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Lee, Horsford split on confidence in Biden as Democratic nominee

Despite having “serious concerns” about the president after his poor performance at debate, Lee says he remains the “clear choice” in the race against Trump.
Gabby Birenbaum
Gabby Birenbaum
CongressElection 2024Elections

Nevada’s congressional Democrats agree that former President Donald Trump must be defeated in the upcoming presidential election.

But is President Joe Biden the right candidate to do so? On that point, they’re less aligned.

Ever since Biden’s faltering debate performance June 27, in which he sounded hoarse, frequently lost his train of thought and misspoke several times, voters and Democratic officials alike have worried that the president, already the oldest commander in chief in American history, may not be up to the task of beating Trump and serving another term. A handful of Democrats in Congress have even called on Biden to drop out of the race, amidst concerns that a poor performance at the top of the ticket could harm Democratic chances in the Senate and House as well.

Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV), a Frontline Democrat who represents a swing district she won by 4 percentage points in 2022, did not go so far as to push Biden toward exiting. But in a statement to The Nevada Independent, Lee said that she had “serious concerns” about the octogenarian — and that her fears have not been assuaged.

“I expressed serious concerns after the debate and I still have them,” Lee said. “Whether President Biden remains on the ticket is his decision, not mine. He needs to prove to the American public that he can do the job for four more years.”

Lee’s stance was far more skeptical than that of her congressional neighbor Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV), who is also a Frontliner, albeit in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a greater margin than Lee’s.

Horsford, the chair of the influential Congressional Black Caucus, positioned himself more firmly in Biden’s camp in a statement Monday morning, noting that Nevada voters had chosen Biden as their nominee in February’s presidential primary. Horsford echoed a point the president made to Hill Democrats in a Monday letter calling for speculation about his candidacy to end and suggesting that replacing him would undermine voters’ will.

“President Joe Biden is the nominee and has been selected by millions of voters across this country, including voters here in Nevada,” Horsford said

Biden won the Nevada primary with 89 percent of the vote — though he faced no serious challengers. The one member of Congress who did challenge him during the primaries, Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN), did not file to run in the Silver State.

Horsford’s approval was quickly followed by Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), the only member of the delegation not facing re-election this fall. Cortez Masto, who said she was “proud to stand with Joe Biden” the day after the debate, bear-hugged the president again Monday.

“Joe Biden won the Democratic nomination in a landslide because he fights for working people in this country,” she wrote on X. “He’s always had Nevadans’ backs, whether it’s on the picket lines, protecting our personal freedoms, or lowering costs — now it’s time for us to have his.”

While Lee was far more critical than her fellow Nevada Democrats, she noted that in a race between Biden and Trump, the president remained the “clear” choice for her.

“I do know that President Biden has brought America historic infrastructure investments, new jobs, and lower prescription drug and health care costs,” she said. “Trump is a 34-time convicted felon who helped overturn Roe v. Wade, and is a threat to our democracy, national security, and Nevadans’ fundamental rights.”

While Democratic hand-wringing has spilled into the public eye, most Republicans remain united behind Trump as their nominee — who, at 79 years old, is also a senior citizen, prone to incoherent rambling and frequently fell asleep during his criminal trial.

Absent from the conversation so far is Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), who is facing re-election in what is expected to be one of Democrats’ toughest seats to defend this cycle.

While Rosen spoke at a Biden-Harris campaign event before the vice president the day after the debate, she only used Biden’s name once. Throughout the cycle, she has been careful to maintain distance from the president, whose approval rating has remained underwater in Nevada for more than a year and whom she is running several points ahead of in polling averages.


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