After poor debate performance, Colorado Democrats focus on Biden’s record

Election 2024 Debate
Gerald Herbert/AP
President Joe Biden speaks during a presidential debate hosted by CNN with Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump, Thursday, June 27, 2024, in Atlanta.

Updated 4:20 p.m. on Friday, June 28, 2024

As they went in and out of the House chamber early Friday, there was one topic most Democratic lawmakers did not want to discuss — President Joe Biden’s universally panned debate performance the night before.

Many Democrats, including Colorado Reps. Diana DeGette and Joe Neguse, said they had to go and vote, while others stayed glued to their phones or walked (or sprinted) past reporters straight into the safety of the chamber. 

After the votes, though, several Democrats were more vocal about their thoughts on the debate.

DeGette said Biden’s performance wasn’t great, “but every sentence (former President Donald) Trump said was a vicious lie and he would be a danger to our country if elected.” DeGette was an impeachment manager when Trump faced a charge of incitement to insurrection in the wake of the January 6th attack on the Capitol.

Rep. Jason Crow also admitted Biden “didn’t have a great debate night. That is very clear.”

But for Crow,  this election is about more than just one debate performance, “it’s about the future of America and the very existential threat that Donald Trump poses to Americans and to our national security.”

Even after the poor debate performance, Crow thinks that message will come across to voters by the fact that Biden is currently doing the job. 

“The President has a great record to run on. This was about governing, and the best indicator of the president’s ability to govern and to lead the country is that fact that he is governing and leading the country and doing incredible things over the last few years,” Crow said.

Focusing on the accomplishments of the Biden administration was also the message from freshman Democratic Rep. Brittany Pettersen.

“We have a lot of opportunities to talk about what we’ve been able to do for the American people,” Pettersen said. “I think everyone understands the missed opportunities (at the debate) to highlight such enormous wins and long-term successes and investments in the United States. But we have to all run on our shared values and what we want to see for this country and our future.”

That was also the message from Sen. John Hickenlooper. 

“President Biden had a bad debate performance, but that doesn’t cancel out a remarkable record for a president’s first term,” said Hickenlooper. “President Biden has my full confidence as president and if he chooses to remain in the race, he'll have my full support.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Michael Bennet didn’t address the debate, but rather the stakes of the November election. 

“Voters have a clear choice: President Biden and Democrats who are fighting every day on behalf of working American families — or a return to Donald Trump’s trickledown economics and a country of haves and have nots,” he said in an email. “I am committed to doing whatever it takes to defeat Donald Trump, hold the Senate, and flip the House in November.”

Democratic Rep. Yadira Caraveo, who faces a competitive reelection, said in an email to CPR News that she’s not focused on the debate, instead “I’m focused on delivering results for the people of the Front Range and Northern Colorado.” 

She added her attention is on “laying out a vision for what we can achieve together by electing a Democratic majority to Congress.”

Neguse did not respond to a request for comment on the debate performance.

Across the aisle, several  Republicans, including Rep. Lauren Boebert, took the debate as an opportunity to question whether Biden is fit to serve at all.

“Forget the election, how is he even able to carry on as President?” Boebert, a strong Trump supporter,  tweeted.

Still, Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said he stands behind the ticket. 

“This is a (presidential) race that will be about freedom versus extremism, an economy that works for everyday Americans versus the GOP tax scam…it’s about democracy versus those who are peddling with the forces of authoritarianism,” Jeffries said. “ This is an existential election, and the American people are going to have to choose which direction is consistent with their values.”

And the man that helped revive Biden’s campaign in 2020, South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, told reporters that his message to concerned Democrats was simple: “Stay the course. Chill out.”