Pritzker says he's 'all in' for Biden — but won’t take himself out of presidential run speculation

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday said she would not become a candidate if President Joe Biden opts out. But Pritzker, who has been on shortlists as a potential replacement, wouldn’t make the same vow.

SHARE Pritzker says he's 'all in' for Biden — but won’t take himself out of presidential run speculation
Gov. J.B. Pritzker talks to reporters at a clean energy news conference on the West Side Tuesday.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker talks to reporters at a clean energy news conference on the West Side Tuesday.

Tina Sfondeles/Sun-Times

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday said he believes President Joe Biden is mentally and physically capable of serving another four-year term — but wouldn’t definitively rule out a presidential run of his own should Biden drop out.

Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday told the Associated Press “no” when asked if she would consider becoming a candidate if Biden opts out. But Pritzker, who has been on shortlists as a potential replacement, wouldn’t make the same vow when asked by reporters at a West Side news conference.

“I’m not engaging in hypotheticals. You can see that I’m all in for Joe Biden,” Pritzker said. “Joe Biden is going to be the nominee of the Democratic Party. I’m gonna go out there and wholeheartedly campaign for him.”

When asked if Biden is “physically and mentally capable” of serving a second term, the governor simply said, “Of course.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose name has also surfaced as a possible top of the ticket replacement, campaigned for Biden in Pennsylvania over the weekend and in New Hampshire on Monday. He too brushed aside questions about himself: “To me, that is not a question I’m going to respond to, because Joe Biden is our nominee. He’s our president.”

Pritzker’s public appearance on Tuesday marked his first since Biden’s debate performance on June 27 prompted panic within the party. Pritzker appeared on CNN last week and flew to Washington for a White House meeting with Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, where the two sought to reassure 24 Democratic governors that they will remain on the Democratic ticket.

Monday night, meanwhile, the president also held a video conference with several Democratic mayors, including Chicago’s Brandon Johnson.

Afterward, Johnson issued a statement saying he “appreciated receiving a campaign update” from the president on “his plan to defeat Donald Trump.”

It continued: “I am proud to continue supporting” Biden and Harris “and I look forward to welcoming Democrats from across the country to Chicago” for next month’s national convention.

“We must be united as we work as hard as possible every day to ensure that Donald Trump is defeated once and for all in November,” Johnson said.

Pritzker said it’s “not unreasonable for people to have differing opinions about all this,” including calls from U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill, for Biden to drop out of the race.

“I know Mike Quigley. I know he does not want Donald Trump to become president of the United States. So you’ve seen a lot of comments by Congress people, by others who have questions,” Pritzker said. “In the end, everybody understands that we’re pulling together to put our party and our party’s nominee and our issues over the line.”

While Pritzker has repeatedly downplayed speculation over his own presidential ambitions, he continues to ramp up travel to other states. He plans to speak Friday at a “Hoosier Hospitality Dinner” with the Indiana Democratic Party and on Saturday afternoon at the “Ohio Democratic Annual Family Reunion.” The governor has also held events with the Democratic parties in Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Florida, Nevada and Maine.

Seven House Democrats have said publicly that Biden should no longer run. But Biden has insisted he’s staying in the race and argues that he is the strongest candidate to defeat former President Donald Trump.

Since the debate, the Democratic president has worked to offset concerns about his leadership by appearing at campaign rallies and scheduling more time with reporters. A NATO Summit speech on Tuesday in Washington was also widely viewed as another test for Biden. He plans to hold a news conference on Thursday afternoon.

Contributing: Lynn Sweet, Fran Spielman

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