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Following rocky debate and troubling polls, Virginia Democrats chime in on Biden’s future

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine speaks at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, July 8, 2024
Brad Kutner
Radio IQ
Virginia Senator Tim Kaine speaks at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, July 8, 2024

Questions about President Joe Biden's future as a candidate are following other Democrats as they work through their own campaigns across the country. Among them is Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, who spoke at an event Monday morning in Richmond.

“It’s been a tough stretch since the debate, obviously,” Virginia's junior senator said at a community college in Richmond Monday morning.

Kaine, who's seeking to keep his seat this fall, was there to see the fruits of some new federal funds, but he was dogged by questions about President Biden’s continued run for office.

Kaine appeared to leave the door open for Biden to make the call himself.

“He won a race against Donald Trump in 2020 by a commanding lead here in Virginia and nationally and he’s done a great job as president. I’ve never been disappointed in JB’s patriotic ability to put country over self,” Kaine told the press. "If he has doubts, he’ll level with the American public…. He’s going to do what’s right for the country.”

The comments came just hours after Biden sent a letter to Democrats in Washington promising to stay in the race. Kaine said he hadn’t seen that letter yet. His comments came after reporting by Axios that Virginia’s other Senator, Mark Warner, was organizing a meeting with other Senators to discuss Biden’s future on the 2024 ticket. Kaine said he’d discussed the issue with Warner but chose not to share the details of those conversations.

Later Monday, Warner issued a written statement praising Biden's accomplishments but adding that now is the time for conversations about the strongest path forward. “As these conversations continue," Warner wrote, "I believe it is incumbent upon the President to more aggressively make his case to the American people, and to hear directly from a broader group of voices about how to best prevent Trump’s lawlessness from returning to the White House.”

Meanwhile other elected officials in Virginia are sticking with the incumbent. Among them is state Senator Lamont Bagby. He chairs the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus which sent out a letter supporting the President Monday morning.

“This administration has proven that they care for the millions of Virginians who voted them into office. The person who we elevate to lead us as a nation must have respect for the democratic process that empowers them to make decisions for the good of the people,” the letter, co-signed by Bagby, Senate President Louise Lucas and House Speaker Don Scott, among other leading Black elected officials. “The only candidate I trust with this responsibility is Joe Biden.”

In an interview after the letter was released, Bagby told Radio IQ that Biden showed his ability to lead in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

“It was the resources Joe Biden, and a Democratic Congress sent us, that helped us get through it,” the Richmond-area Senator said. “I am convinced the Biden-Harris campaign is the campaign that we should be supporting.”

As for Black Virginians who are considering voting for Trump, Bagby pointed to the lyrics of UKG and OutKast's 'Int’l Players Anthem': "Don't do it! Reconsider, read some liter-Ature on the subject"

Also Monday, Richmond-area Congresswoman Jennifer McClellan backed Biden's reelection campaign.

On the other side of the aisle, Hung Cao, the GOP candidate for Kaine’s seat, said in an email he believed Kaine would support the incumbent eventually, and “we're committed to helping Virginians remember that in November."

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Updated: July 8, 2024 at 3:16 PM EDT
Added additional reporting about Sen. Mark Warner and Rep. Jennifer McClellan.
Brad Kutner is Radio IQ's reporter in Richmond.