Georgia Democrats in Congress stick with Biden

Despite some colleagues’ concerns, Democrats ‘fired up’ for the president
Congressmen Hank Johnson (D-GA) arrives at a press conference on the re-introduction of Restoring Artistic Protection Act (RAP Act) in Washington, DC on April 27th, 2023. (Nathan Posner for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

Congressmen Hank Johnson (D-GA) arrives at a press conference on the re-introduction of Restoring Artistic Protection Act (RAP Act) in Washington, DC on April 27th, 2023. (Nathan Posner for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

WASHINGTON — Since his disastrous debate performance in Atlanta, President Joe Biden has attempted to alleviate concerns from supporters through solid public appearances and delicate private conversations.

That work appears to have paid off as most congressional Democrats, including those in Georgia’s delegation, say they still support Biden as the party’s nominee for president.

Some lawmakers from other states have said Biden should abandon his reelection bid, and even more have shared their reservations in closed-door meetings, but publicly there is far more support for Biden than criticism.

“I’m fired up and ready to go for Joe Biden,” U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, a Lithonia Democrat, said after exiting a private meeting among House Democrats Tuesday morning. The meeting lasted for about two hours, although some lingered longer to strategize about the path forward.

Members had their cellphones locked away, a rare precaution to prevent leaks during the gathering. Most lawmakers, even those known for being chatty with the press, were tight-lipped as they left.

Johnson was one of the few willing to give an interview, although he wrapped up his comments as a gaggle of reporters began to bloom around him.

U.S. Reps. Lucy McBath of Marietta declined to comment as she departed the Democratic National Committee headquarters where the meeting was held. Rep. Sanford Bishop told reporters that the ticket is set.

“Everybody is looking at a tremendous record, and we have a nominee,” the Albany native said.

Democrats like Bishop have pointed to Biden’s accomplishments during his first term, including student loan relief, capping the cost of insulin and the infrastructure package, as evidence that he has been a strong president.

Johnson and others described the discussion as a family meeting of sorts where members shared their opposing views but pledged to remain united in their goal of preventing former President Donald Trump from returning to the White House. Johnson said he was already in Biden’s corner beforehand but was even more resolved to back the president after listening to his colleagues.

“Today was an opportunity for the members to express themselves, and my personal take-away is that Joe Biden has tremendous support from the Democratic caucus,” he said. “And we’re going to move forward.”

Biden has said repeatedly he has no plans to abandon his campaign and chalked up his poor debate performance to “a bad night.” More recently, he has received praise for strong speeches at campaign rallies and Tuesday’s NATO Summit kickoff.

An interview on ABC News Friday garnered more mixed reviews. The 81-year-old president has seen every move — and even previous statements — scrutinized for signs of ailments and advanced aging.

Biden has held private calls with lawmakers and donors to address those who have expressed doubts about his ability to serve. On Monday he joined a Zoom call with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, addressing a group of lawmakers that has become some of his most vocal supporters since the debate.

Black voters are also a key constituency group for Biden in swing states like Georgia. If just a small fraction of those who supported him in 2020 decide to sit out this year’s election or back another candidate, it would be difficult for him to rebuild his winning coalition.

Every Democrat in Georgia’s congressional delegation except U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff are members of the CBC, and all, including Ossoff, have expressed support for Biden.

Senate Democrats also discussed Biden at their private weekly luncheon; members were similarly tight-lipped afterward. Congressional Democrats have not come up with a plan on how they will present a united front as some continue to have deep concerns that Biden’s sagging approval ratings and poll numbers have foreshadowed a losing night in November.

Johnson said he saw no reason to abandon Biden, even after a debate performance in which he spoke with a raspy voice and delivered unfocused and hard-to-follow answers that shocked many supporters.

“Presidents are not hired because they are great debaters,” he said. “Presidents are hired because we expect them to govern our country, and they have the knowledge and the wisdom and experience to do so. And President Biden has done just that.”

Biden is attending NATO Summit working sessions all week and will host fellow heads of state at a dinner at the White House on Wednesday evening. He is scheduled to hold a rare news conference to conclude the summit on Thursday and on Friday will campaign in Detroit.

U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams did not attend the Democrats’ closed-door meeting to discuss Biden. The article has been updated to correct a reference to her being seen after the meeting.