Warner building support among Democratic senators to push Biden out

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), an influential centrist who is close with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), is working to gather support among Democratic senators to ask President Biden to drop his reelection bid, according to two sources familiar with the effort.

Warner is concerned Biden could perform so badly in November that he risks taking down Democratic senators who were thought to be in relatively safe seats, such as fellow Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine.

“He talks to a lot of his colleagues all of the time. There’s a statewide race going on in Virginia,” said a source familiar with Warner’s efforts to muster support among Democratic senators to ask Biden to drop out of the presidential race.

“He’ll underscore the Senate race in Virginia, which we thought was going to be a walk in the park, but it’s not,” the source said of recent polling showing Biden and former President Trump tied in Virginia, which could portend a tough race for Kaine, the incumbent.

“I’m sure people in the White House are probably a little annoyed, but this is an exercise that a lot of Democrats needed to be taken,” the source added.

“He’s one United States senator,” the source added, emphasizing that Warner recognizes he has limited leverage given that Biden has amassed 3,894 delegates and has the nomination locked up if he chooses to continue his campaign.

Biden, asked about reports on the Warner effort as he was leaving a Wisconsin campaign event, said “he’s the only one.” He added that he’s talked about his campaign to at least 20 members of Congress who had offered support for his candidacy.

And when Biden was asked about the effort during his ABC News interview that aired Friday night, the president said, “Well, Mark is a good man. … Mark and I have a different perspective. I respect him.”

The Washington Post first reported that Warner is seeking to assemble a group of Democratic senators to ask Biden to exit the race.

Warner spokesperson Rachel Cohen didn’t confirm or deny the report.

“Like many other people in Washington and across the country, Sen. Warner believes these are critical days for the president’s campaign, and he has made that clear to the White House,” Cohen told the Post in a statement.

Trump and Biden are now in a dead heat in Virginia, where Trump leads slightly, 43.9 percent to 43.7 percent, according to 18 polls analyzed by The Hill’s Decision Desk HQ.

Biden insisted at a campaign rally in Wisconsin on Friday that he’s staying in the race.

“They’re trying to push me out of the race,” he told a cheering crowd. “Well let me say this as clearly as I can: I’m staying in the race.”

“I’m not letting one 90-minute debate wipe out three and a half years of work,” he declared.

Senate Democrats have stayed relatively unified in support of Biden until now.

However, two liberal senators from the Northeast, Sens. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), have publicly expressed misgivings with the Biden campaign, a sign that more Senate Democrats are deeply alarmed about the trajectory of Biden’s campaign.

Welch, in an interview with Semafor, criticized Biden’s campaign for dismissing Democrats expressing concern and anxiety about his viability as a candidate in the wake of his disappointing debate performance.

“I really do criticize the campaign for a dismissive attitude towards people who are raising questions for discussion. That’s just facing the reality we’re in,” Welch said in the Monday interview.

Welch warned in a CNN interview later in the week that Biden could wipe out Democratic candidates downballot if he remains the party’s nominee and fails to turn around his flailing campaign.

“If we do really poorly at the presidential level, that creates a fierce undertow,” he said.

“The most important thing is to have Trump out of the office, a Democrat in office. Doing that, I think, is the best help that we can give to our Senate candidates who are doing great but having a tough challenge,” he said.

Asked by CNN host Brianna Keilar if Biden should continue his bid for a second term, Welch said it’s up to Biden to decide.

“That’s the question,” he said. “He’s wrestling with that. He’s reading the polls.

“I’m confident that at the end of the day, the president will make his decision based on what’s best for the country,” he added.

Whitehouse told a local media outlet earlier this week that Biden’s campaign needs to reassure Democratic lawmakers and voters that his debate meltdown was an aberration.

“I think, like a lot of people, I was pretty horrified by the debate. … I think people want to make sure that this is a campaign that’s ready to go and win, that the president and his team are being candid with us about his condition — that this was a real anomaly and not just the way he is these days,” Whitehouse said.

Schumer reaffirmed his support for the president earlier this week.

The Senate Democratic leader told reporters in Syracuse that he and the president had “worked hard together for four years, and we’ve delivered a lot for America and Central New York.”

“I’m for Biden,” he declared.

Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.