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Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet rings alarm about Biden as other lawmakers offer support, silence

Seth Klamann, The Denver Post on

Published in News & Features

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet said Tuesday night that he believes Donald Trump is on a trajectory to win the presidential election — “maybe in a landslide” — amid fallout from President Joe Biden’s halting debate performance.

“For me, this isn’t a question about polling, it’s not a question about politics — it’s a moral question for the future of our country,” the Colorado senator told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins during her prime time show, warning that a Trump victory would be “an American tragedy.” He suggested Republicans may win control of Congress, too.

“I think we could lose the whole thing,” he added about the November election, calling the situation “staggering.”

But Bennet repeatedly declined to say whether Biden should step down as the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee, which would open the door for others to seek the nomination before the August convention.

Bennet’s comments came after reports that he and two other senior Democratic senators told colleagues earlier Tuesday that Biden was on a path to lose. His comments were the most forceful condemnation of his party’s trajectory of any voiced publicly to date by Colorado’s seven congressional Democrats. The others have offered either support or silence as concerns have mounted about Biden’s ability to win.

U.S. Rep. Diane DeGette told The Denver Post on Tuesday that Biden had her full support. She said his public appearances since the June 27 debate had convinced her that he could win in November.

Colorado’s other senator, John Hickenlooper, has also backed Biden.

Bennet, who told CNN that voters he’s spoken to have likened the president’s condition to an aging parent, has sent increasingly concerned messages since the late June debate. He had said in a statement Sunday that Biden must “reassure” voters of his abilities, adding that he would discuss “the most viable path forward” with fellow senators. (A Bennet spokesman did not return messages seeking comment late Tuesday afternoon.)

On Tuesday night, Bennet suggested Biden had not done enough to reassure voters.

“The White House, in the time since that disastrous debate, I think, has done nothing to demonstrate that they have a plan to win this election, that they have a convincing plan to win in the battleground states,” he said.

His apparently rising alarm stood in contrast with DeGette, who said her concerns had been assuaged.

After the debate, during which Biden spoke quietly and haltingly and appeared to fully lose his train of thought at least once, DeGette, of Denver, said in a statement that Biden needed to “intensify his efforts to reassure voters” that he could continue on as president.

On Tuesday, DeGette told The Post that she had received that reassurance through Biden’s subsequent media and public appearances as she’s “basically been trying to watch everything.” She said she’d also spoken with him Tuesday morning during a bill signing ceremony.

 

“He was articulate, cogent and knew everything that he was talking about,” she said, referring to a conversation they had about the NATO summit in Washington, D.C. “As I said in my statement, like everybody else, I was shocked at the performance in that debate, and I’ve known the president for almost 30 years now.”

“I’ve been trying to see, ‘Do I think he’s competent for both reelection and to serve another term?’ And I can’t help but say, ‘Yes, he is.’” said DeGette, the longest-serving member of Colorado’s congressional delegation.

U.S. Rep. Brittany Pettersen, a freshman member of the delegation, said in a statement that it was up to Biden to decide whether to stay in the race or not.

Nearly half of the state’s seven Democrats in Congress did not return messages seeking interviews or comments in recent days. Repeated messages sent to U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse’s office were not returned; Neguse is the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House. The office of U.S. Rep. Yadira Caraveo, a freshman who sits in what is likely to be one of the most hotly contested seats in America come November, also did not return requests for comment.

No one from U.S. Rep. Jason Crow’s office would comment on the record.

Bennet’s criticism and DeGette’s support comes as Biden seeks to shore up support on Capitol Hill and prevent further internal calls for him to step aside. National polling shows Biden trailing Trump, and subsequent polls about Biden’s fitness show broad voter concern about the 81-year-old’s age.

Though Trump is 78 and has faced sharp criticism over his own fitness for office, his age has been less of a focal point than Biden’s.

DeGette — the only member of Colorado’s Democratic delegation to agree to an interview — blamed the media for focusing on Biden’s debate performance and age, though it’s an issue that polls consistently show is a concern for a majority of American voters.

She said the focus instead should be on Trump’s ability to lead the country, his party’s anti-abortion stances and the repeated falsehoods he told at the debate.

“I understand the issue du jour is Joe Biden’s abilities,” DeGette said. “I do believe he has the capabilities, and he’s our nominee.”

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