‘She knows he’s watching’: Nancy Pelosi fuels doubt around President Biden’s nomination

As late as yesterday morning, Biden’s critics were growing pessimistic that they’d be able to keep up the pressure on him to withdraw any longer. But House and Senate caucus meetings broke without any consensus on what to do, as it became clear that many Democrats were still unwilling to move on from the question, even if they wouldn’t call on him to step down.

The former speaker’s appearance was a clear shot in the arm for those skeptics amid calls from pro-Biden Democrats to unite behind him immediately or risk damaging the eventual nominee. It also appeared designed for maximum visibility with the president himself.

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“Morning Joe is the President’s favorite show,” one senior Democratic aide said. “She knows he’s watching. She’s not an idiot. She chose those words carefully.”

“Pelosi is getting at what many, many, many people think and feel,” a senior aide to a member in a swing district texted. “Frontliners and lower profile members can only do so much. But they know that Biden won’t listen to their concerns.”

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, the very first Democrat to call on Biden to withdraw after the debate, told The Hill that the former speaker’s comments were “keeping the situation very open, very fluid.”

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It was similarly interpreted as a move to extend the conflict by Democrats hoping to put the issue behind them.

“I don’t think it moves members, but I think it compromises the goal to solidify support for Biden/move forward,” another senior Democratic aide said. “Why should anyone else fall back if she doesn’t?”

“She seemed to cast more doubt than members yesterday,” a fourth senior Democratic aide said. “I don’t think this is what they want … seemed like the page was starting to turn and this will complicate it.”

Other Democrats have previously used Pelosi’s framing of the race as unsettled, with many obliquely saying they’ll support Biden’s “decision” regardless of where it ends up. That continued after her appearance as well.

“I can’t speak to Speaker Emerita’s thinking, but all of us acknowledge that the decision here is President Biden’s to make,” Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif. told Semafor. “He has made it for now, but we all know that decisions can change, and if there is new information or changed circumstances, sometimes decisions should change. We’ll have to see what happens.”

Open opposition to Biden, while still rare, also continued to spread on Wednesday.

Rep. Pat Ryan of New York became the eighth House member to call for him to exit the race just hours after Pelosi’s interview. “I’d be doing a grave disservice if I said he was the best candidate to serve this fall,” he told The New York Times.

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