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Democrats discuss Biden’s fitness as 7th lawmaker calls on him to quit race



Democrats discuss Biden’s fitness as 7th lawmaker calls on him to quit race

Democratic Party lawmakers have met privately to discuss United States President Joe Biden’s crisis-stricken re-election bid as questions continue to swirl around the president’s physical and mental fitness.

The closed-door talks on Tuesday highlighted ongoing divisions within the party over Biden’s electability following his disastrous debate performance last month against Republican challenger Donald Trump.

Addressing reporters before and after the meeting, prominent Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, reiterated their support for Biden.

“I’m with Joe,” Schumer said repeatedly in response to questions about Biden’s fitness for office.

“We’re riding with Biden,” Jim Clyburn of South Carolina told reporters.

While the talks appeared to put paid to the possibility of a mass revolt against Biden’s candidacy, at least for now, they failed to present a united front.

Dick Durbin of Illinois said it “still remains to be seen” whether Biden would stay on the ticket.

Asked whether Democrats were all on the same page, Steve Cohen of Tennessee said: “We’re not even in the same book.”

Hours after the talks, Mikie Sherrill, a Democratic representative from New Jersey, became the seventh elected Democrat to publicly call on Biden to drop out of the race.

“I know that President Biden and his team have been true public servants and have put the country and the best interests of democracy first and foremost in their considerations,” Sherrill said in a statement.

“And because I know President Biden cares deeply about the future of our country, I am asking that he declare that he won’t run for re-election and will help lead us through a process toward a new nominee.”

While stopping short of calling on Biden to step aside, Lori Trahan, a House representative for Massachusetts, also added her voice to those expressing concerns about his ability to beat Trump.

“While President Biden has made clear he feels 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,” Trahan said in a statement.

“A second Trump presidency will do irreparable damage to women and to our country, and President Biden must act with urgency to restore Americans’ confidence so we win in November.”

Biden, 81, has scrambled to shore up support within his party since his faltering debate performance on January 27 reignited longstanding concerns about his age and health.

On Monday, Biden said in a letter to Congressional Democrats that is “firmly committed to staying in this race, to running this race to the end, and to beating Donald Trump”.

“I have heard the concerns that people have – their good faith fears and worries about what is at stake in this election,” Biden said.

“I can respond to all this by saying clearly and unequivocally: I wouldn’t be running again if I did not absolutely believe I was the best person to beat Donald Trump in 2024.”

Biden faces a tough road to re-election, with recent opinion polls suggesting Trump is in the lead both nationally and in battleground states that will decide the outcome.

On Tuesday, the non-partisan Cook Political Report switched Arizona, Georgia and Nevada from “toss-up” to “lean Republican”.

In a Reuters/Ipsos poll released last week, 59 percent of registered Democratic voters said Biden is too old for office, while one in three said he should quit the race.

If Biden were to step aside, it would cast the race into uncharted territory.

The US presidential primary season, when party members typically vote for their preferred candidate, has already ended, although the party’s candidate will not be finalised until the Democratic National Convention next month.

Since Biden won nearly all of the party’s delegates, it is unlikely that he could be forced to step aside against his will.

Vice President Kamala Harris has been widely tipped as the most likely replacement for Biden if he were to drop out, although she has not fared much better against Trump in the polls.

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