Biden Makes Pitch in Pennsylvania as Pressure Rises in Party

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden faces a fresh round of hazards from members of his own party as he seeks to salvage his embattled reelection bid and fend off calls from Democratic lawmakers to step aside.

Most Read from Bloomberg

Biden, 81, remains defiant that he will continue his White House run against Donald Trump, despite a firestorm of concerns over his age and mental acuity sparked by his debate performance more than a week ago. But frank discussions scheduled among elected Democrats, including a meeting of House members on Sunday afternoon, may pose new risks to the president’s political future.

Key Democrats who spoke on Sunday talk shows praised Biden as president but were clear that his future as a candidate is far from certain.

“Joe Biden is going to need to consider, for his own sake and his own legacy, can he beat Donald Trump?” Representative Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, said on NBC’s Meet the Press.

Schiff also acknowledged there are concerns that Biden could be a drag on Democrats running for House and Senate races.

“This week is going to be absolutely critical,” Senator Chris Murphy said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union. “The president needs to do more.”

Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, said Biden needs more “impromptu” and “unscripted” interactions with voters to convince them that he is up for four more years in the White House.

“If he can’t do that, then you know, of course, he’s going to have to make a decision about what’s best for the country and what’s best for the party,” Murphy said.

House and Senate lawmakers return to the Capitol Monday, the first time they’ll be together in person since the June 27 debate. That could trigger a new wave of calls from lawmakers urging Biden to step aside or reevaluate his candidacy. Five House Democrats have already called on Biden to end his campaign.

Biden, who said in an ABC News interview Friday he would only step down if the “Lord Almighty” compelled him to, is ramping up campaign activities. The president traveled to Pennsylvania on Sunday with stops at the Mount Airy Church of God in Christ, a Black congregation in Philadelphia, to meet with a key bloc of voters who helped revive his 2020 presidential bid. He will then travel to Harrisburg to a community event.

“Folks, I know with every fiber of my being, I know I don’t look like I’m 40 years old,” Biden joked at the church. “All kidding aside, you know I’ve been doing this a long time, and honest to God, I’ve never been more optimistic about America’s future.”

Congress Confers

Concurrent with Biden’s campaign events, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries has scheduled a rare virtual Sunday meeting for Democrats before lawmakers return to Washington on Monday. Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, is also planning to hold talks this coming week to discuss whether to call on Biden to drop out.

Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who challenged Biden for the Democratic nomination in 2020, said he remained committed to the president.

“This is not a beauty contest,” Sanders said on CBS’ Face the Nation. “ It is a contest for who stands with the vast majority of the people in this country.”

“That candidate is obviously Joe Biden,” Sanders said.

Pressure is mounting on Biden and his team, and any sign of the president’s age interfering with his ability to do the job could be costly. Biden on Saturday spoke with key campaign advisors, including Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Delaware Senator Chris Coons, Representative Jim Clyburn of South Carolina and Jeffrey Katzenberg, a liaison between the campaign and major donors, about the path forward.

New Polling

Several Biden campaign aides shared the latest Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll of swing-state voters on social media, which showed the president with his best showing against Trump since the survey was first conducted in October, but still trailing Trump by two percentage points.

The swing-state poll shows Biden trailing the most in Pennsylvania, where he was born, down by seven points.

Biden will face another tough audience this coming week when he will host NATO leaders starting Tuesday at a summit in Washington. Foreign leaders and diplomats have been among some of the most vocal in expressing concern over his age and health. That event will also bring the scrutiny of a high-pressure press conference, putting Biden yet again in the spotlight.

--With assistance from Amanda Gordon.

(Updates with Biden in Philadelphia starting in 10th graph.)

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.