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As Biden campaigns in Pennsylvania, some House Democratic leaders say he should back off

HARRISBURG, Pa.: President Joe Biden urged supporters to remain united during a series of Sunday stops in critical Pennsylvania on Sunday, even as some top Democrats in Congress privately suggested it was time for him to abandon his re-election bid amid mounting questions about whether it is suitable for another date.
Addressing a rousing service before the sun-drenched stained-glass windows of Philadelphia’s Mount Airy Church of God in Christ, Biden, 81, joked, “I know I look 40,” but “I’ve been doing it for a long time. time.”
“I, honest to God, have never been more optimistic about the future of America if we stick together,” he said.
There and during a subsequent rally with union members in Harrisburg, Biden gave brief speeches that touched on familiar themes. But he also left plenty of room for key supporters to discuss standing by him. In this way, the Pennsylvania swing seemed more interested in showing support for the president from key political parties than proving that he still had four more years.
But his party remains deeply divided.
As Congress prepares to resume this week, House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries convened the committee’s top lawmakers Sunday afternoon to gauge their views. Several Democratic caucus leaders, including Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut and Rep. Mark Takano of California, said privately that Biden should back down, according to two people familiar with the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity for the discussion. .
But other top Democrats, including members of the influential Congressional Black Caucus, have been equally adamant that Biden remains the party’s choice. The conversation was wide-ranging and committee leaders shared different views on the situation, but there was no consensus on what should be done, the people said.
Biden made personal calls to lawmakers over the weekend. He also joined the call to campaign representatives and reiterated that he does not plan to leave the race. Instead, the president has pledged to campaign harder and stepped up his political travels, according to two people who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.
One of the Democrats the president spoke with, Sen. Alex Padilla of California, said he and others were pushing the Biden campaign to “let Joe be Joe, get him out.”
“I absolutely believe we can turn this around,” Padilla told The Associated Press.
Meanwhile, a person familiar with Sen. Mark Warner’s thinking said there would be no meeting on Monday to discuss Biden’s future, as previously discussed, and that those discussions would take place at Tuesday’s regular caucus with all Democratic senators. The person said the private meeting was no longer possible after it was disclosed that the Virginia Democrat was reaching out to senators about Biden and that various conversations between the senators were continuing.
Five other different Democratic lawmakers had already publicly called on Biden to drop out of the re-election campaign before November. The face-to-face meeting this week means more chances for lawmakers to discuss concerns about Biden’s ability to last the remaining four months of the campaign — let alone four more years in the White House — and the realistic prospect of defeating presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.
Biden’s campaign team also called and texted lawmakers to try to head off more potential defections, increasingly asking high-profile Biden supporters to speak on his behalf.
However, calls for bowing appeared from different sides.
Alan Clendenin, a Tampa City Council member and member of the Democratic National Committee, called on Biden on Sunday to “step down and allow Vice President Kamala Harris to continue his agenda as our Democratic nominee.” Director Rob Reiner, who has helped organize lavish Hollywood fundraisers for Biden in the past, posted on X: “It’s time for Joe Biden to step down.”
The Democratic convention is fast approaching, and Biden’s interview with ABC on Friday did not convince some who remain skeptical.
Democratic fundraiser Barry Goodman, a Michigan lawyer, said he supported Biden but would throw his support to Harris if he dropped out. That’s notable because Goodman was also the finance co-chairman for both statewide campaigns of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who was also mentioned as a top alternative.
“We don’t have much time,” Goodman said. “I don’t think the president will leave. But if so, I think it would be Kamala.’
There was no such suggestion at Mount Airy, where Pastor Louis Felton likened the president to Joseph and the biblical story of his “coat of many colors.” In it, Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt by his jealous brothers, only to eventually gain a high position in Pharaoh’s kingdom, and his brothers begged him for help without initially recognizing him.
“Never count Joseph out,” Felton pleaded. Then, referring to Democrats who have called on Biden to back down, he added: “It’s happening, Mr. President. People envy you. Jealous of your clinginess, jealous of your favor. They glowed at God’s hand on your life.”
Felton also led a prayer in which he said, “Our president is discouraged. But today, through your holy spirit, renew his mind, renew his spirit, renew his body.”
After the service, Biden visited a campaign office in Philadelphia, where Sen. John Fetterman, a Pennsylvania Democrat who won a tough race in 2022 while recovering from a stroke, made a strong endorsement.
“There’s only one guy who’s ever beaten Trump,” Fetterman said. “And he’ll do it twice and put him down for good.
Later, as the president exited Air Force One in Harrisburg, he was asked if the Democratic Party was behind him, and he answered emphatically, “Yes.”
He was joined at a union event by Rep. Madeleine Dean, also a Democrat from Pennsylvania, who said that “democracy is on the line. There’s one man who gets it, and that’s Joe Biden.”
Isabel Afonso, who saw Biden speak in Harrisburg, said she was concerned after seeing the president’s performance in the debate, but she doesn’t think he should drop out of the race and that he can still win. “I know he is old, but I know that if something happens to him, he will be replaced by a sensible person,” said 63-year-old Afonso.
At the same event, James Johnson, 73, said he knows what it’s like to forget things as he gets older, but called Biden a “fighter.” He said replacing the president at the top of the Democratic field would only cause confusion.
“I’m talking about lifelong Democrats and people who have been in the Democratic Party for a long time,” Johnson said. “That’s why they might decide to jump ship.”
But others aren’t entirely convinced.
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut told CNN that Biden “needs to answer the questions that voters have,” adding, “If he does that this week, I think he’ll be in a very good position.”
Biden refused to undergo independent cognitive testing, arguing that the daily demands of the presidency were sufficient proof of his mental acuity. California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff told NBC on Sunday that he would be “happy if both the president and Donald Trump took a cognitive test.”
As some Democrats have done, Schiff also took a dig at Biden, who suggested during an ABC interview that losing to Trump would be acceptable “as long as I give it my all.”
“It’s not just about whether he did his best in college,” Schiff said, “but more about whether he made the right decision to run or pass the torch.”

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