Sen. Peter Welch

Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) speaks during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on July 20, 2023.

(Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

Urging Biden to Step Aside, Sen. Peter Welch Warns 'Peril to Democrats Is Escalating'

"Trump is a felon. He is a pathological liar. He is a menace," wrote the Vermont senator. "But the national conversation is focused on President Biden's age and capacity. Only he can change it."

Peter Welch of Vermont on Wednesday became the first U.S. senator to urge President Joe Biden to drop his 2024 reelection bid, adding his name to a small but growing list of Democratic lawmakers who have publicly expressed the view that their party's best chance of defeating Donald Trump in November is with a different candidate at the top of the ticket.

"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 in an op-ed for The Washington Post. "MAGA Republicans, meanwhile, have clearly stated their plans for a second Trump term, laying out an extremist agenda with their Project 2025. But the national conversation is focused on President Biden's age and capacity. Only he can change it."

Welch pointed to post-debate polling trends indicating that Biden's performance and continued presence on the ticket could harm down-ballot Democratic candidates and jeopardize the party's hopes of keeping both chambers of Congress out of Republican hands.

"The latest data makes it clear that the political peril to Democrats is escalating. States that were once strongholds are now leaning Republican. These new shifts—in Minnesota, New Hampshire, Nevada, Arizona, and Georgia—must be taken seriously, not denied or ignored," the senator wrote. "The good news is that President Biden has united the party and created a deep bench that can defeat Trump."

"Vice President [Kamala] Harris is a capable, proven leader, and we have other electable, young, energizing Democratic governors and senators in swing states," Welch continued. "Not only do these leaders have experience running and winning in tough political environments, they also have fundraising networks, media experience, charisma, and the ability to inspire voters across generations and across our big tent."

"We have asked President Biden to do so much for so many for so long," he added. "It has required unmatched selflessness and courage. We need him to put us first, as he has done before. I urge him to do it now."

Welch joins nine Democratic lawmakers in the House who have called on Biden to end his reelection campaign following his disastrous debate with Trump, the twice-impeached former president and presumptive Republican nominee.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) on Wednesday became the ninth House Democrat to urge Biden to drop out of the 2024 race, saying in a statement that "this is not just about extending his presidency but protecting democracy."

"It is a painful and difficult conclusion," said Blumenauer, "but there is no question in my mind that we will all be better served if the president steps aside as the Democratic nominee and manages a transition under his terms."

Biden has thus far been adamant that he has no intention of dropping out of the race, and many Democrats—including progressive lawmakers who have at times been sharply critical of his presidency—have stood by the incumbent.

According to a running New York Timestally, Democratic lawmakers and officials who have publicly expressed support for Biden easily outnumber those who have urged him to step aside.

"I support him and I am focused on making sure we win in November," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y) said earlier this week, a sentiment echoed by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).

"He's been the best president of my lifetime, and we have his back," said Omar, the deputy chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Vermont's other senator, Bernie Sanders, has also declined to join those urging Biden to step aside, even as he has criticized the president for failing to articulate a positive progressive agenda.

"I think he's done better since [the debate], and I think he's gotta do better again," Sanders said in a television interview Sunday. "He has gotta say, 'I am prepared to take on corporate greed, massive income and wealth inequality, and stand with the working class of this country.'"

A Washington Post-ABC News-Ipsos poll released Thursday morning shows that 56% of Democratic voters and 70% of Independents believe Biden should end his reelection campaign. The survey also shows that Biden and Trump are "in a dead heat in the contest for the popular vote, with both candidates receiving 46% support among registered voters," the Post noted, numbers that are "nearly identical to the results of an ABC-Ipsos poll in April."

Amid the growing chorus of high-level and grassroots demands for Biden to drop out—and with just over a month to go before the Democratic convention in Chicago—some have raised concerns about the viability of the alternative path should the president ultimately agree to step aside.

"Democrats could be left with a deeply divided party, with different factions fighting over the nomination," political writer Susan Milligan warned in The New Republic on Wednesday. "Even if the party quickly coalesced around Harris, they'd have less than three months to sell the public on her—all while Trump, whose campaign has already dubbed her Biden's 'Cackling Co-pilot,' taps latent and not-so-latent sexism and racism to weaken her. The media would offer an assist with new rounds of vetting overshadowing Trump's own erratic behavior and lies."

"And Biden's cognitive state? It would still be an issue Republicans would use against her," Milligan argued. "Even if he is not on the ticket."

This story has been updated to include new survey data.

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