Sen. Mark Warner is working to rally Senate Democrats to ask Biden to withdraw from the race

Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) is trying to assemble a group of Democratic senators to ask President Biden to withdraw from the presidential race, according to two people with direct knowledge of the effort.

Warner is telling Democratic senators that Biden can no longer stay in the race after his shaky debate performance, according to the people familiar with the private conversations, who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak freely. Warner has told others he is deeply concerned that Biden cannot run a campaign that can beat former President Donald Trump.

Warner spokeswoman Rachel Cohen would neither confirm nor deny that the senator believes Biden should withdraw from the race. Instead, she issued a statement saying, “Like many people in Washington and across the country, Senator Warner believes these are pivotal days for the president’s campaign, and he has made that clear to the White House.”

On Friday afternoon, Biden claimed from Wisconsin that he “will beat Donald Trump.”

“I will not allow one 90-minute debate to undo three and a half years of work. I will stay in the race,” he said.

Biden told reporters that he had spoken to at least 20 members of Congress and that they were all telling him to “stay in the race.” When asked about Warner’s concerns, Biden said he was the “only one” pushing him to step aside. “Nobody else is urging me to do it,” he said.

Various tactics are being discussed as increasingly concerned senators consider the best way to communicate their concerns to the president.

One option being considered is a White House meeting between senators and Biden. Even if some senators don’t want Biden to step down, proponents of the meeting say they can use the forum to air candid concerns in person. While no sitting Democratic senators have publicly called for Biden to step aside, they have privately shared their growing concerns with each other over the past week as they fight an already uphill battle to retain their Senate majority.

As chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Warner is seen as a serious voice who privately advocates for the president’s removal. He represents a state that Democrats must win in November to maintain their hold on the White House.

There is a growing consensus among senatorial Democrats that the situation with Biden at the top of the ticket is untenable, and senators are trying to figure out how best to get that message across to an isolated president. Some senators don’t believe Biden has the people around him who can give him an accurate sense of the consequences, according to a Democratic senator and a senior Democratic adviser.

Still, many senators are holding off. Many want to see how Biden performs in his interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Friday night and at his rally in Wisconsin before committing to such a drastic step.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has told senators to wait to take action until there are more polls on where Biden and Democrats stand, according to two people familiar with the conversations. Polls are unlikely to be reliable until later this month because of the July Fourth holiday and the bump Republicans are expected to get from their national convention, some Democrats have argued.

Warner has not publicly commented on Biden’s performance during the debate, even as many of his colleagues initially expressed support while privately worrying about the fallout.

“The bottom line is that Joe Biden is our president. He’s a patriotic American. He’s done a good job. He’s put others first, not himself,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Warner’s co-senator who is running for reelection this fall, said at a recent campaign rally, according to a report in the Progress Index newspaper. “He had one race that was an existential race in 2020, and he had to win it. He’s built a great record as president.”

If Warner’s group were to come together, it would represent a major change in how Democrats approach the question of whether Biden can remain in the fight against Trump.

In August 1974, three Republican congressional leaders went to the White House to inform President Richard M. Nixon that he no longer had enough support to survive impeachment over the Watergate scandal. Nixon resigned two days later.

In this case, Democratic senators, many of whom know and like Biden personally, are concerned about Biden’s future and prospects after his performance during the debate raised questions about his mental acuity and health.

“I think there’s a sense among many that the current path is not sustainable for him,” said one Democratic senator, describing the general mood of the caucus. “Not just because of the debate, but because of how well he’s going to perform going forward. He clearly needs to show strength now.”

Senators have been in their home states since the debate, but have been communicating by phone, voicing their concerns and trying to find a way forward. Schumer has publicly endorsed Biden.

According to these people, Warner is now ready to plead his case.

The former Virginia governor and ex-businessman has occasionally criticized the Biden administration in the past for its decision to promote content on TikTok and its handling of an investigation into classified documents. In 2023, he was one of eight Democrats who wrote a letter urging Biden to increase funding for securing the southern border.

Warner has often been a moderate dealmaker in the Senate, including helping negotiate the 2021 infrastructure bill.

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