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Sen. Peters supports Biden on ticket, says he can 'absolutely' defeat Trump

Melissa Nann Burke, The Detroit News on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON ― Michigan U.S. Sen. Gary Peters said Wednesday he supports President Joe Biden staying on the presidential ticket amid Democratic concerns over his electability, saying Biden can "absolutely" beat former President Donald Trump in November's election.

"Yes, absolutely. I believe President Biden can win," said Peters, who chairs the Senate Democrats' political arm. "And I believe that we'll be able to hold the Senate majority, and I think we also have a good shot of expanding it."

Peters was speaking to reporters on a call about his legislation that Biden signed into law Tuesday that extends two popular federal grant programs to 2028 to help local fire departments purchase safety equipment, address staffing and training needs and provide cancer screenings for firefighters.

"Any interactions I've had with President Biden, he's been very engaged in whatever topic was before us. Yesterday, I spent time with him at the signing ceremony for the legislation that I authored," Peters said.

"He had comments prior to the signing. He engaged in some substantive conversations ― not only with me and some other members of Congress, but also with many of the firefighters who were there, as well."

Peters, a Democrat from Bloomfield Township, said he had not been asked by the White House to voice support for the president publicly. He noted that he works with and engages with Biden on a regular basis and said he's "always found him very able to deal with complex issues, and that's what I will let everybody know."

Peters is the latest top Michigan Democrat to reaffirm their support for Biden amid questions about his age, electability and a politically disastrous debate performance on June 27 during which he was at times incoherent.

None of the state's congressional delegation has said publicly that they think Biden should step aside as the party's nominee, though U.S. Rep. Hillary Scholten, D-Grand Rapids, said last week that she had raised "concerns strongly" to party leaders following the debate.

On Tuesday, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, became the first Democratic senator to say he doesn’t believe Biden is can win a second term following his halting and at times incoherent debate performance.

“Donald Trump is on track, I think, to win this election, and maybe win it by a landslide, and take with him the Senate and the House,” he told CNN. “So for me, this isn’t a question about polling. It’s not a question about politics. It’s a moral question about the future of our country.”

Bennett added that the White House has "done nothing" to demonstrate that they have a plan to win the election.

Michigan state Rep. Phil Skaggs, D-East Grand Rapids, said Tuesday that Biden's insistence on continuing to run as the Democratic nominee could put at risk several national races in Michigan, as well as the Democrats' state House majority.

Skaggs said Biden should step aside and “pass the torch to a new generation of leaders,” stressing the risk for Michigan Democrats down ballot if Biden refused to do so. The state has a four tight U.S. House races, a tossup U.S. Senate contest and the entire state House — where Democrats hold a slim 56-54 majority — on the ballot, Skaggs noted.

 

“A collapse at the top of the ticket will seriously endanger a dozen of my colleagues,” Skaggs said on social media.

Asked by The Detroit News whether he has concerns that Biden could hurt down-ballot Democratic candidates if his approval ratings fall further, Peters responded that the Senate races he's focused on are candidate-versus-candidate contests specific to their strengths and weaknesses.

"One thing we know about this presidential election is it's going to be very close. That should not be a surprise to anybody these days, especially in battleground states like Michigan," Peters said.

"Whether it's in the presidential level or each of our U.S. Senate races, I believe Democrats are in a good position to win, but we know these are going to be close races, and that's why it will be imperative for people to show up and vote on Election Day. To make sure that their voices is heard."

Peters said he'll be out of state with a previous commitment on Friday and won't attend Biden's campaign rally in Detroit. "But if I was Michigan, I would I would be with him," he added.

Whitmer, who’s been floated as a possible replacement for Biden on the ticket, is also going to be out of state for her book tour and won't attend the rally, according to her office.

On MSNBC's "Alex Wagner Tonight," Whitmer on Tuesday acknowledged the "debate did not go well" for Biden but said the president has made it clear he won't exit the race.

Whitmer said fellow Democrats need to "stop wringing our hands and roll up your sleeve" in order to prevail in the November elections.

"He's in it, and he is going to fight like hell to make sure that we continue the work that he has begun in this first term. I've got confidence in him, and I'm continuing to support him," Whitmer said. "He's got to prove to people he is up to the moment, and I think he's going to.”

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(Staff writer Beth LeBlanc contributed.)

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