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Illinois Democrats divided on whether President Biden should continue reelection campaign

President Biden stumps for support; Illinois Democrats divided
President Biden stumps for support; Illinois Democrats divided 02:56

CHICAGO (CBS) -- President Joe Biden was on the world stage at a NATO Summit in Washington Tuesday, and every time the president steps into the camera, there is high interest with lingering questions about his age and ability.

Mr. Biden's reelection campaign, which has been in a tailspin following a disastrous June 27 debate performance against former President Donald Trump.

At the summit Tuesday, Mr. Biden tried to reassure voters that he is up for the job.

"It's a pleasure to host you in this milestone year—to look back with pride at all we've achieved, and look ahead to our shared future with strength and with resolve," Mr. Biden said at the NATO Summit Tuesday afternoon.

This comes after a letter Mr. Biden sent to congressional Democrats Monday, in which he said he is "firmly committed" to staying in the race and made clear that he wouldn't be running again if he "did not absolutely believe I was the best person to beat Donald Trump in 2024."

Mr. Biden also spoke to Democratic donors in a call, saying he was done talking about the debate, according to a CBS News source familiar with the discussion during the call. "I'm not going anywhere and I'm going to beat Trump," he said in the call, which came hours after the letter went out.

But support for President Biden's continued campaign for reelection has some Illinois Democrats divided.

U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Illinois) has gone on record multiple times saying it is time for President Biden to step aside in his race for reelection—and he repeated that call on Tuesday.

"The fighting spirit and pride and courage that served the country so well four years ago, helped Joe Biden win, will bring the ticket down this time. He just has to step down because he can't win, and my colleagues need to recognize that," Quigley said. "A dismissive letter is not going to change any minds."

But U.S. Rep. Jonathan Jackson (D-Illinois) expressed confidence in Mr. Biden and urged the party to stand by him.

"I support President Joe Biden. Fourteen million people have voted in the Democratic primary, and so I think it's important that we close ranks," Jackson said. "He's had a great run since the debate night—going into campaign stops and events and doing press conferences. So we'll just have to wait and see. I think he's up to the grueling haul of the presidential campaign season."

U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Illinois) likewise expressed support for Mr. Biden.

 "Joe Biden is our President, and he is fully committed and able to defeat Donald Trump again in November," Kelly said in a statement. "For the last four years, President Biden has led with honor and distinction, signing into law historic pieces of legislation that improves the lives of Americans. Trump would continue to take away reproductive rights, attack civil rights, and give handouts to billionaires and big corporations. President Biden is the best person to serve our country."

U.S. Rep. Sean Casten (D-Illinois) said the focus should be on Mr. Biden's Republican opponent.

 "My takeaway is great sadness that we are not in a conversation about the fact that we have two people running for president; one of them has a record that anybody would be proud to have and the other one is an adjudicated rapist, twice-impeached, convicted felon who there is not a single American they would trust to babysit their teenage daughter. That is the conversation we have to be having over the next three months," Casten told CNN. "We need to be sure we can run an effective campaign on the political side of this operation, but the stakes of this are not about elections. The stakes of this are about what is the future for our country in two different scenarios. And there is a lot of concern—can we have this conversation with the current media environment? But that's the conversation we have to have."

U.S. Reps. Danny Davis and Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) also expressed continued support for the president.

"I think the president has made it clear—unequivocally, and without a doubt—that he's in it to win it," said Davis. "Joe has integrity. Trump has none. Biden all the way."    

However, when asked if he had concerns about Mr. Biden being on the ticket, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) said, "Of course I do."

"And I think that he's trying to address those directly by the style and the nature of his campaign," Durbin said. "I think he's aware of the fact that what happened to that debate was disastrous. "

When asked what his specific concerns were, Durbin said,  "Concerns is whether or not that was a one-off situation, or there is more to the issue."

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said Mr. Biden is aware of his poor performance at the debate—and has an opportunity to redeem himself at the NATO Summit.

"I think that President Biden—and I've said this—he needs to go out there and answer all the questions, and he needs to show people that he's the leader of the free world, and that he's doing a heck of a job of making sure that the United States is leading us," Pritzker said at a news conference Tuesday. "And we have a lot of enemies in the world, and it is going to take a tough, strong, smart, and principled leader. That's what Joe Biden is."

Pritzker also emphasized that even though such congresspeople as Rep. Quigley have said Mr. Biden needs to step down, the focus needs to be on defeating President Trump.

"It's not unreasonable for people to have differing opinions about all this, but I know Mike Quigley. I know he does not want Donald Trump to be President of the United States. So we've seen a lot of comments by congresspeople, by others who have questions," Pritzker said. "In the end, everybody understands that we're pulling together to put our party, and our party nominee, and our issues, over the line—and importantly, the working families America need our party and the issues that we're pushing in order for them to have better lives and better opportunities for their children."

Pritzker also said he cannot imagine the Democratic National Convention in Chicago this August being contested, and he expects Mr. Biden to be renominated without disruption.

Former President Trump rallied his own supporters Tuesday night in Florida—capitalizing on the discord about President Biden's campaign.

"Meanwhile, the radical left Democrat Party is divided in chaos and having a full-scale breakdown," Trump said, "all because they can't decide which of their candidates is more unfit to be president—sleepy, crooked Joe Biden or laughing Kamala."

On Tuesday night, President Biden hosted a call with Democratic mayors to try and shore up support for his nomination heading into the DNC. Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson was among those mayors, and he released this statement:

"I appreciated receiving a campaign update from President Joe Biden tonight about his plan to defeat Donald Trump. Trump would roll back the progress we have made to strengthen the economy, further erode reproductive rights, endanger our climate, undermine democracy at home and abroad, and more. He poses a unique and serious threat to everything we hold dear here in Chicago.

"I am proud to continue supporting President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in this election and I look forward to welcoming Democrats from across the country to Chicago, the greatest city in the world, for the Democratic National Convention next month. We must be united as we work as hard as possible every day to ensure that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are reelected – and Donald Trump is defeated once and for all."

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