IL Gov. JB Pritzker, Democratic governors say they have Biden's back after 'candid and open' meeting

Thursday, July 4, 2024
Pritzker, Dem governors reaffirm support for Biden after meeting
JB Pritzker and other Democratic governors reaffirmed their support for President Joe Biden after an "candid and open" meeting at the White House.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Gov. JB Pritzker and a host of Democratic governors reaffirmed their support for President Joe BIden's reelection bid after a meeting at the White House about rising worry within the party about the president's ability to continue running for a second term.

Pritzker - whose name had been floated by the pundit class as a possible 2024 candidate for the White House before the president announced his reelection campaign - has repeatedly pledged his loyalty to Biden. The only public criticism Pritzker has leveled against Biden has been in asking for more help with migrants arriving in Illinois.

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Wednesday's meeting comes on the heels of Biden's performance during the first of two scheduled debates with former President Donald Trump last week, which raised concerns about the president's mental acuity.

READ MORE: Pritzker supporting Biden after debate; some Democrats express concern

Pritzker was one of 24 Democratic governors, plus the mayor of Washington D.C., who attended the meeting, and one of 12 to attend in person.

Following the meeting, the Democratic governors said they are standing behind the president.

"Obviously, we like many Americans were worried. We're worried because of the threat of a Trump presidency is not theoretical for governors," said Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz. "The governors have his back and we're working together just to make very, very clear on that. A path to victory in November is the number one priority."

Pritzker's campaign spokesperson released a statement after the meeting saying, "Gov. Pritzker reports that the meeting was candid and he appreciated hearing directly from the president."

"I think we came in and we were honest about the feedback that we were getting. We were honest about the concerns that we were hearing from people. And we were also honest about the fact that as the president continued to tell us and show us that he was all in that, we said that we would stand with him," said Maryland Gov. Wes Moore.

Biden met for more than an hour at the White House in person and virtually with more than 20 governors from his party. The governors told reporters afterward that the conversation was "candid" and open, and said they expressed concerns about Biden's debate performance last week.

But they did not join other Democrats in urging him to leave the race.

"I'm here to tell you today, President Joe Biden is in it to win it. And all of us said we pledged our support to him because the stakes could not be higher," said New York Gov. Kathy Hochul.

"What we saw in there today was a guy who is the guy that all of us believed in the first time who could beat Donald Trump and did beat Donald Trump," said Gov. Walz.

RELATED: Biden is not considering dropping out of the race, White House says

In Chicago, U.S. Congressman Jesus "Chuy" Garcia also weighed in on the president's reelection bid.

"I believe that if there is energy in the campaign, he will defeat Donald Trump once again, but he needs to be very honest and needs to be very thoughtful on a critical decision because there is so much on the line for the country and for democracy in November," he said.

Wednesday's meeting was an outgrowth of a call earlier this week arranged by Gov. Walz, who chairs the Democratic Governors Association. Pritzker was clear that none of the governors on that call said they wanted Biden to step aside. Instead, he said, they wanted reassurance about the president's campaign strategy.

The governor repeatedly expressed faith that as Nov. 5 nears, Biden and his surrogates would effectively make the case that the president is a clear "contrast" from former President Donald Trump, whom he called a "despotic narcissist."

"He's a convicted felon and adjudicated rapist and he's a congenital liar," Pritzker said, repeating a well-rehearsed description he's been wielding in both local and national appearances since Trump's May 30 conviction by a New York jury in a case centering on his hush money payments to a porn star.

Last minute changes to the presidential ticket have happened before, perhaps most notably in 1968 when a chaotic scramble ensued among delegates at the Democratic National Convention after President Lyndon Johnson decided not to seek reelection.

Experts say Biden must decide his future soon.

"If he's going to drop, he should drop now to give the Democratic Party an opportunity to reorganize itself, get its nominee, whether it be the vice president or someone else," said election attorney Burt Odelson.

The party must virtually nominate a candidate 12 days before the 2024 DNC starts in Chicago, in order to qualify to be on the ballot in Ohio, with its 17 electoral votes. The White House is adamant Biden is staying in the race.

"I don't see him stepping aside," Odelson said. "That's if you look at his past. Every time there's been adversity, he's risen up."

Ultimately Joe Biden is the only one who can make the decision about his future. And it seems clear that he understands the need to quickly demonstrate to the American people that he is physically and mentally to serve another term.

Capitol News Illinois and the Associated Press contributed to this report