Democratic Congressman Lloyd Doggett calls on Biden to withdraw from presidential race – The Texas Tribune

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Democratic Congressman Lloyd Doggett calls on Biden to withdraw from presidential race – The Texas Tribune

Doggett, 77, is the first Democratic member of Congress to call for Biden to withdraw from the ticket since his debate.
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WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, called on President Joe Biden to step down as his party’s nominee for the White House on Tuesday citing the president’s poor performance at a debate against former President Donald Trump last week.
“President Biden has continued to run substantially behind Democratic senators in key states and in most polls has trailed Donald Trump,” Doggett said in a statement Tuesday. “I had hoped that the debate would provide some momentum to change that. It did not. Instead of reassuring voters, the President failed to effectively defend his many accomplishments and expose Trump’s many lies.”
Doggett, 77, is the first Democratic member of Congress to call for Biden to withdraw from the ticket since his debate. U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minnesota, ran a challenge against Biden in the Democratic primaries but has stayed muted since the debate.
Shortly after his statement, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro joined Doggett in calling for Biden to withdraw. Castro ran against Biden in the 2020 Democratic primaries and was quick to criticize his debate performance last week.
“I believe that there are stronger options out there for Democrats. We have a stable of folks who could do a better job, including Vice President [Kamala] Harris,” Castro said Tuesday on MSNBC, after Doggett issued his call. “It’s too risky to let Donald Trump walk into this in November.”
Doggett said in a phone interview that he’d warned the White House on Friday of his decision and had expressed his dismay to House Democratic leadership Friday as well. He confirmed to House leadership Tuesday that he was issuing his statement beforehand but did not seek advice, approval or edits.
“There are many people who would like to make a statement like this but are concerned about, among other things, doing anything that might make it even more difficult for President Biden,” Doggett said in the interview.
Biden’s performance during last Thursday’s debate alarmed Democrats in Texas, who are facing a number of competitive races down ticket, including for U.S. Senate. Still, Democrats across the party’s big tent have largely stopped short of calling for his withdrawal, either rallying behind the president or keeping their lips sealed.
“I respect Rep. Doggett’s position but it is one I do not share,” U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, said in a statement. “I am supporting Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and will work hard to get them reelected.”
U.S. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, D-Houston, also issued a statement after Doggett quickly backing Biden.
“The 2024 election presents a choice between two very different visions for our future: President Biden’s vision that moves America forward for all of the American people, or President Trump’s vision that reverses our progress, denies our freedom, and divides our country. It’s clear which candidate is best for America and Americans,” she said.
U.S. Rep. Al Green, D-Houston, asserted that one debate shouldn’t derail the campaign and that he was “still ridin’ with Joe Biden.” Green cited Biden’s work appointing the first Black woman vice president and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, as well as his work on infrastructure, climate and health care in the first two years of his presidency.
U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, pointed out that Doggett himself is of advanced age, though Doggett hasn’t shown any signs of slowed performance recently.
“I find it ironic,” Gonzalez said in a text message. “We have a 77-year-old asking an 81-year-old not to run. I really believe folks are jumping the gun.”
Though Biden was unlikely to win the solidly Republican Texas, his performance could impact down ballot races in the state if disenchanted Democrats choose to stay home on Election Day. U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, D-Dallas, is running to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, this year in one of Democrats’ few flip targets for U.S. Senate. Democrats are hoping to unseat U.S. Rep. Monica De La Cruz, R-McAllen, in the 15th Congressional District and are on the defensive for Gonzalez’s seat in the 34th district and Rep. Henry Cuellar’s seat in the 28th district — both in South Texas.
Allred, Cuellar and Michelle Vallejo, the Democratic candidate in the 15th district, have so far kept quiet on Biden’s debate performance. Gonzalez said voters”in my district know me well” independent of the president.
“The cowards in the Democratic Caucus have spent every day after the debate in witness protection, too afraid to say what they’re all thinking,” said Jack Pandol, communications director of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “Americans remember House Democrats were complicit in covering up and gaslighting the public about the president’s condition, and voters are primed to punish them in November.”
Doggett is a historic fixture in Texas Democratic politics. He shares the title of longest serving member of Congress from Texas with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and represents a comfortably Democratic seat based in Austin. He has been in Congress since 1995. He previously served in the Texas Senate and state Supreme Court.
Doggett is a longtime progressive, serving as a deputy whip in the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He has gone against Biden on policy in the past, threatening to vote against the president’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act because it did not close the Medicaid coverage gap and called for a ceasefire in Gaza. Still, he has loyally backed the president and party leadership up to this point.
In his statement, Doggett thanked Biden for his service, saying he had “achieved much for our country at home and abroad,” including the post-pandemic recovery and restoring administrative norms after the Trump presidency. But he said Biden does not have the best chance of challenging Trump among the party, expressing an urgency among Democrats to take on a former president they say would be detrimental to the country’s democracy.
“I represent the heart of a congressional district once represented by Lyndon Johnson. Under very different circumstances, he made the painful decision to withdraw. President Biden should do the same,” Doggett said in his statement. “While much of his work has been transformational, he pledged to be transitional.”
If Biden were to bow out, Democrats would have to pick a new candidate at their national convention in Chicago this August. Johnson’s withdrawal in 1968 was followed by bedlam at that year’s Democratic National Convention, also in Chicago. Vice President Herbert Humphrey won the nomination that year following the assassination of leading candidate Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. Humphrey lost handedly to Republican Richard Nixon.
Doggett, who was 21 during the 1968 convention, said he was not concerned this year’s DNC would fall into chaos as it did that year. He plans to attend this year’s convention as one of Texas’ delegates.
“If anything, while it creates many political uncertainties, we’re more likely to have a peaceful but very vocal and active convention than otherwise,” Doggett said.
He did not offer any names for alternative presidential candidates, though he said vaguely that several people in the party could make a viable run, including governors, senators and Vice President Kamala Harris.
“I’m not making this statement in order to pick or advance the efforts of any one candidate, but only because of my great concern about the threat to our democracy of Donald Trump, and that we simply can’t risk doing anything other than having our best candidate,” Doggett said.
Numerous Democrats have been floated as potential successors, including Harris, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. None have openly thrown their name into the ring.
Biden does not appear interested in an open convention and has so far stood firm that he is the best candidate to beat Trump. Since the debate, he and his surrogates have met with donors and Democratic elected officials to quell nerves and keep the money flowing to his campaign. He took to the rally stage in North Carolina the day after the debate to acknowledge his shortcomings but reassure voters.
“I don’t walk as easily as I used to. I don’t speak as smoothly as I used to. I don’t debate as well as I used to. But I know what I do know. I know how to tell the truth,” he said.
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