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President Joe Biden speaks about the PACT Act.
President Joe Biden smiles as he greets a crowd before an address. Robert F. Bukaty/AP

House Democrats Increasingly Think Biden Is Going to Survive as the Nominee

It’s not that Biden has convinced Democrats he’s the best choice; it’s that lawmakers feel too uneasy about coming out against the president publicly.

President Joe Biden smiles as he greets a crowd before an address. Robert F. Bukaty/AP

After a chaotic 12 days where Joe Biden’s hold over the presidential nomination seemed to be slipping away, House Democrats increasingly believe his grip on the position is finally getting firmer.

There’s just one catch: It’s not because Biden’s detractors are actually convinced of his ability to beat Donald Trump; it’s because they feel uneasy about voicing their concerns publicly.

A Tuesday morning caucus meeting didn’t do much to sway Democrats that Biden is actually the right choice. But for the Democrats who are privately concerned that the president isn’t up to the task, it was clear that Biden isn’t going anywhere — and that too many Democratic colleagues are going to stick with him to convince the president otherwise.

“We’re riding this horse at this point,” one House Democrat, who is privately opposed to Biden staying in the race, told NOTUS. “And so I’m shifting gears. I’m gonna make my best case that we should pick the old guy against the crazy guy.”

“I think he’s going to survive,” another House Democrat texted NOTUS. “Until the next stumble. And it will be Groundhog Day until November if something doesn’t change.”

Even with the extraordinary lengths Democrats took to ensure there wouldn’t be leaks from the off-site, members-only meeting — Democrats weren’t allowed to bring their cell phones into the Democratic National Committee building — the meeting was still marked by suspicions that certain comments would get out. Members told NOTUS that, even if they wanted to share their private thoughts about the president and the impact he would have on their races, they were inclined not to.

But there were still some notable moments.

At one point, one House Democrat — whose name NOTUS is withholding, at the congresswoman’s request — announced to the caucus that she was pregnant. And she said that being pregnant over the age of 40 means she’s at a higher risk of health complications. She noted she currently lives in a state where she has the power to make certain choices about her health and her child, but — according to three members who relayed the anecdote — she said that, if Trump wins, she may not have that ability.

“It was just super powerful,” one of the members who spoke to NOTUS said. “I think people were very moved by it. But I don’t think it changes the overall dynamic with the Black Caucus.”

The Congressional Black Caucus has emerged as a key defender of Biden in the House. And the president’s ability to lock down support with the powerful CBC has stemmed Biden’s bleeding support. At this point, Democrats told NOTUS, lawmakers know they’re going out on a shaky political limb if they come out publicly against the president.

As much as the CBC is defending Biden, there are some signs that they wouldn’t hate Biden stepping down and anointing Vice President Kamala Harris as the Democratic nominee.

Already, CBC members are staking out the position that if it’s not Biden, then it’s definitely Harris.

“I think the words from Bobby Scott were, ‘If any of you think you’re going to jump over Kamala, then you’re the one who’s senile,’” the Democrat who spoke to NOTUS said.

After the meeting, another CBC member, Rep. Glenn Ivey of Maryland, told reporters there were “a lot of positive comments about the vice president.” But he quickly caveated that ominous statement by saying, “People are supportive of the Biden-Harris ticket.”

Hardly any lawmaker who engaged with the press after the meeting said anything negative about Biden, though several acknowledged some dissenting voices in the room.

Rep. Mike Quigley — who has called on Biden to withdraw his campaign — left the meeting early and reiterated to reporters his worries that Biden would be a drag on races down ballot. It’s just that his concerns now seem to be going nowhere.

Members who voiced skepticism of Biden after the debate have been clamming up in recent days. Rep. Chuy Garcia — who was clear-eyed to NOTUS the day after the debate about the stakes down ballot of Biden remaining in the race — would only relay that Democrats in the meeting broadly discussed “how to win.”

Rep. Brad Sherman — another House Democrat who has publicly expressed concerns about how Biden has navigated the debate fallout — left the meeting early and told NOTUS just that “Democrats are united in our effort to improve the lives of Americans.”

Perhaps the best indication of how the meeting went was who was energized by it. Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia, another CBC member, emerged from the gathering “fired up and ready to go for Joe Biden.”

“The meeting was excellent,” Johnson said. “Comments from everyone were well-taken. And you know what? I’m proud to be a member of the Democratic Party because it’s a big tent party. We listen to each other. We respect each other. And then we make decisions, and we move forward.”

Johnson noted that a number of different opinions were expressed behind closed doors — “they were received in a very respectful way” — but there seemed to be a consensus that Biden was the nominee and Democrats should work together to help him defeat Trump.

“We love each other. We listen to each other. And then, in the final analysis, we make a decision and move forward,” Johnson said.

But House Democrats hardly painted that picture of party bonhomie on Tuesday. One lawmaker in the room told Semafor that the “morale of the caucus is at historic lows.” Another compared the mood in the room to a “funeral.”

“There’s a ton of concern,” vulnerable Democratic Rep. Greg Landsman told reporters after the meeting. “I’ve said very clearly he’s got to go out there and prove that he can make the case.”

That remains to be seen. But if the test is whether Biden’s political team can mobilize his supporters in the House, he’s passing with flying colors.

Still, Democrats noted that it wasn’t Biden really making the case himself.

The president is busy Tuesday attending a high-stakes NATO summit in D.C. But some Democrats were surprised Biden didn’t stop by the meeting — or at least call in briefly.

“That, to me, is just more political malpractice,” the House Democrat who spoke to NOTUS on background said.

The lawmaker noted Biden could have attended the meeting — in person, by phone or by video chat — to “rouse the troops,” that he wouldn’t have even had to take questions to leave Democrats feeling like they’re in a better place. The fact that he didn’t, however, raises more questions about his true ability to campaign and be convincing to voters.

“There’s ongoing concern that some combination of his handlers, or maybe Biden himself, are just, you know, not fully engaged,” this Democrat said.

And then the lawmaker detailed how they would be making the case for the president anyway.

Riley Rogerson and Reese Gorman are reporters at NOTUS. Matt Fuller, who is Capitol Hill bureau chief at NOTUS, contributed to this report.