Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Pritzker to meet with Biden, Democratic governors concerned about president’s campaign

A person with short, dark hair and a suit is standing in front of microphones. The background features a blurred painting and part of the American flag. Gov. JB Pritzker appears to be speaking or listening intently, with a serious expression on his face.
Jerry Nowicki
Capitol News Illinois
Gov. JB Pritzker is pictured in a file photo in his Illinois State Capitol office. The governor traveled to the White House on Monday to meet with the president and many of the nation’s other Democratic governors.

Gov. JB Pritzker traveled to the White House to meet with President Joe Biden and his fellow Democratic governors on Wednesday amid 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.

But in a CNN interview on Tuesday evening, the governor expressed mild worry about Biden’s campaign, while still unequivocally saying he would continue supporting the president’s candidacy “unless he makes some other decision.”

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.

Pritzker on CNN offered a critique not directly of Biden’s debate performance, but of what he’s done – or failed to do – since.

“We haven't heard a lot from him since the debate, and that's why the polls look as they do,” Pritzker said. “I think that when you come off a bad debate, you need to remind people why you're the right guy to elect.”

But he immediately followed that with the hope that Biden would further engage the public “over the next couple of weeks.”

“At least, I expect him to, or he'll make a different decision,” the governor said of Biden’s candidacy. “And I think that's again, this is a healthy conversation for us all to be having,”

Wednesday’s meeting is an outgrowth of a call earlier this week arranged by Minnesota Gov. Tim 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.

“I think there are questions that got raised by that debate, and hopefully that's just a one-off situation that the President can rectify by letting everybody know, once again, all the great things that he's done for working families across America,” Pritzker said.

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.

The governor avoided directly answering a question about a new CNN poll showing most voters believe the Democratic party has a better chance of beating Trump with someone other than Biden.

“Well, the Democratic Party has a great bench, and I think you and I both know there are some hyper-capable people whose names have been mentioned as potential for the future,” he said. “But right now, we're focused on the 2024 race and the fact that Joe Biden is going to be the nominee, unless otherwise stated.”

On a separate CNN program Tuesday, Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, of Chicago, was more willing to express concern about both Biden’s appeal to voters and a potential drag for other Democrats fighting to keep control of the Senate and regain control of the House.

“We have to be honest with ourselves that it wasn’t just a horrible night,” Quigley said. “It’s his decision. I just want him to appreciate at this time just how much it impacts not just his race, but all the other races coming in November.”

Editor’s note: This story may be updated pending the result of the Wednesday afternoon meeting.

Capitol News Illinoisis a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

Hannah Meisel is a reporter at Capitol News Illinois.