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Gov. J.B. Pritzker, from left, Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., greet President Joe Biden at O'Hare International Airport in 2021.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, from left, Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., greet President Joe Biden at O’Hare International Airport in 2021.

Susan Walsh/AP Photos

Gov. JB Pritzker, other Democratic governors to meet with Biden after dismal debate showing

Democratic governors spoke amongst themselves Monday and wondered why they hadn’t heard from the president since last week’s debate. A White House meeting with Biden is now scheduled for Wednesday evening.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and other Democratic governors plan to meet with President Joe Biden at the White House on Wednesday after they insisted on hearing directly from the president about the status of his reelection campaign in the wake of an abysmal debate performance.

The meeting was requested by multiple governors during a Monday evening conference call arranged by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, who serves as chair of the Democratic Governors Association.

Most of the conversation centered on a key question: Why hadn’t the governors, many of whom are serving as Biden campaign delegates and key messengers in critical states, heard from the president since last week’s debate?

The Monday call also centered on where the presidential race stands and what the governors are concerned about in their respective states, according to a source with direct knowledge of the call. There are growing calls for Biden to step down — but the campaign has insisted there are no plans for him to drop out.

“Everyone was like, oh, we haven’t heard from the president. Seems like we should have heard from him now, considering we’re all big messengers,” the source said. “There was a lot of, ‘Have you heard from him? No, I haven’t.’”

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who spent time with Biden at a fundraiser in his home on Saturday, was an exception.

Vice President Kamala Harris was offered up as an option to address the Democrats’ issues during Monday’s call — but many governors insisted upon hearing from Biden himself, leading to the follow-up meeting scheduled for Wednesday.

Vice President Kamala Harris and Gov. J.B. Pritzker stand on stage during a rally at the XS Tennis and Education Foundation in Washington Park in 2022.

Vice President Kamala Harris and Gov. J.B. Pritzker stand on stage during a rally at the XS Tennis and Education Foundation in Washington Park in 2022.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Pritzker “mostly listened” during the Monday call, the source said.

Appearing on CNN’s “The Source with Kaitlan Collins” on Tuesday night, Pritzker said he plans to support Biden “unless he makes a different decision.”

The Democratic governor did acknowledge that the debate raised questions — and said Biden should be appearing in public and talking to reporters to reassure voters and the party.

“I think it’s important for the president to talk to not just the leaders of the Democratic party across the board, but generally, the nation,” Pritzker said. “I’d like to hear more from him, and I think he intends to do more of that.”

Pritzker was also asked whether he would consider taking his place at the top of the ticket should Biden drop out.

“Look, right now, Joe Biden is our nominee, and I’m 100% on board with supporting him as our nominee, unless he makes some other decision,” Pritzker said. “And then I think we’re all going to be discussing what’s the best way forward.”

Biden is planning to meet with Pritzker and the other governors in the Roosevelt Room of the White House at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time, or 5:30 p.m. Chicago time.

According to Pritzker’s team, the governor, who is on some shortlists as a potential Democratic presidential replacement, hasn’t heard from Biden since the debate .He has also not made any efforts to reach out to the president. During Thursday’s debate, Pritzker was attending a Biden fundraiser in Los Angeles with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear.

Since then, the Illinois governor has kept a relatively limited public schedule. On Sunday, Pritzker attended the Chicago Pride Parade, and he agreed to the Tuesday CNN appearance before the June 27 presidential debate, which has set off alarms across the country.

Pritzker, who has presidential ambitions of his own, has been a fierce Biden ally and helped bring the Democratic National Convention to Chicago. But his name has also appeared in national polling as an alternative to both Biden and Harris. Whitmer, Beshear and California Gov. Gavin Newsom are also seen as options. But bypassing Harris is viewed as a politically unpopular move, especially as polls show Biden is struggling with young Black voters.

Vice President Kamala Harris discusses the Biden-Harris Administration’s economic plan during a speech at Crowley’s Boat Yard, across from the 95th Street Bridge over the Calumet River in 2023.

Vice President Kamala Harris discusses the Biden-Harris Administration’s economic plan during a speech at Crowley’s Boat Yard, across from the 95th Street Bridge over the Calumet River in 2023.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Pritzker is seen as a viable candidate by some Democrats because of his ability to self-fund and because he has fiercely criticized former President Donald Trump’s policies and political attacks since his first gubernatorial campaign began in 2017. Pritzker, the heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune and an entrepreneur, has poured $323 million into his two campaigns. He’s also contributed millions to Democratic causes and candidates.

Biden’s debate performance is drawing trickles of criticism coming from Democrats, including in Illinois. Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill, on Tuesday told CNN’s Kasie Hunt that debate night “wasn’t just a horrible night” and warned that Biden’s performance could impact down-ballot races.

“I think what I’m stressing is it has to be his decision. That we have to be honest with ourselves that it wasn’t just a horrible night. But I won’t go beyond that out of my respect and understanding of President Joe Biden, a very proud person who served us extraordinarily well for 50 years,” Quigley said. “But 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.”

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., who had been on Biden’s shortlist for potential vice presidential candidates four years ago, still supports his reelection, a spokeswoman said.

As for Biden himself, at a private fundraiser in Virginia on Tuesday, the president again admitted he didn’t have a good debate showing last week and said he “wasn’t very smart” for “traveling around the world a couple times” before squaring off against Trump, according to a pool report.

“I decided to travel around the world a couple times, going through I don’t know how many time zones — for real I think it’s 15 time zones. ... I didn’t listen to my staff.”

Still, Biden stressed that it was “critical” to win the election.

“It’s not an excuse but an explanation,” Biden said, according to the report.

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