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  /  News   /  Democrats fret Biden problems could haunt them until convention

Democrats fret Biden problems could haunt them until convention

Senate Democrats worry that the turmoil over President Biden will haunt them until the convention in August, making for a painful 40 days and weakening the party going into the fall.

Even as they’ve resigned themselves to the reality that Biden will likely remain atop the ticket, they fear a slow drip of polls, possible gaffes and intraparty turmoil will keep the spotlight on Biden’s age and off former President Trump until Democrats meet in Chicago.

“The age issue just isn’t going to go away. Each day is a day older,” Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said hours before he became the first Senate Democrat to call on Biden to withdraw from the race. “Sooner is better than later to have this resolved.”

Biden’s attempt to keep his grip on the party took some of its biggest hits to date on Wednesday when former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) indicated that his political future is still an open question despite his repeated vows that he isn’t going anywhere, and Welch broke the wall of Senate Democratic support for Biden by calling on him to drop out. 

That came a day after Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.) became the first Senate Democrat to publicly voice the belief that Biden will lose in November and could prompt a “landslide” that could cost the party full control of Congress in the process. 

But it’s the daily drip-by-drip revelations from key Democrats that are proving painful for Biden and the party, with fears that the tumult could last for the foreseeable future.

“It ain’t helpful,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said. “It’s human nature.”

“It’s Shark Week on Discovery Channel, and here on the Hill,” he added with a laugh. 

That has pushed Biden’s team even further into damage control with the party’s members, particularly in the upper chamber where lawmakers have been clamoring for more action from him and his campaign. 

Three of Biden’s top advisers are set to brief the Senate Democratic Conference Thursday on Capitol Hill — a move that is welcome, but is not enough in the eyes of some party members.

“I’m looking forward to that conversation. We should have had it 10 days ago,” Bennet told reporters. 

Others indicated that they’d prefer to hear from Biden directly — something that has yet to happen in the two weeks since that fateful night in Atlanta.  

“I think he is making his case and addressing concerns and allaying some of the doubts that have been raised by the colleagues here,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said. “It’s important for him to address a variety of audiences.”

Biden’s push to reassure voters that his mental acuity and well-being should not be an issue is set to come up in big ways in the coming days. On Thursday, Biden is scheduled to hold a solo press conference as part of the NATO summit that is being held in downtown Washington — a rarity during his presidency. 

That is set to be followed on Monday by an interview with “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt that will be aired in its entirety. It’s also the second such interview in less than two weeks after he sat down with ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos on Friday.  

But Democrats are skeptical that events of this kind will do much to stem the bleeding. 

“You’re focusing on a single event because that’s the one that‘s coming up. And then there’ll be another event next week and you’ll focus on that,” Welch said. “What it suggests is this question of age and capacity simply won’t go away.” 

The intense focus on Capitol Hill has also appeared to fluster Democrats who have been forced to answer days-worth of questions about Biden’s future. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) blamed the news media for its continued focus on the issue.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), one of Biden’s top congressional emissaries, laid bare his frustrations during a back-and-forth with reporters outside the Senate chamber and accused them of not asking about Trump’s “demonstrative unfitness” since the debate. 

Some indicated they are heartened that the focus will shift to the GOP side next week when the Republican National Convention kicks off in Milwaukee, likely taking some of the spotlight with it.

“This isn’t just an inside-the-beltway conversation. This is a conversation voters are having,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said, pointing to there being a limit to what they can do so long as Biden holds his current posture. “I don’t have control over what voters are talking about. Next week, the voters might be very concerned about the severe right-wing direction of the Republican Party and their convention that’s going to endorse an overthrow of democracy.”

Trump is also set to announce his vice presidential selection, a move that has been speculated about for months. But whether that and the convention will dislodge questions about Biden is an open question. 

“There are short and long news cycles. This is going to be a long one,” Murphy said. “But there will be another news cycle at some point.”