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Senator Mark Warner is trying to rally Senate Democrats to urge Biden to drop out of the race

Senator Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) is trying to assemble a group of Democratic senators to urge President Biden to drop out of the presidential race, according to two people with direct knowledge of the effort.

Warner is telling Democratic senators that Biden cannot stay in the race after his weak debate performance, according to people familiar with private conversations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak freely. Warner has told others he is deeply concerned that Biden is unable to run a campaign that could beat former President Donald Trump.

Warner's spokeswoman Rachel Cohen would not confirm or deny that the senator believes Biden should drop out of the race. Instead, she issued a statement saying, “Like many other people in Washington and across the country, Senator Warner believes these are critical days for the President's campaign, and he has made that clear to the White House.”

On Friday afternoon, Biden declared from Wisconsin that he would “beat Donald Trump.”

“I will not allow a 90-minute debate to undo three and a half years of work. I am staying in the race,” he said.

Before leaving Wisconsin on July 5, President Biden dismissed reports that Democrats were urging him to drop out of the race. (Video: The Washington Post)

Biden told reporters he had spoken to at least 20 members of Congress and they all advised him to “stay in the race.” Asked about Warner's concerns, Biden said he was the “only one” pushing for his resignation. “Nobody else is asking me to do that,” he said.

Various tactics are currently being discussed as senators consider how best to convey their concerns to the president in light of their growing anxiety.

Among the options being considered is a meeting between senators and Biden at the White House. Even if some senators do not want Biden to resign, supporters of the meeting argue that they could use this forum to openly and personally voice their concerns. Although no sitting Democratic senator has publicly called for Biden to resign, they have privately shared their growing concerns with each other over the past week as they wage an already tough battle to maintain the Senate majority.

As chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Warner is considered a serious voice who is privately advocating for the president's resignation. He represents a state that Democrats must win in November if they want to keep the White House.

There is a growing consensus among Senate Democrats that the situation with Biden at the top of the ballot is untenable. Senators are trying to figure out how best to convey that message to an isolated president. Some senators don't believe Biden has people around him who can give him an accurate picture of the consequences, according to a Democratic senator and a senior Democratic aide.

Nevertheless, many senators are waiting. They want to wait and see how Biden performs in his interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Friday evening and at his rally in Wisconsin before deciding to take such a drastic step.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has told senators to wait to take action until more polling data is available on Biden and the Democrats' position, according to two people familiar with the talks. Some Democrats argue that polling data is unlikely to be reliable until later this month because of the July 4 holiday and the boost Republicans expect from their convention.

Warner did not publicly comment on Biden's performance during the debate, although many of his colleagues initially released supportive messages but privately worried about the consequences.

“The bottom line is that Joe Biden is our president. He is a patriotic American. He has done a good job. He puts others first, not himself,” said Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Warner's co-senator who is running for re-election in the fall, at a recent campaign appearance, according to a report in the Progress Index newspaper. “He had an existential campaign in 2020, and he had to win it. He has a great record as president.”

If Warner's group comes into being, it would be a crucial turning point in the Democrats' approach to the question of whether Biden can stay in the race against Trump.

In August 1974, three Republican congressmen went to the White House to tell President Richard M. Nixon that he no longer had enough support to survive impeachment over the Watergate scandal. Nixon resigned two days later.

In this case, Democratic senators, many of whom know and like Biden personally, are concerned about Biden's future and prospects after his debate performance raised questions about his mental health and condition.

“I think many feel that the current path is not sustainable for him,” said one Democratic senator, describing the general mood of the caucus. “Not just because of the debate, but because of his good performance in the future. He obviously needs to show strength now.”

The senators have been in their home states since the debate, but have been communicating by phone, voicing their concerns and trying to find a way forward. Schumer has publicly thrown his support behind Biden.

These people say Warner is now ready to make his case.

The former Virginia governor and ex-businessman has occasionally criticized the Biden administration for its decision to promote content on TikTok and its handling of an investigation into classified documents. In 2023, Warner was one of eight Democrats who wrote a letter urging Biden to devote more resources to securing the southern border.

Warner has often been a moderate dealmaker in the Senate and helped negotiate the 2021 infrastructure bill, among other things.