On paper, U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.) should be one of the congressional Democrats publicly calling for his party to push President Joe Biden off the 2024 ticket.

Pappas styles himself as an independent voice in his party, touting his recently-awarded title of “the most bipartisan member of the House.” His district is (once again on paper) even split between Republican and Democratic voters, according to the most recent Cook Political Voting Index. Donald Trump narrowly won the district in 2016, then lost it handily to Joe Biden in 2020.

So, when reports began to circulate that moderate Democrats in swing districts were considering releasing a letter calling for Democrats to abandon Biden’s candidacy in the wake of his debate performance fiasco, the assumption was that Pappas would be on the list.

And unlike his fellow Granite State Democrat, U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, Pappas hasn’t praised Biden or pledged his support since the debate. Instead, Pappas had a carefully measured response:

“People were disappointed with what they saw last week, and I think it’s up to President Biden to answer what kind of path he can be on for the future to restore confidence or to pass the torch,” he told WMUR.

But nearly two weeks after Biden’s debate performance that left between 70 and 80 percent of Americans telling pollsters he’s not physically and mentally fit to serve, Pappas is still silent. When approached earlier this week and asked directly if he believes Biden is up to the job (see video), Pappas just kept walking.



He’s also declined to respond to approximately a dozen requests for comment about the ability of Biden to serve another four years as chief executive.

“He got the message: ‘Fall in line, Buttercup,’” a New Hampshire Democratic activist told NHJournal on background.

The Pappas case echoes recent developments out of Washington, D.C. A week ago, many campaign professionals were saying publicly that Biden would be forced out, and the biggest push would come from congressional Democrats in competitive districts.

Now the headlines read, “How Biden Froze Capitol Hill — For Now,” and “Democrats Effort to Push Biden Off Ticket Hits Uncertainty.”

And Axios reported a Tuesday morning meeting of swing-district Democrats involved “actual tears” as they acknowledged their colleagues were going to stand behind Biden.

According to Axios, the mood among these vulnerable Democrats was “pretty much unanimous” that Biden has “got to step down,” adding, “There were actual tears from people, and not for Biden.”

Instead, they concluded “Most of our caucus is still with him … meaning he’ll stay in. Which sucks for our country,” one House Democrat told them.

However, a ninth House member, Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), publicly call for a new presidential nominee on Tuesday. Like Pappas, she’s in a swing district in the northeast.

With Biden adamantly declaring he’s not stepping down, and top Democrats appearing to rally around him, more people in the party appear to believe the political risks are too high.

“I wish I was more brave,” one Democratic state party chair who thinks Biden should step aside told NBC News.

“I would be crucified by them if I spoke out of line,” the chair continued. “I know when you get out of line they all of a sudden have a shift of priorities and your races, your state is no longer on the map.”

Therefore, the argument goes, why should Pappas break with the pack? He may agree with most Americans that Biden is too infirm to serve, but saying so won’t help him in November.

Then again, it may not matter.

“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,” said U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)  in a CNN interview Tuesday night.

Pappas declined to comment for this article.