Election 2024

The latest on where Minnesota Democratic leaders stand on President Joe Biden’s candidacy

gov walz and lt. gov flanagan
Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan meet with members of the Minnesota press at the state capitol in St. Paul on Wednesday.
Clay Masters | MPR News

President Joe Biden is facing heightened pressure from his own party to bow out of the presidential race or do considerably more to prove he’s up to the task of another White House term.

Minnesota Democrats are, like the rest of the party, split over the best course.

Following Biden’s disastrous debate performance last month, lawmakers and voters alike have expressed doubts that the 81-year-old president is capable of defeating presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump in November, let alone governing for the next four years. Biden has repeatedly vowed to stay in the race and insisted he’s the right candidate for the job. 

On Wednesday, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who remains in Congress, suggested that Biden should reconsider his decision to stay in the race. Pelosi, of California, is the most senior member of the party to publicly say that the president should reevaluate his reelection campaign, although more are tiptoeing up to that point.

Minnesota’s Congressional Democrats have gradually weighed in. Here’s where they stand as of Wednesday:

  • U.S. Rep. Angie Craig: So far, Craig has delivered the most definitive statement calling on Biden to leave the race. Over the weekend, Craig issued a statement saying that time is up for Biden to right the ship and “there is simply too much at stake to risk a second Donald Trump presidency. That’s why I respectfully call on President Biden to step aside as the Democratic nominee for a second term as President and allow for a new generation of leaders to step forward. Our party has an extraordinary number of talented leaders within it. I believe this is an opportunity to put forward an open, fair, and transparent Democratic process to select a new nominee to inspire and unite our great nation.” Craig is facing her own tough reelection race in Minnesota’s Second Congressional District.

  • U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar: The Minneapolis congresswoman told Bloomberg on Monday that Biden has her support. “Outside of a few outliers, I think everybody’s supporting the president,” she said. Omar is airing a TV commercial that uses Biden’s words praising her work even though she has been a sharp critic of Biden’s policies in the Israel-Hamas war. Don Samuels, Omar’s primary challenger, also issued a statement in support of Biden. 

  • U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips: Phillips, who is not running for reelection, has been slow to weigh in on the Biden debate debacle. Phillips ran a longshot campaign against Biden in early Democratic primaries, arguing that Biden was too old to serve a second term and the party was inviting a problem later. He was the only elected Democrat to challenge Biden. Phillips told reporters in Washington yesterday, “If this is vindication, vindication has never been so unfulfilling.” Phillips stopped short of fully calling Biden to withdraw and said he would make his perspective clear in the coming days. 

  • U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum: McCollum issued a statement on Wednesday saying she has concerns on whether President Biden is up for the challenge the election presents. “The fact is President Biden is the only one who can release his delegates at the Democratic National Convention. And he has made it clear that he is running for re-election,” McCollum said. “So now it is up to President Biden to restore confidence in the voters and demonstrate his ability to lead the country while campaigning.” McCollum said she has spoken to others in Washington who share her sentiments.

  • U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar: Klobuchar issued a statement to MPR News on Wednesday saying this week is “critical” for Biden to prove to the American people that he can win the election in November. “The stakes couldn’t be higher,” Klobuchar said in the statement. “Our very democracy hangs in the balance. The next week is critical and this is the moment the President must demonstrate to the American people that he can win.”

  • U.S. Sen. Tina Smith: Smith told reporters in Washington this week, “I have a lot of concerns and I’m not the only one.” She stopped short of saying Biden should step aside. Her office told MPR News Wednesday there was no further comment for now.

Among statewide Democratic leaders:

  • Gov. Tim Walz: He said Wednesday that he’ll stand with Biden as long as he is in the race against former President Donald Trump. His latest comments closely track with what he said after meeting last week with Biden and other Democratic governors. Walz says recent polls concern him and the Biden campaign needs to change strategy. “You get out, you make yourself available, you do press conferences, you stand in front of people and take questions that weren’t given to you ahead of time, and do the best you can to answer those. And those are the things that I expect them to do.”

  • Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan: Flanagan is the highest-ranking Native American woman elected to executive office in the country and noted that Biden has been a key ally to Native American communities. She said “We know that he’s an elder, and we’re still with him because we know what he’s done. And we are concerned about Trump, so we’re going to continue to do the work. He’s our guy.” She added that “having a partner instead of an adversary makes a really big difference to the kind of job that we can do. So I am with him.”

  • Attorney General Keith Ellison: He downplayed Biden’s poor debate performance in an interview with MPR News last week. “I think four years of being a great president is more important indicator than one bad night on the debate stand. I mean, I myself have had bad debates. So I don’t I don’t really see it as a huge problem. But you know, whatever he does, I support him. I think he is truly a good person. I’m not saying he’s a perfect person. But I think he is a good man, honest man. And I cannot say that for his opponent.”

  • Secretary of State Steve Simon: He declined to comment. “As Secretary of State, I don’t endorse any candidate at any level who may appear on a ballot anywhere in Minnesota.”

  • State Auditor Julie Blaha: In a statement to MPR News, Blaha said, “Biden is a great president but we also need a great candidate. A Trump presidency would be devastating for America, so we have to have an honest discussion about how we protect our democracy.”

    MPR News senior politics reporter Dana Ferguson contributed to this story.