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Michael Bennet becomes first Senate Democrat to publicly warn that Biden can't beat Trump

WASHINGTON — Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado on Tuesday night became the first Senate Democrat to publicly say President Joe Biden can’t win the election, he but stopped short of calling for him to withdraw from the race.

In an appearance on CNN, Bennet was asked whether he and Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, had told their colleagues during a private meeting on Capitol Hill that Biden can’t defeat former President Donald Trump in the fall. He confirmed that he had made those remarks.

“Well, it’s true that I said that, and I did say that behind closed doors. And you guys and others asked whether I had said it, and that is what I said. So I figured I should come here and say it publicly,” said Bennet, who ran against Biden in the 2020 presidential primary campaign.

Bennet, who is in his third term, raised concerns about polling that has found Trump leading Biden less than four months before Election Day.

“Donald Trump is on track, I think, to win this election and maybe win it by a landslide and take with him the Senate and the House,” Bennet said. “So for me, this isn’t a question about polling, it’s not a question of politics. It’s a moral question about the future of our country, and I think it’s critically important for us to come to grips with what we face if, together, we put this country on the path of electing Donald Trump again.”

In response to Bennet's remarks, Biden campaign spokesman Kevin Munoz said Biden isn’t throwing in the towel.

“No one is more committed to defeating Donald Trump and defending our democracy than Joe Biden, and few know better than Joe Biden the importance of showing up and campaigning to earn the support of voters,” Munoz said in a statement. “This was always going to be a close race — and the dynamics at play are the ones we’ve long anticipated: voters continue to be deeply concerned by Donald Trump and his harmful agenda, and the more we engage and reach out to voters, the more they support President Biden.

“There are a lot of days between now and election day, and the hard work of earning every single vote is far from over.”

In conference calls and a public letter to Democratic lawmakers, Biden has been defiant, insisting that he is the party’s nominee and that he won’t be forced out of the race.

Still, Bennet’s comments are a blow to the campaign, which has been aggressively trying to limit Democratic defections and shore up support on Capitol Hill in the wake of Biden's debate debacle on June 27. And his remarks may create an opening for other skeptical or vulnerable Democrats to follow Bennet’s lead in speaking out.

Most Democrats leaving Tuesday’s private lunch were tight-lipped, describing the discussion only as “constructive.” But a source said that Bennet, Brown and Tester all raised concerns that Biden wouldn't win the election. Another source said those concerns were voiced individually — not as a group. The concerns were first reported by CNN.

Brown and Tester face tough re-election bids this fall.

Brown said he doesn’t talk about private meetings, adding, “I have very legitimate questions about this.”

As he was leaving the Capitol, Tester didn’t deny the report about his remarks, and he didn’t comment on the matter to reporters. In a statement later Tuesday, he said: “President Biden’s bad debate performance raised serious questions about whether he’s up [to] the job for the next four years. As I have said, he needs to prove to the American people, and me, that he can do it.”

In his CNN appearance, Bennet said no Democrat in the closed-door lunch called on Biden to withdraw, and he also wouldn’t go that far.

“I can understand how hard it would be if I were Joe Biden to sit there and to say to myself, after all I’ve worked for, after all I’ve accomplished, after all the extraordinary public service I’ve given to the American people — which we should honor, because it has been extraordinary, one of the greatest leaders to be in that office, certainly in recent times — and who has accomplished so much, it would be so hard to acknowledge that after all of that, you’re in the race of your lifetime with somebody you can’t beat,” Bennet said.

“I think that’s probably really hard for him to acknowledge. I think it’s really hard for the people that are working for him to acknowledge.”

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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