Rep. Dean Phillips exits House Democratic leadership after urging a challenge to Biden

Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota is stepping down from his House Democratic leadership position, an exit driven by his unsuccessful call for a viable party challenger in the 2024 presidential election.

Phillips, from Minnetonka, a Twin Cities suburb west of Minneapolis, acknowledged that he had little chance against President Joe Biden in a statement Sunday.

“My convictions relative to the 2024 presidential race are incongruent with the majority of my caucus, and I felt it appropriate to step aside from elected leadership to avoid unnecessary distractions during a critical time for our country,” he said.

While he’s leaving his position as co-chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Caucus, Phillips said he will remain as a member of the Democratic Caucus, and he praised the leadership of House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York.

Axios first reported the news of his leadership departure.

Phillips has been one of a few Democrats challenging the party’s otherwise lockstep support of Biden’s re-election campaign, arguing that, even as the president enjoys the advantages of incumbency, he’s too old at age 80.

“Considering his age, it’s absurd we’re not promoting competition but trying to extinguish it,” he told Politico in February.

Phillips, 54, floated the idea of running himself, meeting with donors in the summer to test the waters. “I haven’t ruled it out,” he told Steve Schmidt, a longtime MSNBC political analyst, on his unaffiliated podcast, “The Warning,” posted Sept. 25.

Biden still faces other challenges from within the party — from author Marianne Williamson and anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Polls have had him neck and neck with former President Donald Trump in a potential rematch.

Phillips is a veteran of corporate marketing and branding whose grandmother was Pauline Esther Phillips, better known as the advice columnist Dear Abby.

He used his leadership position to call on Congress and his party to welcome younger Americans and new thinking. At the same time, his policy positions have rarely wavered from Biden’s.

Last year, while he questioned the wisdom of supporting a second term, he called Biden “man of decency, of good principle, of compassion, of empathy and of strength.”