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Minnesota Democrats in Congress split over support of Biden in 2024

Reps. Dean Phillips and Angie Craig say the party needs a “new generation” of leadership in 2024. Reps. Betty McCollum and Ilhan Omar say that kind of talk is distracting.

Posing in front of the Blatnik Bridge in Superior, Wisconsin, in March: Sens. Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, President Joe Biden, Gov. Tim Walz and First Lady Jill Biden.
Posing in front of the Blatnik Bridge in Superior, Wisconsin, in March: Sens. Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, President Joe Biden, Gov. Tim Walz and First Lady Jill Biden.
REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has become a target of Democratic anxieties over the upcoming midterm elections, but not all Minnesota Democrats agree with Reps. Dean Phillips and Angie Craig who say the party needs a “new generation” of leadership in 2024.

“Senator (Tina) Smith supports President Biden’s bid for reelection,” said the senator’s spokeswoman Shea Necheles.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota’s senior senator who ran against Biden and other Democratic candidates in her party’s 2020 presidential primary, also supports the president’s reelection.

“The president has said he is running for reelection and has Senator Klobuchar’s support,” a spokesman for the senator said.

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Rep. Betty McCollum, D-4th District, did not pledge to support Biden in 2024, but she did say promoting a “dump Biden” movement is “distracting” Democrats at a crucial time.

Rep. Betty McCollum
Rep. Betty McCollum
“Our nation is facing serious challenges that demand President Biden and this White House be 100% focused on governing — not an election some 27 months away,” McCollum said. “Right now, my priority is ensuring Democrats win in November, maintain control of Congress, and reelect Governor Walz and our DFL ticket. Any other discussion is just distracting Democrats from the task at hand.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-5th District, who has chaffed at some of Biden’s policies, also pushed back on the recent comments by Phillips and Craig.

“I don’t think it’s helpful for us to be out talking about change in leadership as we are fighting to keep the House, extend the Senate in this crucial and critical midterm where all of our freedoms are on the ballot,” Omar said in an emailed statement. “Our democracy’s in peril. Our right to privacy and bodily autonomy is being threatened. So we have to do everything that we can to stick together and make it through this midterm.”

Omar said she supported Biden’s reelection earlier this year, splitting with fellow “Squad” member Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez who told CNN  “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar
Rep. Ilhan Omar
“But I think if the president has a vision, then that’s something certainly we’re all willing to entertain and examine when the time comes,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

Meanwhile, Phillips and Craig, who consider themselves members of the moderate wing of their party, were far more outspoken than firebrand Ocasio-Cortez.

In an interview last week on the Chad Hartman radio show on WCCO-AM, Phillips, who represents Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District, was asked if he would support the 79-year-old Biden in 2024.

“No,” Phillips replied, “I think the country would be well-served by a new generation of compelling, well-prepared, dynamic Democrats who step up.”

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Phillips, 53, also said other Democrats in Congress share his views.

“I think it’s time for a generational change,” Phillips said. “And I think most of my colleagues agree with that.”

Rep. Dean Phillips
Rep. Dean Phillips
Phillips campaign chairman Richard Carlbom said the congressman did not want to expand on his comments.

Meanwhile, Craig, D-2nd District, told MinnPost this week that she also believes Democrats need new leaders, from the top of the ballot down.

“I think Dean Phillips and I are in lockstep and alignment with that and I’m going to do everything in my power as a member of Congress to make sure that we have a new generation of leadership,” Craig, 50, said.

Rep. Angie Craig
Rep. Angie Craig
Craig is locked in a bitter reelection fight against Republican Tyler Kistner in a race analysts consider a “toss-up.”

Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia Center for Politics said Biden’s low popularity rating makes it “natural for members of the president’s party to try to create distance between themselves and the president in midterm years.”

“It may be that Omar is correct that a party is better being united, but clearly others in more competitive districts don’t feel that way,” Kondik said.

Will Biden run again?

However, some Democrats in tough races avoided saying Biden should be replaced as their party’s standard bearer in 2024.

Perhaps because Phillips and Craig have raised the issue, the moderator of a Tuesday night debate that pitted veteran New York Democrats Jerrold Nadler against Carolyn Maloney asked: “Should President Biden run again in 2024?”

“It’s too early to say,” Nadler responded.  “It doesn’t serve the purposes of the Democratic Party to deal with that until after the midterms.”

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Maloney was more blunt. “I don’t believe he’s running for reelection,” she said.

When asked about Phillips’ comments last week, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, “The president intends to run in 2024.”

But Jean-Pierre also said, “We are a ways away from 2024.”

Maloney and Nadler, both elected to the U.S. House 20 years ago, are battling each other in a primary after redistricting redrew the lines of their Manhattan-based districts. A third candidate in that Democratic primary, Suraj Patel, answered “yes” when asked at Tuesday night’s debate if Biden should run for reelection.

Other Democrats have, like Nadler and Maloney, been evasive.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., for instance, has said repeatedly that he hasn’t decided if he’ll support Biden for a second term.

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Biden handily defeated former President Donald Trump in Minnesota by a little more than 7 percentage points in 2020, but the president recently has been bedeviled by inflation, a lingering COVID-19 pandemic and other problems like a baby formula shortage crisis.

According to a compilation of polls by FiveThirtyEight, Biden’s approval rating ticked up — very, very slightly — in the last week. Still, 55.7% of the polls’ respondents said they disapprove of the president’s job performance, while only 39.2% said they approve.