Biden thwarts Democratic defection by insisting he won’t withdraw from 2024 race

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden’s insistence that he is the Democratic presidential nominee and will not be dropped from the race appears to have stopped the public Democratic defection, at least for now.

While he is certainly not out of the woods, and many Democrats privately and publicly lament his inability to beat Donald Trump this fall, Biden appears to have stopped the bleeding as he and his allies work to shore up support for his embattled presidential campaign.

“If the opposition is not united,” said one Democrat in the House of Representatives, “that is to Biden’s advantage.”

During a closed-door meeting of House Democrats on Tuesday, only a handful of Democrats privately raised concerns about Biden’s age and ability to win in November, sources in the room said. That small group of defectors included Reps. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., Mike Quigley, D-Ill., and Mark Takano, D-Calif., the sources said, who had already publicly or privately called for Biden to step aside.

In a narrow victory for Biden, longtime Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the powerful Judiciary Committee, left the meeting looking resigned to Biden’s top ticket. In a private conversation with fellow committee leaders two days earlier, Nadler had called on Biden to step aside, sources said.

“Whether I have concerns or not is irrelevant,” Nadler told reporters Tuesday. “He’s going to be our nominee and we should all support him.”

A day earlier, Biden told lawmakers in a public letter and private phone calls that he was not giving up the race after his disastrous debate performance late last month. The vast majority of lawmakers gathered Tuesday morning at the Democratic National Committee headquarters said Biden is the party’s nominee and that now is the time for Democratic officials to get behind him.

There is “overwhelming consensus that Biden has decided to stay in the race and we must rally behind him,” a House Democrat and Biden ally said as he left the meeting. “Those who have concerns should raise them privately because the fait accompli is Biden’s nominee.”

Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., has publicly supported Biden’s continued nominee, but three sources in the meeting said Jeffries “respectfully listened” to all sides in the chamber and did not try to persuade them.

However, as he opened the meeting, Jeffries rebuked members for leaking details of Sunday’s private Zoom meeting between Democratic committee leaders, two sources confirmed. Jeffries pointed a finger, saying he didn’t want any leaks from Tuesday’s meeting.

To prevent leaks, lawmakers were told to leave their phones and smartwatches at the door. And Jeffries’ warning explains why many of the normally talkative Democrats leaving the meeting remained tight-lipped.

“I’m not going to quote anybody,” said Quigley, a Biden critic who has stressed that leadership is keen to keep the family conversations secret. “I don’t want to be excommunicated. I’m already off the Christmas card list.”

Quigley later told MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell, “I’m behind the Democratic nominee no matter how we move forward.”

Even pro-Biden lawmakers declined to say much as they left the meeting. “We’re riding with Biden,” said longtime Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., a Black Caucus member credited with helping Biden win the 2020 presidential primary.

As Biden and his allies hold firm, some Democrats fear the president is one gaffe or misstep away from political catastrophe.

One lawmaker described the mood on the floor about Biden as “shaky,” adding: “People fear he’s declining and worry that the age issue will overshadow everything the rest of the way to the presidency.”

And several Democrats said their constituents at home are raising serious concerns about Biden’s health and ability to defeat Trump. After Tuesday’s rally, Rep. Lori Trahan, D-Mass., a former Biden supporter, issued a tough statement saying the president needs to do much more to show her and voters he’s still up for the job.

“[S]“After the debate, I met fellow Biden voters in Massachusetts who are really concerned about the president’s ability to beat Donald Trump. I share those concerns,” said Trahan, who is on Jeffries’ leadership team and helps run the party’s messaging.

“While President Biden has made it clear that he believes he is the best candidate to win this election, nothing that has happened over the past 12 days suggests that voters see things the same way.”

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