As Democrats worry about Biden, Murphy says he must address voters’ concerns

Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, said Sunday that President Biden’s first televised interview since his disastrous debate performance failed to assuage deep concerns about his age and mental acuity. He said the president still has work to do to convince voters he is qualified to run and win.

“Voters certainly have questions,” Murphy said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

He added: “I personally love Joe Biden, and I don’t know if the interview on Friday night did enough to answer those questions. This week is going to be absolutely crucial. I think the president needs to do more.”

Mr Murphy said he would urge Mr Biden to “hold a town hall, hold a press conference – and show the country that he is still the old Joe Biden.”

He avoided a direct answer when asked whether Biden should step aside, saying, “I know there are a lot of voters who need to be convinced that Thursday night’s debates were a bad night.”

Mr. Murphy’s carefully calibrated comments were among the first public alarm bells from Senate Democrats, who have been largely silent since the debate more than a week ago but have grown increasingly concerned about Mr. Biden’s ability to serve as the party’s nominee. It came as Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the minority leader, was scheduled to convene top House Democrats later on Sunday to discuss Mr. Biden’s candidacy, and at a time when a handful from within his ranks have already publicly called for the president to step aside.

Mr. Murphy’s comments reflect where many Democratic senators find themselves as they return to Washington for a critical week: They want to give Mr. Biden some room to prove himself, or leave the race on his own terms, before explicitly calling on him to do so. But they are also aware that there may be no way at this point to prove to voters that he is not too old for the task of defeating former President Donald J. Trump.

Mr. Murphy said he believed Mr. Biden could still beat Mr. Trump. But he added, “the president has to answer the questions that voters have.” Mr. Murphy repeatedly insisted during the interview that Mr. Biden needed to prove himself “this week” in “unscripted” conversations with voters.

“They need to see more from the president, and I hope we see that this week,” he said.

The senator’s message also appeared intended to warn the president and those around him that the defiant stance in response to real questions about Mr. Biden’s candidacy cannot last. The president has denied calls from some Democrats to step aside and has said that only divine intervention could convince him to withdraw from the race.

“There are still questions,” Mr. Murphy said. “The clock is ticking.”

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island last week publicly expressed concern about how candid the campaign had been about Mr. Biden’s condition, but he stopped short of calling on him to step aside. And Senator Peter Welch of Vermont warned of a “fierce undercurrent” for Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives and Senate if the Democratic presidential nominee loses badly in November.

Sen. Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, is also preparing to convene Democratic senators this week to discuss a path forward and their concerns about Biden remaining the nominee. Warner has privately expressed dismay over the president’s debate performance and doubts that he can stay in the race and be re-elected.

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