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Joe Biden
Alex Brandon/AP

Dems Want Biden to Make a Decision. Biden Says He Has. Dems Say Not That One.

“Think of this as political post-traumatic stress,” Rep. Mike Quigley said. “It takes a while for people to process it all.”

Alex Brandon/AP

The first two days of the week, President Joe Biden seemed like he had put to rest many of the questions about whether he would remain the presidential nominee. But a funny thing happened on Wednesday: Democrats kept asking.

Unsatisfied with his answer that he intended to remain atop the ticket, Biden was shivved from all sorts of directions on Wednesday, a potential signal that Democrats intend to keep bloodying the president until he’s too weak and has no choice but to drop out.

Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi stuck him in the morning, lightly suggesting he should reevaluate his decision.

Actor — and top Democratic donor — George Clooney penned a stinging New York Times op-ed urging the president to withdraw his campaign.

Sen. Peter Welch became the first Democratic senator to explicitly call on Biden to end his campaign. “We cannot unsee President Biden’s disastrous debate performance,” he wrote in a Washington Post op-ed. “We cannot ignore or dismiss the valid questions raised since that night.”

Even if there wasn’t a deluge of new lawmakers coming out against Biden, the drip of opposition — with Democrats like vulnerable Rep. Pat Ryan of New York and retiring Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon becoming the eighth and ninth House Democrats to call for Biden to drop out of the race — was its own torture.

But the real betrayal took place anonymously, as has become customary over the last two weeks.

“It’s pretty wild when Biden loyalists and the Heritage Foundation are circulating the same narratives about how hard it would be for Dems to replace Biden at the top of the ticket, including specious claims that there would be litigation to stop Dems from nominating anyone other than Biden,” one House Democrat texted NOTUS. “I wonder why Heritage wants to keep Biden in the race?”

The angst from Democrats was palpable in Congress on Wednesday. Warning signs about Biden’s abilities — signs that Democrats have ignored for months and even years — suddenly began making their way into dispatches from Capitol Hill.

The Democrat who texted NOTUS about the Biden campaign glomming onto the same ballot narratives as the ultraconservative Heritage Foundation also shared that it was “getting really conspicuous” to lawmakers that the president wasn’t making the case himself about why he should remain the nominee.

“Dems are not going to be placated by sending top campaign advisers instead of Biden himself,” this House Democrat said. “It’s actually another insult and another indication that Biden is either unwilling or unable to subject himself to any serious conversation that doesn’t involve reading from notes or a teleprompter.”

“At our Democratic caucus issues conference a few months ago, everything was tightly controlled and scripted — to the point of designated members reading a few preapproved questions from cue cards for POTUS instead of the unscripted Q&A we’ve always had in years past,” this Democrat continued. “Something has changed, and his handlers know it.”

Frontline Rep. Jared Golden, who has repeatedly made the case that Biden can’t win, told NOTUS that the concerns about Biden aren’t just because of the effect he might have on vulnerable Democrats: It’s because of the reflection of the party — and country — in the eyes of the American people.

“It’s about every individual’s credibility, the credibility of the party,” Golden said.

He added that Democrats were telling voters “whether or not we believe that the president is physically and mentally able to be able to do this job for another four more years,” with the clear implication that Democrats needed to tell the truth about Biden’s abilities.

If those are harsh words, don’t expect Golden to face repercussions from his Democratic colleagues.

Rep. Mike Quigley — one of the first Democratic lawmakers to call for Biden’s withdrawal — told NOTUS that the anti-Biden attitudes in his caucus are so pervasive that he hasn’t received any backlash at all from Democrats.

“I wouldn’t take one day as determinative,” Quigley said about feelings that the dam was holding for Biden after the caucus meeting Tuesday.

“Think of this as political post-traumatic stress,” he continued. “It takes a while for people to process it all.”

Although it seemed like House Democrats were increasingly coming together Tuesday, a senior Democratic aide told NOTUS that Pelosi’s comments Wednesday morning reinvigorated the behind-the-scenes plotting.

“People feel empowered by Pelosi whether she intended for that or not,” the aide said. “Biden and the WH can scare people into being quiet, but that’s just breeding more resentment towards him.”

Top Biden supporters acknowledge there’s a problem, even if they don’t lay blame on Biden directly.

Rep. Glenn Ivey, who has been resolute in his support for Biden’s campaign, suggested the unflinching media scrutiny on the president has prolonged the conversation about whether Biden will remain in the race.

“It can’t just continue to be the debate about the debate anymore,” Ivey said.

Democratic leadership has still not tipped its hand about a path forward. But the need for such extensive internal discussion surely signals significant internal dissent.

Asked about Biden, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries reiterated that Democrats were “having conversations with each other that have been candid, clear-eyed and comprehensive in nature.”

“And those are going to continue,” Jeffries said.

Biden and the White House would just as soon everyone shut up about the problems. But at this point, with so many conversations continuing, it’s inevitable that the president will have to seriously reckon with the issues that haven’t been addressed.

And Biden supporters are starting to sound more complex, more conditional, in their support.

Even the powerful Congressional Black Caucus — a stalwart organization of Biden’s backing — had begun to show cracks in the president’s defense.

One member of the CBC told NOTUS Wednesday night that because the organization has always prided itself on speaking as “one voice,” there’s a lot of pressure to be a part of that one voice.

“But I know how people feel and I know what people come up to me and say,” this CBC member said.

Riley Rogerson and Reese Gorman are reporters at NOTUS. Tinashe Chingarande and Calen Razor, who are NOTUS reporters and Allbritton Journalism Institute fellows, contributed to this report.