WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips is facing a blowback for his very public campaign to prod other Democrats to challenge President Biden in next year’s primary election, a move that has angered DFLers in Minnesota and fellow Democrats in Washington, D.C.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., planned to speak to Phillips this week, the Democratic leader’s office said.
And it issued a statement hinting that Phillips, D-3rd District, may face more trouble when his House Democratic colleagues return from recess in early September.
“Joe Biden has been a transformational president. Leader Jeffries strongly supports his candidacy and intends to do everything in his power to make sure that President Biden is reelected to a second term,” Jeffries spokeswoman Christiana Stephenson said in a statement. “Dean Phillips was independently elected to a leadership position in the House Democratic Caucus. He is ultimately accountable to his House colleagues, who have not been bashful in sharing their views.”
Phillips’ office did not return requests for comment.
Phillips was elected vice chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee by his House Democratic colleagues last December.
The DPCC is tasked with developing the message that would unify House Democrats and draw sharp contrast with the talking points of the GOP. In this Congress, the DPCC adopted “People over Politics” as its mantra.
Phillips has said he wants to shake things up now that he has a leadership role. But his messaging of late has infuriated many in his party and is likely not the type of message other Democratic leaders, including Jeffries, had in mind.
Phillips has spent Congress’ August recess appearing on Sunday morning news shows and other media outlets saying that he, and a cast of other “moderate” Democrats, including Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, should run against Biden.
Phillips’ criticism has centered largely on Biden’s age. The president is 80. And he has said that if Biden is the Democratic nominee, former President Donald Trump is likely to win the White House again next year.
On NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, Phillips said he believed a majority of people want to move on from Biden. And he once again called for fellow Democrats to challenge the president.
“I’m actively inviting, encouraging — to some degree, imploring — that people who are ready and know it’s probably time to do so, take the chance,” Phillips said.
Phillips’ campaign to encourage challengers to Biden has angered a number of Democrats, many of whom reiterated their pledges of loyalty to the president.
“With the threat of second Trump presidency, or a (Ron) DeSantis presidency, we need to be unified behind President Biden and Vice President Harris and celebrate our accomplishments as Democrats,” said Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-5th District. “That’s why I and the overwhelming majority of Democrats are supporting the president and vice president’s reelection and doing everything in our power to ensure they win in Minnesota and nationwide. It’s irresponsible to have a candidate who could possibly guarantee Trump’s reelection and destroy any path to progress.”
Meanwhile, DFL Chairman Ken Martin told MinnPost on Wednesday he is a “big fan of Dean Phillips, and he is a very principled person” but that he disagrees with him. “The only thing this conversation does is I think potentially create
distraction and divide our party at a time when we need to unify.”
Martin went even further in a Washington Post piece published Thursday, saying “I find it really disappointing on a number of levels that he has continued to repeat baseless Republican talking points.”
Schultz vs Stauber, redux
Jen Schultz, who represented Duluth in the state House for four terms and is now an economics professor at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, is laying the groundwork for another rematch against U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, R-8th District.
Schultz recently sent fundraising and volunteer appeals to potential donors and and told supporters she is taking Stauber on again.
“My name is Jen Schultz and I am a Democrat running for Congress in the 8th District to make a real difference in the lives of everyday Minnesotans,” one appeal said.
Schultz lost her first challenge to Stauber in last November’s elections, securing 42.8% of the vote to Stauber’s 57.2%.
Trump indictment, redux
A grand jury in Georgia indicted former President Donald Trump and 18 allies this week on state charges stemming from his efforts to overturn his defeat in the state in the 2020 elections.
It is the fourth criminal case Trump is facing – and the most far-reaching and potentially dangerous for the former president.
But reactions in Washington have not changed. Congressional Republicans, especially in the U.S. House, continue to say the multiple prosecutions are politically motivated. Many, including Rep. Tom Emmer, R-6th District, followed Trump’s lead in attacking Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis, who brought the latest charges against Trump.
“The Democrats’ weaponization of our justice system continues — this time with a left-wing District Attorney who is using the latest indictment against President Trump to boost her own political career,” Emmer posted on X, a platform formerly known as Twitter. “The American people aren’t falling for it.”
Meanwhile, Democrats say the new charges are proof Trump and his allies conspired to overturn the election and destroy the democratic process.
“Former President Trump has been indicted a fourth time – now for the Big Lie,” Rep. Betty McCollum, D-4th District, posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “He and others are charged with knowingly and willfully conspiring to unlawfully change the outcome of the 2020 election. These charges are stunning & serious.”
Trump said this week he would hold a press conference at his golf club resort in Bedminster, N.J., on Monday to present new evidence of fraud in the 2020 election, evidence that would “completely exonerate” him. But his attorneys are reportedly advising him that’s not a good idea.
MinnPost reporter Walker Orenstein contributed to this report.