As New Campaign Implores Him to ‘Pass the Torch,’ Biden Rejects Calls to Drop Out 

“I don’t think anybody’s more qualified to be president or win this race than me,” the incumbent declared in a televised interview.

Jake Johnson

Jul 06, 2024

This article originally appeared in Common Dreams.

U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday delivered a defiant response to those within the Democratic Party urging him to drop out of the 2024 race, characterizing his abysmal debate performance against Donald Trump as a “bad episode” rather than validation of longstanding concerns about his age and cognitive health

At a rally in Wisconsin and in a later sit-down interview with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos, Biden acknowledged his poor debate showing but said emphatically that he’s staying in the race, a message that came as Democratic activists and organizers launched a campaign imploring the president to step aside in the interest of ensuring Trump’s defeat in November. 

“I don’t think anybody’s more qualified to be president or win this race than me,” Biden declared Friday, downplaying recent polling data showing him faring worse against Trump than potential Democratic alternatives, including Vice President Kamala Harris

Asked how he would feel if he stayed in the race and Trump—a would-be authoritarian who’s plotting a devastating attack on basic freedoms and the planet—won another four years in the White House, Biden suggested he would be at peace “as long as I gave it my all.” 

“That’s what this is all about,” the president said.

Hours before the ABC News interview, a network of Democratic organizers, activists, and voters teamed up to launch the “Pass the Torch” campaign in a coordinated attempt to push Biden to “make good” on his 2020 pledge to be a “transition” president.

“President Joe Biden has achieved great things. His administration led us out of the pandemic and has been rebuilding our economy, standing up to corporate greed, taking urgent climate action, and so much more—domestically, he is arguably the most accomplished progressive Democratic president in generations,” the campaign’s website states. 

“All of that—and much, much more—will be lost if Donald Trump takes back the presidency,” the website continues. “Democrats need the strongest possible ticket to maximize our chances of winning in November. It has become very clear, based on both long-term polling and the recent debate, that Democrats’ current ticket is not the strongest one we can put forward.” 

The campaign includes a petition urging Democratic members of Congress and delegates to the Democratic National Convention (DNC) to join calls for the president to step aside. 

Thus far, five sitting Democratic lawmakers—Reps. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), and Angie Craig (D-Minn.)—have urged Biden to drop out of the race, but more are expected to do so in the coming days as the party’s August convention approaches.

The Washington Postreported Friday that Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) is “attempting to assemble a group of Democratic senators to ask President Biden to exit the presidential race.” Earlier in the week, Reutersreported that “there are 25 Democratic members of the House of Representatives preparing to call for Biden to step aside if he seems shaky in coming days.” 

Major Democratic donors, meanwhile, have “undertaken a number of initiatives to pressure” Biden to drop out of the race, according toThe New York Times

“A group of them is working to raise as much as $100 million for a sort of escrow fund, called the Next Generation PAC, that would be used to support a replacement candidate,” the Times reported. “If Mr. Biden does not step aside, the money could be used to help down-ballot candidates, according to people close to the effort.” 

But Biden still has the support of top congressional Democrats, with both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) backing the president in the wake of the debate. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the upper chamber’s leading progressive, has also declined to join calls for Biden to end his reelection bid. 

“He’s not a great debater, he’s not necessarily a great speaker,” Sanders toldSemafor. “People are just gonna have to say: Okay, you know what? Yeah, he’s old. Yeah, he’s not as articulate as he should be. But you’re voting for somebody whose policies will impact your life.” 

“Biden is the candidate,” the senator added. “I suspect he will be the candidate. I’ll do my best to get him elected.” 

House progressives, too, have thus far not backed the push for Biden to drop out and pave the way for an alternative candidate. 

“There has been not a peep from the Squad or the other members of Congress known for barnstorming progressive activism,” Slate‘s Alexander Sammon noted Saturday. “The reason is that the question of whether Biden should run again is an internecine fight within the centrist wing of the party. Joe Biden has, for his lengthy, decadeslong career, always been the man in the middle, if not slightly to the right, of the Democratic continuum.” 

“Now many of the same centrists who previously pushed for Biden are freaking out about his ability to win the election,” Sammon wrote. “There’s no real upside for Squad members to put themselves in the line of fire during an already bitter public deliberation.” 

The Timesreported late Friday that Biden’s interview with Stephanopoulos appears to have done little to change the minds of people on either side of the question. 

“A handful of current and former Democratic officials who had called on Mr. Biden to end his reelection campaign said the interview had done little, or even nothing, to address their concerns,” the Times observed. “Reliable supporters of the president’s reelection campaign similarly fanned out to television networks, declaring once more that they were sticking with Mr. Biden.” 

“Other Democrats who had raised concerns about the president’s performance, but had not gone as far as to call for Mr. Biden to drop out, said the interview did not significantly change their views of his candidacy,” the newspaper continued. 

Doggett, who was the first congressional Democrat to urge Biden to step aside, toldCNN following Biden’s Friday interview that “the need for him to step aside is more urgent tonight than when I first called for it on Tuesday.” 

The Texas Democrat warned that “every day he delays” dropping out “makes it more difficult for a new person to come on board who can defeat Donald Trump.” 

Biden, Doggett added, “does not want his legacy to be that he’s the one who turned our country over to a tyrant.” 

^^^

This story has been updated to include additional House Democrats who have called on Biden to step aside.

This article originally appeared in Common Dreams.

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