracy is about,” Moulton said.

Even though a number of lawmakers expressed their support for Biden, the concerns stuck with many Democrats after the meeting.

“There’s a ton of concern,” Democratic Rep. Greg Landman told CNN. “(Biden’s) got a lot of work left to do.”

The first fractures in what had been Biden’s coalition of Democratic support appeared last Tuesday, five days after his faltering debate performance, when Doggett of Texas became the first member of Biden’s own party in Congress to ask that he step aside. He has since been joined by several more members of Congress – all in the House – though the most prominent members have either firmly entrenched themselves behind their candidate or avoided questions about whether he should continue.

Several Democratic governors who attended a meeting with Biden at the White House last week left unimpressed with Biden’s shifting explanations for his poor debate performance and his vows to takesteps,including limiting late-night events and going to sleep earlier,to avoid a repeat of that performance. One governor, Maura Healey of Massachusetts, said Biden should “carefully evaluate” whether he’s the best choice to defeat Trump.

Party officials tell CNN that a decision must happen soon, otherwise Biden’s candidacy could be irreparably damaged by the intra-party war that has broken out and the reputational damage Biden has sustained as a result.

“I can’t stress this enough: Dems need to make a decision and then move forward,” one DNC official said. “The sniping won’t stop until leadership officially puts an end to the uncertainty.”

That time crunch is part of what makes this week one of the most crucial of Biden’s half-century-long political career. House Democrats gathered on Tuesday to discuss steps forward with Biden’s campaign.

Biden will join a group of Democratic mayors for a meeting later Tuesday, and will participate in a rare solo news conference during the NATO summit later this week.

With the Democrats’ August convention quickly approaching, the party has little time to mount an entirely separate national political campaign in Biden’s absence - while the president has precious few opportunities to convince voters, donors and members of his own party that he is up to another grueling three months of campaigning followed by another four years in office.

The interview Biden did with ABC last week confirmed Biden’s stubborn determination to prove his doubters wrong and stay in the race - even if it didn’t soothe concerns about his ability to do so. He riffed extensively on polling data and,whenasked whether he would consider stepping aside if crucial party leaders asked him to do so, replied: “They’re not going to do that.”

Another senior Democrat put the message more bluntly: Leaders in both chambers, they said, need to tell their members Tuesday to “f–king get in line.”

Most within the party understand the frustration that has emerged after Biden’s debate performance resurfaced questions about his health and longevity that even former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described as “legitimate.”

But there remains a significant amount of skepticism that Biden could be replaced seamlessly on the ticket without more hand-wringing and a lot of red tape.

“The fantasy that we could swap in a person, and they could run away with a nomination at the convention, is just that – a fantasy,” another senior Democrat said. “And the chattering in the interim isn’t helping.”

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

CNN’s Arlette Saenz contributed.

Democrats see Tuesday as make-or-break day for Biden’s political future | CNN Politics (2024)
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