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Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.). Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

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."
  • Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), a Navy combat veteran, has been critical of the administration’s execution of the withdrawal. He has said in multiple press interviews 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."

Go deeper

Oct 13, 2021 - World

Afghan interpreter who helped rescue Biden in 2008 safely leaves Afghanistan

President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden at the White House residence. Photo: Drew Angerer via Getty Images

An Afghan interpreter who helped rescue President Biden in Afghanistan in 2008 when he was a senator has safely left the country with his wife and five children, the State Department confirmed to Axios on Tuesday.

Why it matters: Aman Khalili, who was instrumental to the mission that rescued Biden's helicopter when it was caught in a snowstorm according to U.S. veterans, was forced into hiding after the Taliban took over Kabul.

Mike Allen, author of AM
17 mins ago - Politics & Policy

GOP senator calls for senility test for aging leaders

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), a physician, told me during an "Axios on HBO" interview that he favors cognition tests for aging leaders of all three branches of government.

Why it matters: Wisdom comes with age. But science also shows that we lose something. And much of the world is now run by old people — including President Biden, 78 ... Speaker Pelosi, 81 ...  Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, 70 ... and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 79.

Ina Fried, author of Login
27 mins ago - Technology

Intel CEO blames predecessors for manufacturing woes

Axios on HBO

When it comes to Intel's recent manufacturing problems, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger places the blame squarely on his predecessors — many of whom he notes were not engineers deeply steeped in chip technology, as he is.

Why it matters: Gelsinger has announced a broad plan to reinvigorate Intel by doubling down on manufacturing. However, the strategy depends on the venerable semiconductor giant recovering from recent stumbles.