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Democratic lawmaker warns of “disastrous” consequences if Biden renominated

Representative Dean Phillips, a Minnesota Democrat, warned of “disastrous” consequences if President Joe Biden is not successfully challenged in the 2024 presidential primary.

Phillips, a moderate who flipped a suburban congressional district outside of Minneapolis in 2018, is reportedly mulling to challenge Biden himself as some Democrats call for an alternative candidate in 2024, but more high-profile Democrats have thus far declined to run against the incumbent president. Politico reported last month that Phillips was set to meet with donors about a potential challenge, though he would remain unlikely to run unless Biden’s health or popularity declines.

He addressed speculation that he may run for president during an appearance on CBS News’ Face the Nation on Sunday morning. While he would prefer a more prominent name jumping into the race, he declined to rule out running himself, saying that most Democrats want competition in the primary.

“Democrats are telling me that they want not a coronation, but they want a competition,” Phillips said. “A New York Times poll from this week shows 55 percent of Democratic voters want some alternatives to the people in the primary. Eighty-three percent of Democrats under 30 want alternatives, and about 76 percent of independents.”

Representative Dean Phillips, a Minnesota Democrat, speaks outside the U.S. Capitol building on July 25, 2019, in Washington, D.C. Phillips warned that President Joe Biden not facing a primary challenge would be “disastrous” for the Democratic Party on Sunday.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The congressman also issued a stark warning about what could happen if national Democrats ignore voters’ calls for alternative candidates.

“If we don’t heed that call, shame on us. And the consequences, I believe, would be disastrous. So my call is to go to our well-positioned, well-prepared—of good character and competency, you know who they are—to jump in. Because Democrats and the country need competition,” he said.

When asked whether he would run, Phillips said, “I’m not saying I will.”

He added that he believes he is well positioned to lead the country, but less so to run for president.

Newsweek reached out to Biden’s campaign for comment via email. A Phillips spokesperson declined to add further comment when reached by Newsweek.

So far, a handful of Democrats, most notably attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and author Marianne Williamson, have announced long-shot challenges to Biden. But no candidate has successfully broken through in polls. FiveThirtyEight’s aggregate of recent polls shows Biden winning an average of 64.4 percent support, while Kennedy Jr., his closest challenger, averages support from 15.1 percent of voters.

Sitting presidents typically do not face serious primary challengers. The last incumbent president to face a substantial challenge was Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968, who ended his campaign in March after only narrowly winning the New Hampshire primary to Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy.

Still, Biden has faced calls from many Democrats to retire after serving only a single term. An Echelon Insights survey of 472 likely Democrat voters conducted from July 26 to 29 found that 33 percent of Democratic voters would refuse to vote for Biden in the primary, though Kennedy Jr. and Williamson received only a combined 24 percent of support. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

Phillips’ latest comments drew bipartisan rebuke, with Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans saying that voters who oppose the former president should rally behind Biden.

“It’s not a coronation, it’s a coalition of Democrats coming together to reflect @JoeBiden to #FinishTheJob on the economy, climate change, equity, abortion rights, and more,” Biden’s former chief of staff Ronald Klain wrote in a Sunday post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Former Representative Adam Kinzinger, an anti-Trump Republican representing Illinois, wrote on X, “I guarantee you the only ones clamoring for Dean Phillips to run are Dean Phillips. I mean of all people for Dems to clamor for… it’s not dean Phillips.”

Others, however, voiced agreement with Phillips.

“Any election that Donald Trump is a candidate in is one of the most important in our nation’s history. if Joe Biden isn’t the best positioned to beat him, we need to elect someone who is,” posted X user @LemonSturgis. “I don’t know if Phillips is the right candidate, but we need more options.”

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