Election 2024 Latest: Democratic leadership backs Biden, Trump returns to the campaign trail

WASHINGTON — (AP) — Former President Donald Trump is getting back on the campaign trail at his flagship Miami golf resort as Democrats face tough calls over President Joe Biden 's reelection chances.

Ever since his dismal debate performance, Democrats have been wrestling with whether the 81-year-old Biden should continue as the party's nominee. As anxious congressional Democrats returned to Washington weighing whether to work to revive his campaign or to try to edge him out, Biden Monday stood firm against calls for him to drop out of the race.

Against this backdrop of intense political drama, NATO leaders are converging on Washington starting Tuesday for a summit marking the organization's 75th year. The main focus of the summit is for NATO leaders to shore up support for Ukraine in its battle against Russia but for Biden the summit has become just as much about demonstrating he is capable of meeting the grinding demands of the presidency for four more years.

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President Biden welcoming world leaders to the NATO summit with lofty words about the power of global alliances

Hosting the summit has given Biden a chance to showcase his leadership on the world stage — but it’s happened at an awkward time. He is simultaneously dealing with pressure to bow out of the presidential race after his shaky debate performance against Trump raised questions about his ability to do the job for another four years.

Biden, using a teleprompter, told world leaders that “NATO is more powerful than ever” on its 75th anniversary, highlighting the expansion of the alliance under his watch.

“This moment in history calls for our collective strength,” he said, stressing NATO’s resolve to help Ukraine fend off Russia’s invasion.

In his 13-minute remarks, Biden did not nod to the domestic political drama swirling around him.

Rep. Dean Phillips: ‘Vindication has never been so unfulfilling’

Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., who ended his long-shot 2024 Democratic presidential bid months ago, was asked by reporters Tuesday if he felt vindicated by Democrats calling on Biden to step aside.

“If this is vindication, vindication has never been so unfulfilling,” Phillips said. “I made my case eight months ago, and I think it’s time for others to share their perspectives.”

Phillips was publicly and privately denounced by many in the House Democratic caucus when he launched his bid for president against Biden in late October. Phillips, a 55-year-old multimillionaire who is among the richest members of Congress, built his White House bid around calls for a new generation of Democratic leadership while spending freely from his personal fortune. But the little-known congressman ultimately failed to resonate with the party’s voters.

A seventh House Democrat calls for Biden to step down

Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., has called for President Biden to step down as the Democratic nominee, saying in a press release that the “stakes are too high and the threat is too real” for her to remain silent.”

In an interview immediately after the release, the former Navy helicopter pilot told the AP that she made the difficult decision after speaking with voters in her district and hearing out her colleagues during a Tuesday morning caucus session.

“I had committed to people in my district of having the conversations I thought we needed to have. I wanted to hear from my colleagues here in Washington,” she said. “I remain convinced that we need to do everything we can to defeat Trump.”

She added that she would support Vice President Kamala Harris as the nominee.

Democrat leadership backs Biden, works to shift focus toward Trump

Following closed-door huddles among House and Senate Democrats Tuesday morning, party leaders have renewed their support of the president.

When questioned by reporters about Biden's candidacy, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., responded with the same refrain each time: “As I’ve said before, I’m with Joe."

Rep. Pete Aguilar, chairman of the House Democrats said, “Right now, President Biden is the nominee and we support the Democratic nominee that will beat Donald Trump.”

“Every single member is clear-eyed about the stakes” of the 2024 presidential race, said Aguilar. “Donald Trump cannot be allowed near the Oval Office.”

Haley releases delegates to free them for Trump support

Nikki Haley is releasing the delegates she won during this year’s Republican primary so they’ll be free to support Donald Trump at the GOP convention next week.

On Tuesday, Haley released the 97 delegates she won across a dozen primaries and caucuses this year. Delegate rules vary by state and it’s unclear whether Haley’s action will completely override them.

The former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador called for “Republican unity” at the upcoming Republican National Convention in Milwaukee.

Haley wasn’t invited to the convention and won’t be attending, her spokesperson said.

House Dem leader still in listening mode

House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries is still in listening mode as his party considers Biden’s political future.

“We had a caucus meeting today that gave members an opportunity to express themselves in a candid and comprehensive fashion, and those discussions will continue throughout the balance of the week,” Jeffries said.

Mental fitness vs. moral fitness?

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont is standing by Biden, but says he’s concerned about the election being dominated by talk about Biden’s mental fitness.

Lamont was one of the first governors to endorse Biden in the 2020 election.

He told reporters Tuesday that Biden is “just getting started when it comes to his agenda.”

Still, Lamont acknowledged concerns about Biden’s candidacy.

“I do worry that we’re going to spend the whole time talking about President Biden’s mental fitness, and we’re not taking the battle to Donald Trump and talking about his moral fitness,” he said.

Harris headlining outreach to Asian American voters

Vice President Kamala Harris will appear with former “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi at an event in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

It's the kickoff of a formal outreach campaign to Asian American voters that President Joe Biden's reelection campaign is launching this week.

Harris is the first person of South Asian descent to serve as vice president.

She will also deliver a keynote address Saturday at a town hall in Philadelphia hosted by APIAVote, an advocacy group.

The Biden campaign has already launched coalition groups focusing on Black voters and Latino voters.

Dour room

One person who was in the room described the Democratic meeting as dour.

There’s growing concern that Biden remaining in the race means the election will center around Biden’s age instead of Trump, according to the person who was granted anonymity to discuss the private meeting.

But the person also told AP that Democrats worry Biden can’t be replaced because he’s so dug in.

There could also be legal issues replacing a candidate so close to the election.

A fighting spirit, but can he win?

A few of the Democrats who have publicly called for the president to step aside came out more resolute than before, but not all.

“The fighting spirit and pride and courage that served the country so well four years ago, that helped Joe Biden win, will bring the ticket down this time,” said Rep. Mike Quigley from Illinois.

“He just has to step down because he can’t win,” Quigley said.

But Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York seemed to reverse course after previously privately expressing that Biden should leave.

“He is going to be our nominee, and we all have to support him,” Nadler said.

‘Not even in th
e same book’

Democrats had varying views of their nearly two-hour conversation, with some saying the party is unified and others leaving even more disconcerted.

Rep. Steven Cohen of Tennessee had a memorable answer when reporters asked him if the session got the party on the same page.

“We are not even in the same book,” Cohen said.

Others like Rep. Gregory Meeks, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the caucus is united behind Biden as their nominee.

Mayors are next
up for Biden

The president will keep up his personal outreach to different factions of the Democratic Party Tuesday night.

He’ll hold a virtual meeting with mayors around the country, according to a person familiar with the plans.

Biden plans to give remarks and take questions from the mayors.

It’s a formant similar to that used with members of the Congressional Black Caucus and with campaign donors on Monday.

Biden very effective in meetings, Yellen says

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen spoke in favor of Biden’s performance on Tuesday.

She was asked by a Republican member of Congress during a House Financial Services Committee hearing whether she’d seen any “cognitive or mental decline.”

“The president is extremely effective in the meetings I’ve been in with him,” Yellen responded.

“That includes many international meetings that are multi-hour, like his meetings with President Xi.”

She said there had been no discussions among cabinet secretaries about invoking the 25th Amendment. That amendment deals with presidential removal.

Harris heads to Vegas

Vice President Kamala Harris took off from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland Tuesday, headed west for a series of campaign events in Las Vegas.

Harris will meet with and rally voters in Las Vegas and Dallas this week.

She's facing extra attention among Democrats considering her prospects as a possible replacement for Biden, who is resisting calls to step aside.

Dems gather for ‘family’ chat

House Democrats convened for a “family” discussion behind closed doors early Tuesday.

Tensions are still high over the 2024 election and President Joe Biden’s candidacy.

No cell phones. No leaks. Just what Caucus Chairman Rep. Pete Aguilar billed as a family chat among lawmakers.

So far, Biden’s supporters have been the most vocal emerging from the more than hour-long chat. But discontent remains behind the scenes.

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