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US: Biden's re-election crisis deepens as actor George Clooney withdraws support, Pelosi raises doubts

Clooney, a Democrat who hosted a star-studded fundraiser for Biden in June, said he was not the same man as he was in 2020. Nancy Pelosi, a longtime ally of Biden, said the 81-year-old President needed to decide quickly if he would remain in the White House as "time is running short".

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Washington Published on: July 11, 2024 8:02 IST
US President Joe Biden and Hollywood star George Clooney.
Image Source : REUTERS US President Joe Biden and Hollywood star George Clooney.

Washington: In a major setback for US President Joe Biden, actor George Clooney, one of the top fundraisers for the Democratic presidential candidate, withdrew his support saying the Democrats cannot win the presidency with him. Biden's problems widened as a top ally and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also raised doubts about his chances, as the White House seems unable to brush off the post-debate crisis.

Hollywood star Clooney, a Democrat who hosted a successful star-studded fundraiser for Biden in June, said in an opinion piece in the New York Times that the 81-year-old President should drop out as he was not the same man he was in 2020. These remarks came after Biden's hoarse-sounding, stumbling performance at the presidential debate on June 27 against his rival Donald Trump was widely panned and fuelled concerns over his age.

'Not the same Biden as 2020': Clooney

"It's devastating to say it, but the Joe Biden I was with three weeks ago at the fund-raiser was not the Joe 'big F-ing deal' Biden of 2010. He wasn’t even the Joe Biden of 2020. He was the same man we all witnessed at the debate," Clooney wrote in his opinion piece. "Was he tired? Yes. A cold? Maybe. But our party leaders need to stop telling us that 51 million people didn't see what we just saw."

"We are not going to win in November with this president. On top of that, we won’t win the House, and we’re going to lose the Senate. This isn’t only my opinion; this is the opinion of every senator and congress member and governor that I’ve spoken with in private. Every single one, irrespective of what he or she is saying publicly," he further said in strong remarks.

The actor suggested that the party decide on a new nominee at its August convention and offered the names of several possible contenders including Vice President Kamala Harris and several state governors. He also expressed admiration for Biden and said he considered him a friend. "I love Joe Biden. As a senator. As a vice president and as president. I consider him a friend, and I believe in him. Believe in his character. Believe in his morals... But the one battle he cannot win is the fight against time," he added.

Nancy Pelosi raises doubts on Biden's re-election

Meanwhile, Pelosi, a longtime Biden ally, said Biden must decide quickly whether to stay in the 2024 White House race while declining to say definitively that she wanted him to run. Pelosi's remarks, which ignored Biden's repeated insistence that he is staying in the race, suggested he could face a fresh wave of calls from fellow Democrats to exit the race.

Pelosi said she was encouraging colleagues on Capitol Hill with concerns about Biden to refrain from airing them while he hosts NATO leaders in Washington this week. "I've said to everyone: let's just hold off. Whatever you're thinking, either tell somebody privately, but you don't have to put that out on the table until we see how we go this week," she said, describing Biden's strong remarks at the NATO summit on Tuesday as "spectacular."

"I want him to do whatever he decides to do. We're all encouraging him to make that decision because time is running short," she further said. Asked to comment on Pelosi's remarks and Clooney's article, Biden's campaign pointed to a letter he sent Democrats in Congress saying he was "firmly committed" to staying in the race and beating Trump. Pelosi on Tuesday said she had "always been committed" to Biden, the campaign noted.

Other Democrats call for Biden to withdraw

Pelosi and Clooney's position could influence other Democratic lawmakers and financial donors, and two Senate Democrats to call for Biden's withdrawal from the election race. Senator Peter Welch said in an op-ed published on Wednesday that Biden should withdraw, the first Democratic senator to explicitly call for the president to step aside.

Additionally, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said he was "deeply concerned" about Biden's ability to win the race. US Representative Earl Blumenauer on Wednesday became the ninth Democratic member of the House of Representatives to call for the president to end his re-election campaign. On Tuesday, Senator Michael Bennet said he did not believe Biden could defeat Trump. 

The president has insisted he will be the Democratic candidate and that he is the best person to beat Trump. He has said he had a bad night at the debate and vowed to stay in the race. The White House is hoping he can turn the page on a difficult period in his presidency with his highest-profile policy speech since the debate, although some diplomats at the summit said the damage was hard to erase.

(with inputs from Reuters)

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