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Joe Biden

Joe Biden has made a mess of the Democratic Party

We’re now just short of two weeks since President Joe Biden’s disastrous presidential debate performance in Atlanta. And Biden has succeeded where no other politician has these last few years — making Republicans look both competent and unified.

Biden’s catastrophic showing and the ensuing drama have turned the Democratic Party on Capitol Hill completely upside down.

Democrats spent much of this Congress watching from the sidelines as Republicans tore themselves apart over former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and the return of former President Donald Trump.

The president’s party liked and respected Biden for leading them to a series of big legislative wins over the last few years. There was definitely angst over Biden’s reelection chances, but it was manageable. The brutal war in Gaza and the White House’s failure to find an effective message on immigration and inflation were serious problems. Yet there was a sense that maybe Biden was turning the corner as the summer began and he’d be able to hammer Trump for the rest of the campaign, especially after Trump’s conviction in the New York hush-money case.

That all vanished in 90 minutes on June 27. Rank-and-file Democrats now find themselves caught between a president who says he isn’t going anywhere — and who’s working hard to stamp down dissent — and their own political futures.

Consider this:

In a closed-door Senate Democratic Caucus meeting Tuesday, Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) expressed doubts about Biden’s prospects given the current situation.

Appearing on CNN with Kaitlan Collins Tuesday night, Bennet said Trump “is on track, I think, to win this election and maybe win it by a landslide and take with him the Senate and the House.” Bennet added: “The White House has done nothing since the debate to demonstrate they have a plan to win this election.” Watch the video here.

Senate Democrats were far from united about whether Biden is the best person to defeat Trump. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told us that Biden needs to “continue to aggressively make his case” to his fellow Democratic senators in order to “earn full support.”

New Jersey Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill issued a statement Tuesday afternoon calling on Biden to step aside in favor of another Democratic candidate.

Fellow New Jersey Democratic Rep. Andy Kim — who’s running for Senate — walked right up the line of whether Biden should get out.

“I’m still thinking this through,” Kim told reporters. “What steps can we actually take right now [to replace Biden.] That’s where some of the confusion is. Especially with all the talk of what are the actual deadlines. It’s hard to kind of make a decision without fully understanding that. We need to get a better grasp on it.”

House Democratic leaders met privately with some of their most vulnerable members Tuesday morning. As we reported in our PM edition, the conversation about Biden’s viability was “honest, brutal and intense.” Some members were crying, according to sources with knowledge of the meeting.

Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) still won’t say whether she backs Biden staying on the ticket. Jayapal said she has a sense of where her caucus is but isn’t ready to reveal it. The top progressive in the Senate, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), is sticking with Biden.

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have griped to us that their leaders, Reps. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) and Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), issued a statement expressing support for Biden without the full buy-in from their entire membership. Now other members are complaining that BOLD PAC, the CHC’s political arm, hasn’t issued its endorsement of Biden.

George Stephanopoulos, the ABC News anchor who interviewed Biden last week, said in a TMZ video that he doesn’t think the president can serve for another four years. ABC News later said Stephanopoulos was reflecting his view, not the network’s. Stephanopoulos told Puck’s Dylan Byers he shouldn’t have answered the question.

Biden’s defenders, especially those in the Senate, are fretting that their colleagues criticizing Biden are engaging in a “circular firing squad” that’s not only weakening the president but hurting Democrats down the ballot. This was a central pitch of Biden’s allies during the Senate Democratic lunch.

Some White House officials thought they had turned a corner after the House and Senate Democratic caucus sessions on Tuesday. There was a lot of venting and complaining during those gatherings, but no stampede to dump Biden. The leadership is sticking with Biden. The CBC and CHC largely back the president, which is especially important in the House.

But every new statement or bad poll is another brick pulled from the foundation. Biden is seemingly being undermined by a thousand small cuts from members of his own party.

— Jake Sherman, John Bresnahan, Melanie Zanona and Andrew Desiderio

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