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“Egregiously mishandled”: Democrats distance from Biden over Afghanistan

Vulnerable House and Senate Democrats are distancing themselves from President Biden over Afghanistan, with one calling the evacuation "egregiously mishandled."

Why it matters: Biden's poll numbers have fallen as the Delta variant spread and the Afghanistan exit proved harrowing. Now, some Democrats in swing states and districts are publicly distancing themselves.

  • Many moderate Democrats and their aides are huddling with campaign consultants over how to handle the setback in Afghanistan.
  • Several of them stressed they're not coordinating the condemnations.

Here's what we're hearing from the House:

  • Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.) said in a statement that it's "long past time" to end U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, but added: "[I]t appears that the evacuation process has been egregiously mishandled."
  • In a phone interview with Axios, she added she doesn't place all the blame on Biden. She said there will be a lot to uncover through future congressional oversight hearings.
  • Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), a former CIA officer who focused on counterterrorism efforts in the Middle East, spearheaded a bipartisan statement from the Problem Solvers Caucus calling on the administration to reconsider Tuesday's withdrawal deadline.
  • Reps. Mike Levin (D-Calif.) and Andy Kim (D-N.J.) also have called on Biden to extend the deadline.

In the Senate:

  • Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) distanced herself from the president as he reiterated his commitment to the withdrawal date: "We must complete this mission, regardless of any arbitrary deadlines."
  • A spokesman for Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), a Navy combat veteran, told Axios: "Senator Kelly has been critical of the administration’s execution of the withdrawal. ... [H]e has said in multiple press interviews since then that he sees the August 31st deadline as less important than accomplishing the mission of evacuating Americans and Afghan allies."
  • Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) told a local station in Las Vegas earlier this month that she “asked this administration [about its Afghanistan plan], never received anything. And so yeah, I do have questions. What happened? It's devastating what we're seeing right now and we need to have answers.”
  • Last Thursday, she tweeted that “pushing the evacuation deadline is a necessary and important step.”

Between the lines: Democratic campaign strategists insisted to Axios that they're not panicking over what this means ahead of the midterms. One strategist cited three reasons:

  1. Republicans backed the withdrawal under President Trump.
  2. Foreign policy tends to rank lower among voter priorities.
  3. We're still a long way from Election Day.

Wild, who represents the Allentown area, told Axios by phone that she believes Americans will prioritize domestic issues.

  • "We have accomplished a hell of a lot in the last seven months, domestically, and we're going to continue to do that," Wild said. "That's what's going to be on the minds of Americans next year — not this."

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