Michael Bennet: First Democratic Senator Questions Biden’s Candidacy

The top Democratic senator has publicly questioned President Joe Biden’s chances of being elected after seven members of Congress spoke out urging the 81-year-old to step aside.

Sen. Michael Bennet told CNN he expected the president to lose to Donald Trump in a “win,” but stopped short of saying he should end his candidacy.

Questions have been raised about Biden’s fitness for office after his troubled performance during the presidential debate against Trump late last month.

The president is confident he can defeat his opponent and continues to draw support from key allies after Democrats in Congress met Tuesday to debate his leadership.

  • Author, James FitzGerald
  • Role, BBC news

The US president is in the spotlight even more this week as he hosts a gathering of world leaders for a NATO military summit, where the issue of aid to Ukraine will come up for discussion.

He is expected to face intense international criticism when he holds a press conference at the meeting in Washington on Thursday afternoon.

In a brief conversation with reporters after Tuesday’s congressional deliberations, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer reiterated the message: “I stand with Joe.”

Others have stressed the importance of party solidarity. Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s World Tonight programme, Hank Johnson, a congressman from Georgia, said it was time to “break the circular firing squad” around Mr Biden.

Mr. Johnson is a member of the influential Congressional Black Caucus. While he acknowledged that Mr. Biden had a “terrible” debate with Trump, he said that the overwhelming majority of voters of color wanted him as their candidate.

The faction, a group of about 60 lawmakers, reportedly expressed its support for the president during a telephone conversation on Monday.

On Tuesday, Biden delivered a short but rambling speech to open the NATO summit, declaring the alliance “more powerful than ever.” Observers said he struck a markedly different tone from his clumsy performance in the June 27 debate.

Video caption, Watch: US President Joe Biden speaks at NATO summit

But elsewhere, discontent is still seeping through.

After congressional Democrats ended their closed-door meetings, some chose to speak to reporters, praising Biden’s record in the White House or talking about the unity of Democrats.

But that same day, a seventh Democrat in the House of Representatives, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, publicly called on Biden not to seek re-election, saying the stakes were “too high.”

She joined other dissidents in Congress, including Adam Smith, who told the BBC earlier this week that the party needed to nominate a “stronger messenger”.

In his remarks to CNN, Mr. Bennet said the question of whether to continue in the race was “something for the president to consider.” But he said Trump was “on track, I think, to win this election and perhaps by a landslide.”

The Colorado Democrat presented the issue as “a moral issue about the future of our country.”

According to CNN, two other senators believe Biden cannot retake the White House, though neither has publicly left the ranks.

That same day, George Stephanopoulos, a former Democratic operative who is now an ABC News anchor and interviewed Biden last week, said he doesn’t think the president “can serve another four years.”

TMZ captured audio of Mr. Stephanopoulos making the comment to a passerby.

Although Mr Stephanopoulos did not retract his comment, he later acknowledged that he should not have made it.

Biden is also reportedly facing doubts from diplomats visiting Washington for the NATO meeting, with one of them speaking anonymously to Reuters that they could not imagine Biden staying in office for another four years.

As the debate continues — and the White House faces questions about its approach to releasing information about Biden’s health — speculation grows over who would replace Biden if he decides to step down.

Vice President Kamala Harris is gaining some high-profile supporters, despite her continued vocal support for the president. At a rally in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Ms. Harris insisted her boss was a “fighter.”

Biden himself has challenged his skeptics to challenge him or get behind his candidacy, though he himself has admitted he made the “mistake” in the Trump debate.

His performance in the head-to-head matchups was ridiculed by his rival, who claimed that Ms. Harris would be a “better” competitor for the White House.

But in his final comments on the matter, Trump said he expects his opponent to stay in the race: “He has an ego and he doesn’t want to give up.”

Video caption, Biden is still the answer for many Democratic lawmakers

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