“I don't like where we are,” says Illinois Governor Pritzker in a remark that presumably concerns the presidential election campaign

CHICAGO (CBS) – Illinois Governor JB Pritzker is one of President Joe Biden’s strongest supporters, but at an unrelated anti-crime event on Wednesday he was caught on a hot mic making an alleged remark about the state of the presidential race.

“I mean, we're just going to keep fighting. I don't know what to say. You know, we have to do what we have to do,” Pritzker told a man at the event. “I don't like where we are, but…”

Jordan Abudayyeh, deputy communications director in Governor Pritzker's office, said it “sounds like [Pritzker] spoke about the state of the presidential race.”

Meanwhile, some of Chicago's wealthiest citizens were planning to open their wallets for President Biden in Chicago next month, but sources told CNN that the fundraising lunch for wealthy Chicago Democrats has been canceled. The would-be hosts have pulled the plug as questions continue to swirl about Biden's campaign and whether the president should continue his candidacy for another term.

Fundraiser for President Biden in Chicago canceled after calls for him to drop out of the race

When Pritzker later spoke to reporters at the same event where he was caught on the hot mic, he talked about the cancellation — and downplayed its significance.

“I think everything is in flux right now, and I honestly think the president is doing a good job of raising money. You see how much money they've raised online for the Biden-Harris campaign. I know of ongoing fundraisers,” Pritzker said. “Any rumor you've heard about something like that is, in my opinion, exaggerated.”

Pritzker also highlighted the threat that a return to office of former president and current likely Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump could pose.

“He would sign an abortion ban that would affect everyone in the state of Illinois — not to mention the city of Chicago,” Pritzker said. “He would also be bad for working families. He wants to put tariffs in place — you know what that will do? Massive inflation — that's what Donald Trump is all about.”

He said former President Trump was a “convicted felon,” a “congenital liar” and a “vindictive, selfish, narcissistic person.”

“I believe Donald Trump will use every tool at his disposal to attack people across the country – and I'm talking about the people in the city of Chicago who did not vote for him,” Pritzker said.

But reporters continued to ask about President Biden – and there were reports that Pritzker himself was being suggested as a possible successor to Biden on the ballot.

“I support Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for president,” he said. “I'm going to bust my ass to make sure they win.”

Pritzker also stressed that Biden has made an impression on the public since his poor performance in last month's debate, which led to calls for his withdrawal.

“He speaks to the public. He speaks to reporters. That's what we need from him,” Pritzker said, “and remember, he was also at the NATO summit – it's very important to represent the strength of the United States there. By the way, something that Donald Trump wants to abolish: NATO.”

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson was also at the crime-fighting event on Wednesday. On Tuesday evening, President Biden called together Democratic mayors for a conference call to gain support for his DNC nomination – including Mayor Johnson.

“I said we stand behind him,” Johnson said. “There is only one person in this country who has ever defeated Donald Trump.”

All this comes against the backdrop of a growing number of prominent Democrats calling on the president to resign, a list that now includes Hollywood superstar George Clooney.

In a New York Times op-ed published on Wednesday, Clooney called on the Democratic Party to choose a new candidate, citing Biden’s catastrophic debate performance Last month.

“With this president, we will not win in November,” Clooney wrote. “We will also not win the House and lose the Senate. That's not just my opinion; that's the opinion of every senator, member of Congress and governor I've spoken to privately.”

Clooney's comment came less than a month after he co-hosted a star-studded Fundraiser for Biden's election campaign Among them were former President Barack Obama, talk show host Jimmy Kimmel and actress Julia Roberts.

However, Clooney's support for the president now appears to be waning.

“It's devastating to have to say this, but the Joe Biden I was with at the fundraiser three weeks ago was not the Joe 'Big F-ing Deal' Biden of 2010,” he wrote. “He wasn't even the Joe Biden of 2020. He was the same man we all saw at the debate.”

David Axelrod, director of the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago and a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama and chief strategist for Obama's campaign, commented on Clooney's comments on Wednesday evening.

“I think it has merit,” Axelrod said. “It's all a question of risk assessment. You have to assess risks with everything. The question is whether the risk of the status quo outweighs the risk of trying something different – and I think we're at a point where many have come to that conclusion.”

Axelrod added that Clooney's perception of President Biden's decline was “devastating.”

“And that’s exactly what people are afraid of,” Axelrod said.

In the meantime, nine Democrats in the House of Representatives have also directly called on Mr. Biden to drop out of the race – including Representative Mike Quigley (D-Illinois).

“The fighting spirit, pride and courage that served the country so well four years ago and helped Joe Biden win will be what will derail him at the ballot box this time. He simply has to resign because he cannot win, and my colleagues have to recognize that,” Quigley said Tuesday. “A dismissive letter is not going to change anyone's mind.”

But several other Democratic Congresswoman from Illinois have reiterated their support for Mr. Biden – including Representatives Jonathan Jackson, Robin Kelly, Danny Davis and Jan Schakowsky.

So far, President Biden has defiantly refused to go anywhere.

Anna Harden

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