NJ Democrats divided over Biden after dismal debate with Trump

NJ Democrats divided over Biden after dismal debate with Trump
NJ Democrats divided over Biden after dismal debate with Trump

NEW JERSEY — In the world of politics, especially in New Jersey, all it takes is one poor public performance to ignite a storm of outrage. And that was certainly the case with President Joe Biden, whose recent debate with former President Donald Trump is already dividing opinions about his re-election campaign among Democrats in the Garden State.

The 81-year-old president’s demeanor in last month’s exchange with Trump – which included stuttering, apparent memory lapses and other slip-ups – raised renewed questions about Biden’s health, which polls show is one of voters’ top concerns. Trump, 78, must also ask himself whether he is unsuited to arguably the nation’s toughest job.

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Biden is facing growing calls from some Democrats to give someone else the chance to take up the party flag against Trump, the likely Republican nominee, in the Nov. 5 presidential election. See also: Should Biden stay in the race? (Take our Patch poll)

Biden has declared that he is staying in the race and stressed in a defiant letter to Democratic lawmakers that he is the best candidate to defeat Trump in November.

It’s worth noting that Biden won overwhelming victories in this year’s Democratic Party primaries, despite some experts saying that voter turnout in this year’s primary was low and there was a lack of credible alternatives. Regardless, Biden has said that Democratic voters have spoken at the ballot box and he plans to respect their decision.

“The decision was theirs,” the president said. “Not the press, not the pundits, not the big donors, not any select group of individuals, no matter how good their intentions. The voters – and only the voters – will decide the Democratic Party nominee.”


However, not everyone agrees with Biden.

U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11), who has consistently supported many of the Biden administration’s policies and initiatives over the past four years, was one of the first high-ranking New Jersey politicians to call on the president to withdraw his re-election bid.

Like other Democrats calling for the same, Sherrill has praised Biden for “honorably serving this country with grace and dignity for more than 50 years.” But after his debate appearance against Trump, the congresswoman is now calling on him to “declare that he will not seek re-election and lead us through a process toward a new candidate.”

“One of President Biden’s most significant accomplishments was defeating a man who posed an existential threat to the nation and the institutions on which this country was founded: former President Donald J. Trump,” Sherrill said.

“That’s why I ran for office in the first place,” she added. “I know we cannot allow Trump to return to the White House and implement his dangerous Project 2025 plan that harms the middle class and threatens rights and freedoms, including abortion.”

The congresswoman continued:

“I have heard from people in my district who are united in their concern for our country and our future. They want a leader who can build on our successes but is also capable of calling the nation’s attention to the acute threat Trump poses to our democracy, our freedoms, and our country. When I think of my four children and all the rights that another Trump presidency puts at risk, and in light of the recent Supreme Court decision that has given the President of the United States excessive power, the stakes are too high – and the threat too real – to remain silent. I know this is hard, but we have done hard things in the pursuit of democracy since the founding of this nation. It’s time to do it again.”

SOMA Action, a progressive advocacy group based in Essex County, praised Sherrill’s stance, calling it a “courageous intervention” in the ongoing debate over Biden’s candidacy.

According to the group, the question is not whether Joe Biden was a good president — he is. The question is whether Joe Biden is the best possible candidate to pursue Trump and beat him in November.

“We respect President Biden’s service to our country, but believe it is time for new leadership,” said Jessica James, president of SOMA Action.

Jersey City Mayor and gubernatorial candidate Steven Fulop strongly disagreed and contradicted Sherrill’s statement.

“I just don’t think this press release is helpful,” Fulop said. “Voters voted for him in a primary and he is the same person he was three weeks ago when you (and others) were praising him. A bad debate or comments from Washington pundits are not reasons to turn away from him. He is one of the most successful presidents in modern history and he deserves a second term. We should all step up and work harder for him – not create chaos.”

New Jersey Senator Britnee Timberlake also said she supports Biden.

“Let’s not sweep the lead under the rug here,” Timberlake argued. “President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are the choice of Democratic voters who won the primaries, making them the best candidates in the race.”

“As delegates to the Democratic National Convention in August, I stand with them because they are the ones I and the Democratic people elected and who we must focus on to defeat Trump in November,” she said. “The Biden-Harris team beat Trump once, and they can beat him again.”

In addition, another aspect must be taken into account, Timberlake stressed: Is it “discriminatory” to disqualify Biden and ignore Harris as a perfectly suitable successor?

“Before the campaign began, we were aware of the president’s age and his lifelong public struggle with a mild stutter,” she said. “These aspects should not be used against him.”

“When a president cannot finish his term, the vice president is there to do that, and Kamala Harris is perfectly capable of stepping in,” Timberlake said. “To ignore Harris, a qualified Black and Asian woman, in the possible replacement if necessary shows underlying racism and sexism, which is wrong.”

LeRoy Jones, chairman of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, also says he is on Biden’s side.

“We need to work harder and worry less,” Jones said recently, urging Democrats to “stay focused” and not lose sight of the goal.

“The question of what to do next has been discussed at length for over a week,” Jones said. “And it’s time to stop. We have a job to do. And that is to defeat Donald Trump.”

This goal – “to beat Trump” should he become the Republican nominee – is also on the minds of U.S. Rep. Rob Menendez Jr. (NJ-8), who recently commented on the controversy surrounding the Biden debate. Read more: Rob Menendez supports Biden: “Productive presidency”

“This has been one of the most productive presidencies in American history,” Menendez said. “The Biden administration has made historic investments in our infrastructure – including the Gateway Program – rebuilt our economy, taken presidential action on gun violence prevention and environmental protection, and stood up for working families and unions across the country.”

“This is in direct contrast to what we have experienced under the Trump presidency and the trauma he has caused in so many of our communities,” he continued. “We must remember those four years and what another Trump presidency would mean for all of us.”

“Yes, I have heard the concerns that have been raised over the past few weeks, and I urge the Biden team to continue to be transparent with the American people in the days, weeks, and months ahead to address any concerns,” the congressman concluded. “But we must remain focused on the mission at hand, which is not just to defeat Donald Trump in November, but to ensure a future that reflects our American values. And that is exactly what we will do.”

Other New Jersey politicians, however, are still undecided.

U.S. Rep. Andy Kim (NJ-3) has expressed “concerns” about President Biden and said he is “open” to discussions about finding a successor.

“I mean, this is the presidency of the United States,” Kim commented earlier this week. “The question is, can Biden win and is there anyone who could potentially be stronger?”

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