As Biden digs in, another elected Democrat calls on him to withdraw from the race

President Biden has made it clear in words and actions that he has no intention of exiting the presidential race quickly or quietly without a long and public fight.

There were signs on Saturday that the fighting was intensifying.

Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.), who is in a competitive race and is among the most threatened Democrats, called on Biden to withdraw from the race Saturday morning, saying “there is a small window left to make sure we have a candidate who is best equipped to make the case and win.”

“Given what I saw and heard from the President at last week’s debate in Atlanta, coupled with the President’s own lack of a forceful response following that debate, I do not believe the President can campaign effectively and win against Donald Trump,” she said in a statement.

Former Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat who endorsed Biden early in the 2020 primaries, said the struggles of the past week made it necessary for Biden to withdraw from the race. “With him, we lose. With the courage to pass the torch, we win,” he said in an interview Saturday.

The decisions were a reflection of the series of meetings and decisions that took place this weekend, with the party bracing for a turbulent few days amid a growing impasse between the president and his party over a path forward. Biden has been supported by his family — particularly first lady Jill Biden and son Hunter — who are adamant that he will not allow party leaders to knock him out of the race. Outside his inner circle, however, many Democrats watching contested races at all levels of the ballot were growing nervous.

Craig is the fifth Democrat in Congress to call on Biden to resign, while another 13 members of Congress and governors have expressed concerns about his ongoing policies, according to a Washington Post tally.

While Biden’s aides were heavily criticized on Saturday, they also sought to explain why they had posed questions to a radio host during an interview earlier in the week.

Biden’s campaign rushed to organize two campaign events in Pennsylvania on Sunday, while House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) scheduled a Sunday phone call with top Democrats in the lower chamber of Congress. Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), who has been a top Biden ally, canceled his scheduled appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Saturday, the network announced.

President Biden spoke to ABC News on July 5 about the 2024 campaign, a week after his debate with former President Donald Trump. (Video: JM Rieger/ABC News)

With congressional Democrats returning to Washington next week for the first time since Biden’s shaky debate performance, and the president hosting a NATO summit and planning a solo press conference, the coming days are expected to be emotional and potentially combative as lawmakers weigh whether to make public previously private conversations about Biden’s standing as nominee.

“My advice would be [Biden] “He really needs to meet with us in the Democratic caucus in the House, meet with senators, when we come back next week,” Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) said Saturday on Fox News. “It’s going to be tough to win this election unless he has the full support of his elected officials.”

Shumlin, a three-term governor and former chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, said that while he believes Biden may be one of the best presidents in modern history, he is appalled by what he has seen over the past week.

“Joe ran because he knew Donald Trump was a threat to our democracy,” he said in an interview. “The way he beats him a second time is by accepting his aging, accepting the changes that are happening — which are happening to all of us — and passing the torch to new leaders.”

He said his views had changed because of the debate, and that he saw it as clear evidence of the toll the job was taking and simply getting older. He was surprised that more Democratic leaders weren’t speaking out.

“This is Joe Biden’s decision,” he said. “But the couragelessness of the leadership of the Democratic Party, both elected and unelected, with their shameful series of evasions, ditherings and embroilments must stop immediately. It is time to tell the truth.”

Biden tried to use a battleground-state rally and a prime-time television interview on Friday to assuage concerns about his candidacy. Some of his allies and those inside his campaign were reassured by the performance and did not feel that his interview answers, or his delivery of them, would change their thinking about the future.

But part of Biden’s defiance throughout the day risked more nervous lawmakers going public with their concerns. In the interview, he dismissed all polls that showed him losing to Trump (“All the pollsters I talk to tell me it’s a toss-up”) or that showed his approval rating at 36 percent (“That’s not what our polls show”) and insisted he had no firsthand knowledge of any Democratic discontent (“They all told me to stay in the race … nobody told me to leave.”)

When asked how he would feel if he stayed in the race and Trump won, he replied, “I’ll feel that way as long as I gave it my all and did the best job I can, that’s what matters.”

Yet at a time when Biden is under scrutiny and trying to demonstrate his mental agility, one of the radio hosts who interviewed the president earlier this week said the questions she asked were “sent to me for approval” by Biden’s advisers.

The host, Andrea Lawful-Sanders of Philadelphia’s WURD station, appeared on CNN with another radio host, Earl Ingram of Milwaukee. Both interviewed Biden after his June 27 debate. CNN host Victor Blackwell noted that both interviews contained similar questions and asked Lawful-Sanders if the questions had been presented to her in advance.

“The questions were sent to me for approval. I approved them,” Lawful-Sanders said, adding that she received eight suggested questions and chose four to ask.

In a follow-up email, she said, “I never felt pressured to ask certain questions” and that she chose the questions she felt “were most important to the Black and Brown communities we serve in … Philadelphia.”

Ingram also said he was given questions to ask. He told ABC News, “Yes, I was given a number of questions for Biden.”

The White House referred questions to the campaign, with campaign spokeswoman Lauren Hitt saying that “it is not at all unusual for interviewees to share topics they would rather discuss.”

“These questions were relevant to the news of the day — the president was asked about his performance in the debate and what he meant to black Americans,” she said. “We do not condition interviews on accepting these questions, and hosts are always free to ask whatever questions they think will best inform their listeners.”

She also pointed to instances in which Trump has canceled interviews when hosts wouldn’t agree to ask questions, including last week at Norfolk TV station WVEC.

A person familiar with the campaign’s booking operations, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal procedures, said they would stop offering suggested questions in the future.

The president spent much of Saturday at his home in Wilmington, Del., but he did participate in a biweekly meeting of his campaign co-chairs. The meeting included several high-level allies, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.), Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Clyburn.

Later in the day, Biden, who said Friday night that only “the Lord Almighty” could convince him to drop out of the race, arrived at St. Joseph’s on the Brandywine for the Catholic Mass he attends most Saturdays. He later emerged with his sister Val, who gave the president a kiss on the cheek as they parted.

Biden is now scheduled to do two campaign events on Sunday, one in Philadelphia and one in Harrisburg, according to a White House schedule. Those events came after he canceled an appearance at the National Education Association conference in Philadelphia after union workers set up picket lines.

He plans to return to the White House on Sunday evening ahead of the NATO summit in Washington, where he will hold a rare solo press conference on Thursday.

Jeffries’ decision to hold a call with top Democrats came before Biden’s rally in Wisconsin and the ABC interview that aired Friday night. But it was the unrest among members that prompted Jeffries to move up a weekly meeting that normally takes place on Wednesdays when the chamber is in session and hold it on Sunday instead.

Vice President Harris was in New Orleans on Saturday, speaking at the Essence Festival of Culture and setting the stakes of the election by addressing threats to Trump’s election. She was not asked about Biden’s debate performance, nor did she address it during her remarks.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) vigorously defended Biden before Harris took the stage, pushing back against critics who say he is too old to be president and those who have called for him to drop out. “I don’t care what anyone says — it won’t be another Democratic nominee,” Waters said. “It will be Biden.”

Biden and his advisers have frequently dismissed calls to withdraw from the race, pointing out that the harshest words have come from people who have made similar statements before.

Julián Castro, a former Housing and Urban Development secretary in the Obama administration who ran in the 2020 primaries and raised concerns at the time, said Friday night on MSNBC that Biden “is basically in denial” about “the decline that people can clearly see.”

Former Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan, who also ran in the 2020 Democratic primary and previously called on Biden to withdraw from the race, said Friday that the interview with the president “made no difference at all.”

“I don’t think he energized anyone. I think at some level he was out of touch with the reality on the ground,” he said. “I’m concerned.”

Allies who had long defended him supported him.

“President Biden has made remarkable progress for the American people, and he plans to do even more in his next term,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) wrote on X. “I can’t wait to help him continue the fight against Trump and win in November.”

Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) posted on X that “Democrats need to get a backbone” and that “Joe Biden is our man.”

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) was positive, but also said Biden needed to do more.

“Biden did very well in the 22-minute interview with Stephanopoulos,” he wrote on X. “But most of the questions were about Biden’s capabilities. We need a full-blown live interview that focuses on where Biden wants to take us in the next 4 years.”

Sherman also called on Biden to give a longer live interview on Friday before the full ABC News interview aired, even as he acknowledged that Biden “could very well give us another four great years.”

“I think we need to test Biden further,” Sherman said on CNN.

Marianna Sotomayor and Azi Paybarah in Washington and Holly Bailey in New Orleans contributed to this report.

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