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Business leaders and Democratic donors call on Biden to end reelection campaign


Since a pretty dismal debate performance by President Biden, the Democratic Party seems really divided between those who are backing the President as the nominee and those asking him to step aside. In a letter published last week by the Leadership Now Project, a group of business leaders and Democratic Party donors, the group urged the party to, quote, "pass the torch of this year's presidential nomination to the next generation." It says a large majority of its 400 members signed the statement. One of them is Tom Florsheim, CEO of the footwear company, Weyco, and he is with me now. Good morning.

TOM FLORSHEIM: Good morning. Thank you for having me on the show.

FADEL: Thank you for being here. I mean, the president has made it pretty clear he's not leaving the race. I think his words were, if the Lord Almighty told him to drop out, he might do that. So I want to get a sense of why you really think it's important that he goes.

FLORSHEIM: For a couple of different reasons - first of all, as a business leader, I am very concerned about democracy for the reason that in order for our economy in the U.S. to thrive, we need a stable democracy with predictability, which includes the rule of law, and that's true for individual businesses to thrive. We need democracy in this country.

And I think that after we saw Biden's debate last week - which, I would say, was nothing less than stunning - it makes us very fearful that he's not capable anymore of articulating his vision and making the case against Trump. And our group is concerned about making sure that we don't have former President Trump back in the White House for another four years.

FADEL: Let me ask you - there will be Democrats listening to you right now, saying, actually, you're hurting the party and the President's chances in an election that they view as you do, as key to the survival of democracy. What do you say to them about why you're making this public call and why you see it as the better chance?

FLORSHEIM: Yes. First, I'd just like to say that I have been a big supporter of Biden. I think that he's done an excellent job.

FADEL: Yeah.

FLORSHEIM: We just feel that given what's occurred in the debate and in the follow-up interview on ABC that Biden's chances of staying in the White House are not good right now, and the polls show that. His polling numbers were weak prior to the debate, and his post-poll numbers are not good, either. He's at 36 approval rating. Seventy-three percent of the country based on a New York Times poll recently feel that he is too old to be president.

And so we just feel that it's time for him to pass the torch. He came in saying that he would be a one-term president and a transitional president, and he returned stability to the country. He's done a wonderful job of that. And we just feel that our chances of winning are going to be much better if one of the - we have a lot of candidates - potential candidates that are very dynamic, very vibrant, that are on the bench right now, that we believe would have a much better chance of winning in November.

FADEL: Now, history shows that not going with the incumbent would mean a likely loss for the party. And we're now in July. There are just a few months to mount a fresh campaign. What makes you think this strategy would work? And what do you want to see happen?

FLORSHEIM: I think that the country has made it pretty clear that they're not happy with either of the current choices. And I think that if President Biden recognizes the situation for what it is and passes the torch, there's still a chance to have a new nominee at the - at an open convention, go through a process. And I think that the country would be very, very excited to have the next generation of leaders represented in this election.

FADEL: Tom Florsheim is one of the business leaders who signed a letter from the Leadership Now Project calling for President Biden to end his reelection campaign. Thank you for speaking with us.

FLORSHEIM: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.