New York Rep. Pat Ryan calls on Biden to step aside, eighth congressional Democrat to do so publicly

Moderate Rep. Pat Ryan of New York is calling for President Joe Biden to step aside as the Democratic Party’s nominee from the upcoming presidential election “for the good of the country,” the eighth congressional Democrat to say so publicly.

Ryan first made his comments in The New York Times and later wrote in a statement posted to X, saying, “I am asking Joe Biden to step aside – to deliver on his promise to be a bridge to a new generation of leaders.”

“Trump is an existential threat to American democracy; it is our duty to put forward the strongest candidate against him,” Ryan wrote. “Joe Biden is a patriot but is no longer the best candidate to defeat Trump.”

For the past week, Biden’s campaign has been trying to reassure his congressional allies of his chances in November, following a disastrous debate performance late last month that shook up the state of national politics. Democrats in both the House and Senate are openly airing concerns that Biden could lose against Trump and sink congressional candidates down-ballot along with him.

Anxiety over Biden’s potential drag particularly in the House is rising in New York, where Democrats are desperate to win back suburban seats they lost to the GOP in the 2022 midterms. On Wednesday, Democratic Rep. Ritchie Torres sounded a more dire tune. than he had earlier this week.

“There must be a serious reckoning with the down-ballot effect of whomever we nominate,” Torres wrote on social media, beseeching Democrats to dispassionately study the “the cold hard numbers.” “If we’re going to choose a particular path, we should be clear-eyed about its consequences.”

In a comment to CNN, Torres added, “If we are going on a political suicide mission, then we should at least be honest about it.”

New York Democrats have struggled at the congressional and local level since 2020. Democrats on Long Island were nearly wiped out in municipal elections in 2021 – a sign of things to come. Gov. Kathy Hochul only defeated former GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin by a little more than six points in 2022, the same year Republicans flipped four seats on Long Island and the Hudson Valley. In 2023, Democrats lost control of additional local strongholds in the suburbs.

“We have a Democratic governor, who a lot of people see as weak and ineffective. Whether that’s fair or not, that’s how she’s perceived. And you have a mayor who is seen as weakened by the death of a thousand cuts with these little scandals that keep coming,” said Laura Curran, the former Nassau County executive who was ousted by a Republican in 2021. “So who’s the standard bearer of the Democratic brand in New York state? I don’t know.”

Most New York Democrats are looking to House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer – both of whom remain popular and powerful – for guidance.

Chris Coffey, the New York-based CEO and partner of Tusk Strategies, said anxious Democrats should watch them closely in the coming days and weeks.

“Hakeem Jeffries is singularly focused, or at least has been until this debate, on winning back some of the swing districts that New York Dems lost in 2022,” Coffey said. “If Hakeem Jeffries and Chuck Schumer are really anxious enough that they think they’re lost in the swing districts, my guess is they would then put some pressure on the president to drop out.”

Both Schumer and Jeffries have publicly backed Biden, but, as leaders of their conferences with significant down-ballot concerns, have tried to steer clear of thornier questions.

“Over the last few days, the members of the House Democratic Caucus have had conversations that are candid, constructive and clear-eyed about the path forward, which primarily includes doing everything we can to make sure that we take back the majority in November of this year,” Jeffries told reporters on Wednesday on his way into a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus.

Asked if Biden is the best candidate for the job, Jeffries said his position had not changed.

“My conversations right now are focused on the caucus,” he said, “and making sure that everyone has an opportunity to be heard.”

Jeffries has told Democrats in meetings this week, including on Wednesday morning, that he is going to relay the concerns he is hearing from lawmakers to Biden, two sources familiar told CNN.

Jay Jacobs, the chairman of the New York Democratic Party, offered a rosier picture – at least in his state.

“We need support and we’re getting it in key congressional races that are competitive. So we’re getting that attention, finally. They haven’t had that support,” Jacobs said. “We feel good about it.”

But he did warn that the ongoing drama over Biden’s fate could, on its own, hamper Democrats in swing districts.

“The longer we keep the focus on this issue and away from Trump and the Republican extremists, the more difficult a campaign this is,” Jacobs said.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Annie Grayer and Manu Raju contributed to this report.

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