Some Democrats Still Aren’t Happy With Joe Biden

WASHINGTON ― Hours after President Joe Biden urged his party to unify around his candidacy, one House Democrat called on him to step aside and more than a dozen Democratic senators raised concerns about whether he is the best candidate to lead the presidential ticket.

“I think it’s become clear that he’s not the best person to carry the Democratic message. … It hasn’t gotten better since the debate,” Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said during an interview on CNN.

“Personally, I think Kamala Harris would be a much better, stronger candidate,” Smith, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, added.

No Democratic senators, meanwhile, have urged Biden to step aside, but many voiced their concerns and said they needed to discuss at a closed-door lunch on Tuesday whether to stick with Biden or open the door to another, younger candidate to face off against Trump in November.

“I have a lot of concerns, and I’m not the only one,” Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) said. “I’ve been hearing a lot of concerns from folks back home in Minnesota. I mean, I think right now, our party is having a big, robust discussion about what comes next and what we should do. And I actually think that that’s healthy.”

Several senators said that Biden needed to do more to allay the concerns of the American people about his fitness. The president is expected to hold several public events this week, including a rare press conference at the White House.

“I believe it is incumbent upon the President to more aggressively make his case to the American people,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said in a statement.

That sentiment was shared by vulnerable Democratic incumbents, including Sens. Jon Tester (Mont.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio), whose seats Democrats need to defend to have a chance of retaining their Senate majority.

“President Biden has got to prove to the American people—including me—that he’s up to the job for another four years,” Tester said in a statement.

Democratic leaders in the Senate, however, expressed support for Biden, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

“I’m with Joe,” Schumer told reporters on Monday.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) also told reporters he’s fully behind Biden.

Biden struck a defiant tone earlier on Monday, telling his party he has no intention of stepping aside as their presumptive presidential nominee.

“Any weakening of resolve or clarity about the task ahead only helps Trump and hurts us. It is time to come together, move forward as a unified party, and defeat Donald Trump,” Biden said in a letter addressed to congressional Democrats.

During an interview on MSNBC, the president also dared his critics to run against him at the Democratic convention if they opposed his decision to stay on as the presumptive presidential nominee.

But if the reaction among Democrats from the Hill on Monday was any indication, the questions about Biden aren’t likely to end anytime soon.

“I think everyone just calms down a little bit and waits for this week,” Sen. Joe Manchin (I-W.Va.) said. “I think this week is going to be a crucial time.”

“If you just wait until this weekend ... I believe we’ll be able to have a better, clearer view of what’s happening,” he added.

CORRECTION: This story has been amended to note that Manchin is now an independent, not a Democrat.