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Patty Murray urges Biden to ‘preserve his incredible legacy’ while Adam Smith tells him to drop out

New York Times U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), right, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, with Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Capitol Hill on Dec. 11, 2019, in Washington D.C. On Monday Smith became the first member Washington state’s congressional delegation to publicly call on Biden to withdraw his bid for re-election.  (New York Times)

WASHINGTON – Rep. Adam Smith on Monday called for President Joe Biden to end his re-election bid, becoming the first Washington state member of Congress to join a small but growing number of Democrats publicly advocating for their party to choose a different standard bearer in the wake of a debate performance that raised questions about Biden’s fitness to serve another term in office.

In an interview on CNN, the Bellevue Democrat said Biden has “done a great job” as president but isn’t the best person to lead the party and defeat former President Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee.

“We’ve got a good message,” Smith told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “The president has shown he is not capable of delivering that message in an effective way.”

Later in the day, Sen. Patty Murray, the Senate president pro tempore and a longtime Biden ally, said the president “must do more to demonstrate he can campaign strong enough to beat Donald Trump.”

“I have a deep appreciation and strong respect for Joe, who has led a historic first term as president,” Murray said. “Still, we need to see a much more forceful and energetic candidate on the campaign trail in the very near future in order for him to convince voters he is up to the job. At this critical time for our country, President Biden must seriously consider the best way to preserve his incredible legacy and secure it for the future.”

Sen. Maria Cantwell made no statement on Biden’s candidacy on Monday. Cantwell spokeswoman Ansley Lacitis said the Washington Democrat “is not calling on Biden to step down as the nominee and is reserving her comments” for Senate Democrats’ weekly caucus lunch on Tuesday.

Smith was reportedly one of four senior Democrats who told House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York in a private call on Sunday that Biden should drop out, multiple outlets reported based on unnamed sources. As Congress returned to the Capitol on Monday from its Independence Day recess, other Democrats expressed support for Biden staying in the race.

Rep. Rick Larsen of Everett, another senior Democrat who was on the weekend call with Jeffries and congressional committee leaders, responded in a post on the social media platform X to a story from Politico that said Larsen had voiced concerns about Biden on the call.

“This article left me with the impression that I am a ‘Dump Biden’ person,” Larsen wrote. “Never talked to the reporters. I am on Team Biden and supporting the efforts to make Hakeem Jeffries Speaker. The concerns I expressed were those I heard from other members.”

In a statement Monday, Smith weighed in on the question of what Democrats should do if the president were to leave the race. While Biden could effectively anoint Vice President Kamala Harris and avoid a potentially messy mini-primary to choose his successor, Smith said Biden should end his candidacy and release his delegates to the Democratic National Convention in August, clearing the way for another potential candidate.

“This must happen as soon as possible to give the new ticket the maximum amount of time to make its case to the American people,” Smith said. “Any candidate for the highest office in our nation has a strong burden to bear. That candidate must be able to clearly, articulately, and strongly make his or her case to the American people. It is clear that President Biden is no longer able to meet this burden.”

In an interview Friday with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Biden said only “the Lord Almighty” could stop him from running for another term. In a letter sent to congressional Democrats on Monday , Biden stuck to that defiant tone.

“Now that you have returned from the July 4th recess, I want you to know that despite all the speculation in the press and elsewhere, I am firmly committed to staying in this race, to running this race to the end, and to beating Donald Trump,” Biden wrote. “I wouldn’t be running again if I did not absolutely believe I was the best person to beat Donald Trump in 2024.”

In his statement, Smith agreed that Trump must be defeated, calling the former president’s ideology “an existential threat to our nation.” If Biden remains the Democratic candidate, Smith said he would support him, even as he asserted that Biden staying in the race “would be a mistake.”

When Stephanopoulos asked Biden on Friday how he would feel if he stayed in the race and lost to Trump, the president replied, “I’ll feel as long as I gave it my all and I did the goodest job as I know I can do, that’s what this is about.”

The Biden campaign later asserted that the president had said “good as,” not “goodest,” but the sentiment still rankled Democrats in Congress who believe the race is about more than just the candidate giving it his all.

Democrats have voiced concerns that the public fretting over Biden’s candidacy has drawn attention away from Trump. Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Seattle, who leads the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement Monday that the reporters and pundits who are questioning Biden’s decision to remain in the race should also be asking Republicans why they support Trump, despite his conviction on felony charges and his role in the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.

“It is true that Democrats are having many conversations among our members and our constituents as we consider the best path forward to protect our democracy,” Jayapal said, adding that she is “listening carefully” to Progressive Caucus members from across the country.

Shasti Conrad, chair of the Washington State Democratic Party, released a statement in support of Biden on Monday after she visited the White House over the weekend.

“Millions of voters have spoken across the country, electing Joe Biden as our presidential nominee,” Conrad said. “As president, Biden has ushered in the most robust working families agenda we’ve seen since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal.”

Some Democrats worry that voters’ doubts about Biden could hurt Democrats in local, state and federal races farther down the ballot. In an interview July 2, Conrad suggested that 2024 could see the inverse of the so-called “coattail effect,” where a popular presidential candidate helps down-ballot candidates of the same party.

“I feel really blessed to be here in Washington state, because I think there’s so many incredible races and candidates right here in the state that will help us all the way up to the top of the ticket,” Conrad said. “I’ve been calling this a reverse coattails year. Typically in a presidential year, a lot of that energy would be coming from the top. But I think that it’s Sen. Cantwell and hopefully our next governor, Bob Ferguson, and all of our state legislative races. I think that people get what we have here in the state and they’re excited to vote for Democrats.”

Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, a Democrat who represents a southwest Washington district that Trump won in 2020, was the first Washington lawmaker to publicly raise concerns about Biden after the June 27 debate, when the president spoke in a hoarse, quiet voice and struggled to finish his thoughts or effectively challenge false claims from Trump.

In a July 2 interview with KATU, an ABC affiliate in Portland, Gluesenkamp Perez said she expects Biden to lose the race, stopping short of calling for him to drop out.

“We all saw what we saw, you can’t undo that,” she said. “The truth is, I think Biden is going to lose to Trump.”