Peter Welch becomes first Senate Democrat to call on Biden to withdraw from presidential race

Washington — Sen. Peter Welch of Vermont on Wednesday became the first Senate Democrat to publicly call for President Biden to end his reelection bid. 

“We cannot unsee President Biden’s disastrous debate performance. We cannot ignore or dismiss the valid questions raised since that night,” Welch wrote in an op-ed published by the Washington Post. “For the good of the country, I’m calling on President Biden to withdraw from the race.” 

Welch urged Mr. Biden to reassess whether he is the best candidate to beat former President Donald Trump, adding that the growing concerns about his age and ability to do the job have shifted focus away from Trump’s flaws. 

“Trump is a felon. He is a pathological liar. He is a menace. And he is sure to be emboldened by his activist Supreme Court, which granted him near total immunity,” Welch wrote. “But the national conversation is focused on President Biden’s age and capacity. Only he can change it.” 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, reaffirmed his support for Mr. Biden on Wednesday night. 

Lawmakers Continue Work On Capitol Hill
Sen. Peter Welch is questioned by reporters as he departs the Senate floor following a vote on July 9, 2024, in Washington, D.C.

Anna Rose Layden/Getty Images


“As I have made clear repeatedly publicly and privately, I support President Biden and remain committed to ensuring Donald Trump is defeated in November,” Schumer said in a statement after Welch’s piece was posted. 

Doubts about the 81-year-old president’s capacity have swirled since his debate flub nearly two weeks ago. Mr. Biden has blamed the poor performance on being tired and having a cold. 

Mr. Biden has remained firm that he’s staying in the race, while a number of Democrats in Congress have offered tepid support for his continued candidacy. Nearly a dozen House Democrats have publicly called for him to step aside, though Senate Democrats other than Welch have not gone as far. However, Democrats who have publicly called on Mr. Biden to withdraw say there are many more in the party who agree with them behind closed doors. 

Those who have stopped short of calling for the president to end his candidacy have expressed doubt about whether he can beat Trump. Before Welch’s plea, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado gave the most critical public assessment of Mr. Biden by a Senate Democrat in the aftermath of the debate. 

“Donald 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 said on CNN, adding that the White House has “done nothing” post-debate to demonstrate a plan to win the election. 

Mr. Biden faces two big tests in the coming days as he tries to calm the alarm within his party. 

The president will hold a rare solo news conference — his first since November — on Thursday to conclude the NATO summit in Washington, D.C. Then on Monday, NBC’s Lester Holt will interview Mr. Biden. The network said the interview would air in its entirety during primetime. 

Another misstep by Mr. Biden in either appearance could further erode his support. 

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