Fetterman leads post-debate charge to keep Biden on the Democratic ticket

Jonathan D. Salant, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Fetterman was surrounded by reporters as he went up the escalator to the U.S. Capitol to join the weekly Senate Democratic lunch and discuss the concerns surrounding President Joe Biden since his debate performance last month.

"I'm going to suggest maybe we can encourage Joe Biden to ... become consumed with revenge and say crazy things and have a plan for 2025," Fetterman told the posse, referring to former President Donald Trump.

As other Democrats call on Biden to end his campaign or anguish over his chances of winning in November because of his age, Fetterman has emerged as the president's most outspoken and ardent defender on Capitol Hill.

"If you're ever in a foxhole, you want him with you," Biden said of Fetterman during the president's visit to Harrisburg on Sunday.

Fetterman, standing near the president, described him as "the only person that's ever kicked Trump's ass in an election right now."

A day later, he told CNN: "He's going to be our guy. That's our guy. Joe Biden has been a great president ... and I'm not going to chuck him for a rough debate."

Earlier, shortly after the debate, Fetterman quickly told his fellow Democrats to "chill the — out."

U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., a member of the president's campaign advisory board, said she appreciated Fetterman's backing. "He's a man of the people and he's saying it like it is," she said.

Fetterman had his own rough debate against celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz in the 2022 Senate race following his stroke, but voters eventually overlooked his performance and made him the only Democratic candidate to flip a Senate seat that year.


"It's personal for Fetterman," Democratic consultant Modia Butler said. "He went through a period where people were questioning whether he should continue as a U.S. Senate candidate and he came out on the other side of that. Through his personal experience, he resonates with him and as a result he thinks Biden is being treated unfairly. When he feels that something is unjust, he will speak truth for power, and that's what he's doing here."

Pennsylvania's senior Democratic senator, Bob Casey, also stood by Biden even as other Democrats say he should step aside.

"He had a bad night and debate, but I think people know what's at stake," Casey said in Scranton last week.

U.S. Rep. Chris Deluzio, D-Aspinwall, speaking while visiting Pittsburgh International Airport earlier this month, said that Trump also had a tough debate.

"As much as it was a tough night, I think I also heard Donald Trump lie probably 30 times," he said. "I heard him say you won't commit to respecting the election results. I continue to think he's a significant threat to our freedom, to this democracy."

And U.S. Rep. Summer Lee, D-Swissvale, said the Democrats don't have the luxury of time to wait to make a decision on whether Biden should remain the race, and if he decides to withdraw, Vice President Kamala Harris is the "obvious choice."

"Time is not on our side," she said. "We have a few months to do a monumental task. It's not cheap and it's not easy. If our president decides this is not a pathway forward for him, we have to move very quickly."

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