First Democratic lawmaker calls on Biden to drop out after debate

Washington — Rep. Lloyd Doggett became the first Democratic lawmaker to call on President Biden to drop out of the presidential race in the wake of his debate performance last week, with Doggett saying on Tuesday that he is “hopeful that he will make the painful and difficult decision to withdraw.”

“While much of his work has been transformational, he pledged to be transitional,” the Texas Democrat said in a statement. “He has the opportunity to encourage a new generation of leaders from whom a nominee can be chosen to unite our country through an open, democratic process.”

The Biden campaign has made clear that the president will not drop out of the race. And a campaign spokesperson reiterated to CBS News after Doggett’s statement that the president will “absolutely not” step aside.

Doggett’s comments come amid growing concerns among elected Democrats about the president’s ability to win November’s election, with a handful of members of the party leaving the door open for a possible replacement.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, June 5, 2024.
Rep. Lloyd Doggett at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, June 5, 2024.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Although the bulk of elected Democrats have continued to back the president following a disastrous debate performance — pointing to the president’s record while insisting that the president simply had a bad night — subtle cracks have emerged in recent days among a handful of elected officials, with suggestions that Mr. Biden may be unfit for another term.  

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, acknowledged the concerns about the president’s debate performance in an interview with CBS affiliate WPRI on Monday, saying he was “horrified” by the debate, while noting that it could be the boost the Biden campaign needs to “make a more compelling case against Donald Trump.”

“I think people want to make sure that this is a campaign that’s ready to go and win, that the president and his team are being candid with us about his condition — that this was a real anomaly and not just the way he is these days,” Whitehouse said.

Then Rep. Mike Quigley, an Illinois Democrat, said on CNN Tuesday morning that there is a “decision” that the president will have to make, signaling an openness to a new name atop the ticket while stopping short of calling for Mr. Biden to drop out of the race. 

“His decision not only impacts who’s going to serve in the White House the next four years, but who’s going to serve in the Senate, who’s going to serve in the House, and it will have implications for decades to come,” Quigley said, adding that “it has to be” the president’s decision.

Quigley said “we have to be honest with ourselves that it wasn’t just a horrible night,” but he declined to go further, citing his respect for the president who he said has “served us extraordinarily well for 50 years.” 

Rep. Angie Craig, a Minnesota Democrat, told reporters on Tuesday that “the president himself has to be the one to step aside if anything else proceeds forward,” adding that she’s been in touch with his campaign and has outlined what she needs to see from the president. 

“I need to see him out everywhere talking unscripted, no teleprompter, and he needs to make sure that the American people have confidence in his ability to run for reelection,” she said. “And so that’s where I am.”

Craig said she’s talking with a number of her colleagues in Congress about the issue, but made clear that “we need to let the president think about whether he wants to continue moving forward.”

Sen. Peter Welch, a Vermont Democrat, pointed his frustration at the Biden campaign, telling Semafor on Monday that he criticizes the campaign for “a dismissive attitude towards people who are raising questions for discussion.”

Welch said it’s a discussion the party has to have, while arguing that the campaign’s dismissiveness over the concerts are “inappropriate.”

Meanwhile, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said on Monday that he will continue to support the president “so long as he continues to be in the race.”

Mr. Biden is set to hold a meeting with Democratic governors on Wednesday, CBS News has learned, after the outreach to reassure elected officials following the debate has primarily been from the president’s aides and advisers.

Nikole Killion, Scott MacFarlane, Nancy Cordes, Aaron Navarro and Patrick McGuire contributed reporting.

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