WASHINGTON: Democratic U.S. lawmakers huddled behind closed doors on Tuesday amid mounting fears about their prospects in the Nov. 5 election, after President Joe Biden defiantly rejected calls by some in the party to end his campaign.

A half-dozen House of Representatives Democrats have publicly called for the 81-year-old incumbent to step aside and allow someone else to face Republican Donald Trump, and several more have voiced concerns about Biden’s chances after a halting debate performance raised fresh questions about his ability to mount a successful campaign - and to keep up with a grueling job for another 4-1/2 years.

“He just has to step down. He can’t win,“ U.S. Representative Mike Quigley, one of the six lawmakers who have urged Biden to end his campaign, said on his way into the meeting of Democratic House members on Tuesday. “My colleagues need to recognize that.”

But numerous others said they would not abandon their president.

“I think he is our best hope to make sure Donald Trump does not get back into office,“ U.S. Representative Shri Thanedar told reporters.

The deepening intraparty rift has sent the Biden campaign scrambling to contain further defections. The president told MSNBC on Monday by phone that he was “not going anywhere,“ a message he repeated to donors on a private call later in the day, according to two sources on the call.

Biden also spoke with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, whose backing may help shore up his campaign given the importance of Black voters to the party’s base. The caucus chairman, Representative Steve Horsford, said on Monday that he still supported Biden as the nominee.

But even senior lawmakers supporting Biden said he needed to do more to assuage concerns among voters about his capabilities.

“We need to see a much more forceful and energetic candidate on the campaign trail in the very near future,“ Democratic Senator Patty Murray, chair of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement on Monday night, adding that Biden “must seriously consider the best way to preserve his incredible legacy.”

Biden was hosting a gathering of NATO leaders in Washington on Tuesday, giving him an opportunity to demonstrate he can still serve as a global leader, while Vice President Kamala Harris - seen as the most likely candidate to replace Biden if he were to stand down - was headed to campaign in Nevada, one of a handful of battleground states that may decide the election.

Trump, who said during a Fox News appearance on Monday that he expected Biden to remain in the race, will hold a rally in Florida on Tuesday ahead of next week’s Republican National Convention.

Biden has vowed to persevere, arguing that Trump, 78, poses a unique threat to democracy. Trump, who repeated multiple falsehoods during the debate, has falsely claimed that his 2020 loss was the result of fraud and has not committed to accepting this year’s results if he loses.

Democratic lawmakers, particularly in the House, also worry that Biden’s struggles could damage their chances of capturing a majority in that chamber, which could serve as Democrats’ sole bulwark against Trump should he prevail. Republicans currently hold a 220-213 majority in the House.


Democrats face a far tougher path to protect their 51-49 Senate majority, as they are defending multiple seats in Republican-leaning states.

Democratic Senator Michael Bennet said he wants Democrats to unite on a campaign strategy by week’s end - whether Biden remains on the ticket or not.

“What I hope to see is, over the course of this week, our coming together on the kind of compelling and successful path forward that the American people need,“ he told reporters on Monday.

Former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, when asked on Monday whether Democrats should stick with Biden, said, “People should be prayerful, thoughtful. And the decision is the president’s. It’s not the caucus’s.”

A Reuters/Ipsos poll last week found that one in three registered Democratic voters believed that Biden should quit the race, with 59% saying he is too old to work in government.

However, the poll also found that none of his possible replacements fared better in a matchup against Trump. The poll showed Biden and Trump tied at 40% each.

“I hope he continues to reach out to voters the way that we saw him this weekend, talking to them unscripted,“ said Democratic Senator Ben Ray Lujan. “The more that he does that, I think the more support that we’re going to see across the country.”