Adam Smith wants Biden out; Patty Murray wants to see more from him


U.S. Rep. Adam Smith called for President Joe Biden to stand down from his reelection bid Monday, becoming the first member of Congress from Washington — and one of the most senior congressional Democrats — to do so.

Later in the day, Washington Sen. Patty Murray, the Senate president pro tempore, said Biden needed to do more and fast. She did not say Biden should drop out, but said he must be more "forceful and energetic" on the campaign trail to "convince voters he is up to the job."

In a statement and in an interview on CNN, Smith, D-Bellevue, who is Washington's longest-serving U.S. House member, said Biden's status as the prospective Democratic nominee has become untenable.

"President Biden should end his candidacy for a second term and release his delegates to the Democratic National Convention," Smith said in the statement, adding it should happen "as soon as possible" to allow an alternative to be chosen.

"Any candidate for the highest office in our nation has a strong burden to bear," Smith said. "The candidate must be able to clearly, articulately and strongly make his or her case to the American people. It is clear that President Biden is no longer able to meet this burden."

The stance makes Smith the sixth House Democrat to publicly call for Biden's exit to make way for a new Democratic presidential nominee with a better shot at defeating Donald Trump.

In an interview with The Seattle Times, Smith said he had called the White House immediately after Biden's disastrous June 27 debate performance.

"I said he has to step aside," Smith said. The representative said he waited until Monday to go public, hoping Biden and his team might allay concerns about his acuity and health. They failed to convince him.

Smith said he has mostly seen what other Americans have in Biden's interviews and appearances. He said he has also seen the president up close at a couple of private events where Biden did not seem to be in great health.

"It has been noticeable in the last four or five months. He has looked frail and struggled" to communicate clearly, he said.

Smith's public comments set him apart from other top Washington Democrats, who have maintained their support for Biden as the party's presidential nominee.

In a statement Monday, U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, criticized the media pile-on over Biden's mental acuity, saying it has taken focus off Trump's lack of fitness for office.

"Any reporter or pundit who is asking about or talking about the aftermath of President Biden's debate performance and his health should also be spending at least the same amount of time and energy talking to Republicans about why they are still supporting a convicted felon who incited an insurrection and wants to be Dictator on Day 1," Jayapal said.

She added that Republicans should be challenged to call for Trump to step down as a candidate.

Jayapal, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, acknowledged Democrats "are having many conversations" about "the best path forward to protect our democracy."

Members of the progressive caucus will meet with Biden this week, Jayapal told CNN on Monday, saying the president needs to do more "unscripted moments" to build confidence in his prospects.

Murray, who is a member of Senate leadership and chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said she had "deep appreciation and strong respect" for Biden.

"At this critical time for our country, President Biden must seriously consider the best way to preserve his incredible legacy and secure it for the future," she said.

Murray said Biden would have to do more to show he is capable of campaigning "strong enough" to defeat Trump.

In his statement, Smith said he's seen enough. He called Biden's debate performance "alarming" and said Americans no longer view him "as a credible candidate" to serve four more years. He said Trump and "MAGA extremism" pose "an existential threat" that must be met with "the strongest possible candidate to win in this election."

Should Biden remain the Democratic candidate, Smith said, he would "back him 100% and without reservation."

First elected to Congress in 1996, Smith represents the 9th Congressional District, which includes portions of Southeast Seattle, Bellevue, Mercer Island and South King County cities including Kent and Federal Way.

Smith's change of heart on Biden had been reported by multiple news outlets over the weekend, after leaked accounts of a private meeting of top House Democrats, in which Smith and three others said Biden should withdraw.

Biden has rejected such calls, insisting he remains the Democrats' best and only option to defeat Trump in November. He wrote to congressional Democrats on Monday, saying he was "firmly committed" to staying in the race.

Biden, who served 36 years in the Senate and eight years as vice president before getting elected president in 2020, also blasted his critics as "elites" during an MSNBC interview.

The Democratic National Convention, where the party will formally pick its nominees for president and vice president, is scheduled to start Aug. 19 in Chicago.

Smith said in the interview with The Seattle Times that there is still time for Democrats to choose a new presidential nominee.

He said Vice President Kamala Harris makes the most sense — "she's the one I would pick." He also named several other Democratic officials who could step in, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, who both ran for president in 2020.

"You have got a host of people who could do that who don't have the same health concerns and could deliver an effective message," he said.

Among Washington's congressional Democrats, first-term Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez has come the closest to Smith in criticizing Biden's debate performance and 2024 prospects.

In an interview last week with Portland's KATU-TV, Gluesenkamp Perez said "Biden is going to lose" to Trump after his damaging debate performance. But she stopped short of calling for Biden to withdraw, noting Democratic primary voters had already backed the Biden-Harris ticket.

A spokesperson for Gluesenkamp Perez, who is facing a hard-fought reelection bid in southwest Washington's 3rd District, said she had nothing to add.

Other top Democratic elected officials in Washington have remained publicly quiet or have defended Biden.

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, who was on the same briefing where Smith and others expressed doubts about Biden, said on social media Sunday he is not part of the "Dump Biden" movement.

"I am on Team Biden," Larsen wrote. "The concerns I expressed were those I heard from other members."

A spokesperson for Gov. Jay Inslee deferred to the Democratic Governors Association, which did not comment Monday on Inslee's stance. Democratic governors from across the country spoke with Biden on Wednesday.

While some have privately expressed concerns, no Democratic governors have said Biden should drop out, although Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey has said Biden should "carefully evaluate" whether he is the "best hope" to beat Trump.

Inslee is stepping down after his third term ends in early 2025. The leading Democrat seeking to replace him, Bob Ferguson, declined to comment Monday.

Another Democrat running for governor, Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, said Monday he believed Harris was "best positioned to lead the Democratic Party into the 2024 election cycle."

"I know other Democrats in public office have similar feelings and I encourage them to also throw their public support behind Vice President Harris," Mullet said.

On Monday, the chair of Washington state's Democratic Party, Shasti Conrad, doubled down on support for Biden and Harris. Conrad visited the White House for Fourth of July celebrations, a spokesperson said.

Conrad described Biden's work as the "most robust working families agenda" since FDR and said Trump was "a convicted felon and wannabe dictator," and that in the upcoming election, "our democracy and freedom" are at stake.

"Washingtonians and folks across the country know this," Conrad said. "It's why over the last week we've seen grassroots organizers, labor, and community leaders unite to show their support for a Biden-Harris ticket — because we know this is how we defeat fascism and continue to build a movement for working families, small businesses, and safer communities."


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