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As Democrats Fret About Biden, Murphy Says He Must Address Voters’ Concerns


Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, said Sunday that President Biden’s first television interview since his disastrous debate performance fell short of alleviating deep concerns about his age and mental acuity, and that the president has more work to do to convince voters he is fit to run for and win re-election.

“Voters do have questions,” Mr. Murphy said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

He added: “Personally, I love Joe Biden, and I don’t know that the interview on Friday night did enough to answer those questions. This week is going to be absolutely critical. I think the president needs to do more.”

Mr. Murphy said he would urge Mr. Biden to “do a town hall, do a press conference — show the country he is still the old Joe Biden.”

He avoided directly answering whether Mr. Biden should step aside, saying: “I know there are a lot of voters out there that need to be convinced that Thursday’s night’s debate performance was a bad night.”

The carefully calibrated comments from Mr. Murphy were some of the first public alarm bells from the ranks of Senate Democrats, who have stayed mostly silent since the debate over a week ago, but who are increasingly concerned about Mr. Biden’s ability to serve as the party’s nominee. It came as Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the minority leader, was set to convene top House Democrats later Sunday to discuss Mr. Biden’s candidacy, and at a time when a handful of members of that chamber have already publicly called on the president to step aside.

Mr. Murphy’s comments reflected where many Senate Democrats are landing as they head back to Washington for a critical week: They want to give Mr. Biden a little more room to prove himself, or exit the race on his own terms, before making any explicit call for him to do so. But they are also aware that there may be no way, at this point, to prove to voters that he is not too old for the task of defeating former President Donald J. Trump.

Mr. Murphy said he thought Mr. Biden could still defeat Mr. Trump. But he added, “the president needs to answer those questions that voters have.” Mr. Murphy insisted multiple times during the interview that Mr. Biden had to prove himself “this week” in “unscripted” conversations with voters.

“They need to see more from the president, and I hope that we see that this week,” he said.

The senator’s message also appeared aimed at warning the president and those around him that the defiant stance in response to real questions about Mr. Biden’s candidacy cannot stand. The president has denied that a number of Democrats have called on him to step aside and declared that only divine intervention could persuade him to withdraw from the race.

“There are still questions,” Mr. Murphy said. “The clock is ticking.”

Senator Angus King, Democrat of Maine, echoed the message in a statement provided through a spokesman. Mr. King “believes the president should take every opportunity in the coming days to establish his capacity to continue the campaign and the job of the presidency through unscripted interviews and direct interactions with voters,” the spokesman, Matthew Felling, said on Sunday. “It is only through such a public process that he can demonstrate that Thursday was simply an off night and that his past ability to define the issues and seek common sense solutions remains undiminished.”

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island publicly voiced concerns last week over how candid the campaign was being about Mr. Biden’s condition, but he stopped short of calling for him to step aside. And Senator Peter Welch of Vermont warned of a “fierce undertow” for Democratic House and Senate candidates if the Democratic presidential candidate loses badly in November.

Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, is also working to convene Democratic senators this week to discuss a path forward and their concerns about Mr. Biden remaining as the nominee. Mr. Warner has privately expressed anguish about the president’s debate performance and doubts that he can remain in the race and win re-election.

Catie Edmondson contributed reporting.



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