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President Joe Biden speaks at Culver City Julian Dixon Library in Culver City, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024.

Many delegates from Louisiana at next month’s Democratic National Convention are sticking by President Joe Biden amid increased calls that he abandon the race.

All 22 delegates interviewed by phone or text Tuesday by The Times-Picayune | The Advocate said they want the beleaguered president to continue as their candidate rather than step aside. Seven delegates didn’t respond. In all, Democrats will have 53 delegates at the convention, which runs from Aug. 19-22.

“One bad debate performance should not determine who our nominee is,” said delegate Gary Carter Jr., a state senator from New Orleans. “The Biden-Harris ticket gives us the best chance to win.”

Public Service Commissioner Davante Lewis of Baton Rouge supports Biden staying in the race but was one of the few delegates who said he is paying close attention to those who believe that the president cannot defeat Trump.

“Those arguments have significant merit,” Lewis said. “Biden hasn’t done enough to aggressively defend his record and talk about the future of the country...He needs to tell us why he’s president and what’s at stake if he’s not president.”

Biden is facing heightened criticism following his faltering performance during the nationwide televised debate with former President Donald Trump on June 27. News articles since then have quoted people who have been in close proximity with Biden over the past year saying he has declined mentally and physically.

On Tuesday, the seventh Democratic member of the U.S. House went public with a call for him not to run for reelection. Polls show Biden trails Trump by a slightly larger margin now.

Biden subject to scrutiny

James Carville, the Democratic strategist from New Orleans, is only one of many voices saying the debate showed that Biden at 81 is too feeble to defeat Trump.

“Being elderly and the presidency are not a good combo,” Carville said, who notes that a recent New York Times/Siena poll showed 74% of voters think Biden is too old.

In an opinion piece published in The New York Times on Monday, Carville said Biden ought to drop out and allow Democrats to hold a “mini-primary” during the next month overseen by former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. The delegates in Chicago would choose the Democratic candidate.

That’s not a good approach, said Randal Gaines, a former state representative from LaPlace who chairs the Louisiana Democratic Party and will lead the delegates during the convention in Chicago.

“Trying to change to another candidate at this point in the game would not be prudent,” Gaines said. “It may appear as more than panic than a strategy.”

Besides Lewis and Gary Carter, other delegates who favor Biden staying in the race include U.S. Rep. Troy Carter of New Orleans, state Rep. Delisha Boyd of New Orleans, Bogalusa Mayor Tyrin Truong, Rep. Mandie Landry of New Orleans, Sen. Regina Barrow of Baton Rouge and Rep. Kyle Green of Marrero.

“It is important to evaluate President Biden’s performance as our leader based on the full body of his work and not solely on one 90-minute debate,” Boyd said. “Assessing a president’s effectiveness involves considering a wide range of factors, including policies enacted, decisions made, leadership during crises, diplomatic efforts, economic performance and more.”

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President wants to stay in

Biden has shown no interest in getting out, making that point Monday in a two-page letter to lawmakers and in a call to the MSNBC show “Morning Joe.”

“The question of how we move forward has been well aired for over a week now,” Biden wrote in the letter. “And it’s time for it to end.”

Of the 53 Democratic delegates from Louisiana, all but five have pledged to vote for Biden at the convention, so it would take a lot for any of them to call for him to move aside.

“Whether he gets out is up to him,” said Green. “If he thinks he is the best candidate to take on Donald Trump, let’s roll with it.”

Green said he is glad that Biden appears to be campaigning aggressively since the debate, sitting for an interview on Friday with ABC News and appearing at campaign rallies in Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pa., on Sunday.

Tammy Savoie, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel in New Orleans, said she goes back and forth on Biden before concluding that he should run.

“Over the past three years, he has gotten things done,” Savoie said. “His record is kind of getting overlooked. With Putin and Israel, it’s important we have someone who has historical perspective.”

Other delegates focused less on whether Biden would defeat Trump and more on why he should be reelected.

“Donald Trump is a criminal, and I cannot overlook that fact,” said Nicole Dumas, who lives in metro Baton Rouge.

Trump was convicted on 34 charges by a jury in New York of paying hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels to keep voters during the 2016 presidential election of knowing her claim that they had sex.

Sandra Green Thomas of New Orleans said Democrats need to close ranks behind Biden, calling it “unproductive and even damaging to suggest otherwise.”

“I feel it’s disgraceful the way some Democrats are cannibalizing the president,” she said. “You don’t see Republicans suggesting that (U.S. Sen. Mitch) McConnell or (U.S. Sen. Charles) Grassley should go given their age. You don’t see them trying to dump Trump despite his disreputable character. Joe Biden has performed well in his role as commander in chief. I’m sticking with him.”

Email Tyler Bridges at tbridges@theadvocate.com.

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