More than 250 area Democrats jammed the DoubleTree Hotel in Bay City, Michigan, Friday night for the annual fundraising dinner of the Bay County Democratic Party.
The dinner speaker — near-certain Democratic Senate nominee, Rep. Elissa Slotkin — drew an enthusiastic welcome. But the same could not be said about the Democrat who is expected to be leading the party's ticket in 2024: President Joe Biden.
For the most part, Democratic activists who attended the dinner had mixed feelings about Biden, 80, as a candidate for reelection next year.
Bay County is a pivotal part of any candidate's strategy for carrying Michigan next year, particularly since Biden eked out a tight (and disputed) win over Donald Trump in 2020. Once considered a bastion of support for Democrats, the blue-collar, bucolic county gave Barack Obama a handsome 57% of its votes in 2008 and 52% in 2012.
In 2016, however, the county shifted abruptly and gave Donald Trump 53%. Trump again emerged triumphant with 55% in 2020.
Bay County's top Democrat, County Executive Jim Barcia, seemed to speak for many fellow party members when he told Newsmax: "To be honest with you, I wish there were a couple of fresh faces for us to choose from."
Pressed about whether Biden should step aside, Barcia, who served in both houses of the state Legislature as well as the U.S. House, replied: "I have nothing against President Biden. And his policies were responsible for bringing in SK Siltron [a South Korean company that manufactures semiconductor chips] to our county. That meant 50 new skilled jobs for us."
Shawna Walraven, Bay County treasurer, said she supported Biden in part because "the Democrats don't have another candidate."
She added that she felt Biden was "underrated" as president.
One Bay County Democrat who voiced enthusiasm for Biden as a candidate was Rick Meeth, president of the Bay City Education Association and a basketball coach for Bay City Central High School.
"I'm 100% behind President Biden, and I will support whoever wins the Democratic nomination," he told us. Meeth added that Biden's record "speaks for itself, like the deal they just passed to keep us from defaulting on the debt."
As for doubts about Biden's age, he shot back: "What did Ronald Reagan say about age? That he wouldn't use his opponent's youth and inexperience against him."
Asked if Biden could reverse the trend of the past two presidential elections and carry Bay County, Meeth replied: "I'm a coach, and we've taken on some pretty awesome teams. I always believe there's a chance for anything."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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