Nancy Pelosi and George Clooney deliver new blows to Biden re-election bid

Joe Biden’s quest to keep his re-election bid alive suffered twin blows on Wednesday as Nancy Pelosi, the veteran Democratic lawmaker, said he had a “decision” to make about his future and actor George Clooney said he needed to be replaced as the party’s presidential candidate.

The interventions by Pelosi and Clooney, who hosted a huge fundraiser for Biden last month in California, were significant setbacks for the president as he tried to prevent an all-out rebellion against his candidacy in the wake of a disastrous debate performance against Donald Trump last month.

“It’s up to the president to decide if he is going to run. We’re all encouraging him to make that decision because time is running short,” said Pelosi, the former Speaker of the House and one of the party’s most influential members of Congress, during an MSNBC interview.

Biden told Democrats this week that he was determined to carry on with the re-election campaign, and secured the backing of a number of powerful lawmakers inside the party.

However, Pelosi’s equivocal comments suggested there was still deep unease among rank-and-file Democrats about whether he should remain in the presidential race. Pelosi, who is 84, has been one of Biden’s staunchest supporters but her comments fell short of a full endorsement.

A few more Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday called outright for Biden to withdraw, including Peter Welch, a senator from Vermont, and House members Pat Ryan of New York and Earl Blumenauer from Oregon.

Welch was the first Democratic senator to call for Biden’s exit from the race. “We cannot unsee President Biden’s disastrous debate performance. We cannot ignore or dismiss the valid questions raised since that night,” he wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post.

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Clooney dropped his backing for Biden’s re-election bid separately in an opinion piece for The New York Times. Clooney wrote that he loved Biden but “the one battle he cannot win is the fight against time”.

He added: “None of us can. It’s devastating to say it, but the Joe Biden I was with three weeks ago at the fundraiser was not the Joe ‘big F-ing deal’ Biden of 2010. He wasn’t even the Joe Biden of 2020. He was the same man we all witnessed at the debate.”

Richard Blumenthal, a Democratic senator from Connecticut, added to the pressure on the president, saying that he was “deeply concerned about Joe Biden winning this November because it is an existential threat to the country if Donald Trump wins. I think that we have to reach a conclusion as soon as possible.”

Senate Democrats were due to meet with Jen O’Malley Dillon, the chair of the Biden campaign, and top White House officials including Mike Donilon and Steve Ricchetti at a gathering over lunch on Thursday, a campaign official said.

Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic leader in the House, said lawmakers would continue to have “candid, comprehensive and clear-eyed conversations” about Biden but said he believed the president could still win in November and the party could recapture control of the lower chamber. But he was expected to relay lawmakers’ concerns to Biden, one congressional aide said.

Republicans are determined to seize on the turmoil among Democrats: James Comer, the Republican chair of the House oversight committee, on Wednesday issued subpoenas to three Biden aides for creating a “protective bubble” around the president to hide his “declining cognitive state”.

Biden is due to hold a press conference on Thursday evening at the end of the Nato summit he is hosting in Washington this week, before heading to Michigan on Friday for a campaign rally.

On MSNBC Pelosi pleaded for Democrats to stop airing their grievances in public until after the Nato summit in Washington. “Let him deal with this Nato conference . . . whatever you’re thinking — either tell someone privately, but you don’t have to put that out on the table until we see how we go this week,” she said.

One of the most blistering indictments of Biden’s continued campaign was delivered on CNN on Tuesday night by Michael Bennet, the Democratic senator from Colorado, warning that Trump could win in a “landslide”.

“I’m sure President Biden has a different view of his prospects in this election than I do. But we should be having a discussion about that,” Bennet said. “And the White House in the time since that disastrous debate I think has done nothing to really demonstrate that they have a plan to win this election.”

According to the FiveThirtyEight national polling average, Trump leads Biden by 2.1 percentage points, whereas Biden had a tiny lead heading into the debate at the end of June. Trump also has an edge in the battleground states that will decide the election in November.

In a sign of the deepening anxiety among Democrats around the outcome of the November poll, Ritchie Torres, a New York Democrat, on social media warned that “there must be a serious reckoning with the down-ballot effect of whomever we nominate. What matters is not how we feel but what the numbers tell us”.

Meanwhile, Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s former communications director, said the campaign needed to show it could still win the race. “If they have data that supports the path to victory that they see, they should put it out there now and help people who badly want to beat Trump rally around it. People want to see the path,” she wrote on X.

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