Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

Biden and his allies rush to reassure anxious Democrats who want him off the ticket

By 37ci3 Jun29,2024



WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s aides and allies rolled out talking points with Democrats, fielded phone calls from nervous donors and injected new lines into the president’s Friday afternoon speech as part of an all-out effort to reverse the damage from last night’s lackluster debate performance. .

Biden’s hushed voice and restrained delivery rattled Democratic leaders, who had hoped an energetic performance would quell lingering concerns that he was not subject to the rigors of the presidency.

One of his allies, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, told NBC News that Biden “had a bad night. It is difficult to say otherwise.”

Murphy is hosting a fundraiser for Biden on Saturday and admitted to getting some nervous calls from donors. Still, no one backed out of the event, he said, and Biden proved he knows how to “get up and dust himself off.”

A 90-minute debate in Atlanta crystallized a sense of foreboding had been building among Democrats for months. Quietly, some strategists are now considering possible permutations at the top of the ticket if Biden folds.

“The party should consider its options after the discussion in terms of how to deal with our new situations. But we don’t have much time,” former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle said in an interview with NBC News.

Biden’s performance, The New York Times editorial said, created uncertainty within his own team over the debacle that continued into Thursday. called him to leave the race. After the debate, Biden campaign aides debated whether Vice President Kamala Harris should do television interviews. Some believed it would be a bad look for him to appear on television, worried he might be outbid by Biden, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

Harris wanted to give interviews, and he used the forum to pursue the case against Donald Trump and describe how Biden has performed for the country over the past three and a half years.

Seeking to calm worried Democrats on Capitol Hill, the Biden campaign sent out talking points citing internal research that showed Trump’s performance in the debate alienated many viewers.

The campaign said the president was suffering from a sore throat, according to a House Democratic aide who has seen the material. Despite Biden’s rough start, 3 out of 4 voters who watched the debate on the campaign trail expressed deep concerns about Trump’s character. A large majority also believed Biden did a better job of addressing the issues they care about, the talking points showed.

Realizing he was in a hurry, Biden worked with aides to rewrite part of his campaign speech in North Carolina on Friday. He wanted to address the issue directly and drafted a new conclusion that acknowledged his missteps on stage.

“I’m not young” he told supporters in Raleigh. “I don’t walk as easily as before. I don’t speak as easily as before. I don’t argue like I used to, but I know what I know – I know how to tell the truth!”

Richard Nixon’s fateful clash with John F. Kennedy in 1960 had little potential to shake the presidential race. Just as Nixon appeared tired and jaded, hurting his candidacy, Biden displayed little of the clarity and stage presence voters expect from a commander-in-chief.

However, many Democratic officials remain attached to him out of loyalty or fear of the chaos his early retirement would cause. Biden’s campaign hopes that momentum will wear off in the coming weeks, and voters will focus on Trump’s scandals and shortcomings as a leader.

Biden has given no indication that he is ready to back down. He spoke with brio at a North Carolina rally and his aides insisted he was in the race to stay.

“There’s no talk of it,” campaign spokesman Michael Tyler told reporters on Air Force One on Friday when asked if Biden might step aside. “Elected Democratic voters – nominated Joe Biden. Joe Biden is the candidate.”

Biden plans to engage in another debate with Trump on Sept. 10, with three senior Biden officials adding that it is “all systems go” for a rematch.

But some party officials have seen enough; They do not believe that Biden will recover in time.

“Look when it happened [Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader] Ginsburg refused to resign,” said the Democratic state party chairman, who requested anonymity to speak publicly. “Now what do we have? She thought she was doing the right thing, but then she died and now [conservatives] He had an extraordinary majority because he would not let go.

Campaign aides admit Biden missed an opportunity to improve his standing. They believed that in a side-by-side comparison in front of a massive television audience, Trump would look too unfit to serve.

And they hoped the debate would boost Biden’s steady approval rating. Instead, Biden’s performance became the story, overshadowing it Trump’s repeated distortions on his and Biden’s records.

One group of Biden loyalists blamed the other for the failure. Some Biden allies have questioned the training he received during a full week at Camp David with aides leading him through drills.

Biden emerged from his retreat in the hills of Maryland looking tired and haggard, his voice later saying aides were cold. He has occasionally misrepresented the facts on the podium, exaggerating people’s savings on insulin and mistakenly claiming that Trump wanted to do it. Opt out of Social Securitya popular retirement program for older Americans.

Dick Harpootlian, a former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party and a Biden fundraiser, said, “The president who prepares for the debate should be fired.” “Anita Dunn, Jen O’Malley [Dillon] and some of these other people who helped prepare him did a terrible job,” Biden said, citing a White House adviser and a senior campaign official respectively. “The person who got him in the mindset for the debate has to go.”

But while disappointing, Biden’s performance did not hurt his chances or change the arc of the race, Biden campaign advisers insisted.

Geoff Garin, a Biden pollster who conducted a poll on the debate, told NBC News: “We have to be honest that this is a missed opportunity for President Biden, but the reality is that the voters’ choices in the election have not been changed. in any significant way with the dispute.”

Even out of the devastation came some good news. A senior Biden campaign official said the operation raised $14 million on debate day and morning “as a sign of the strength of our grassroots support.”

The hour after the debate proved to be “the best hour for fundraising” since the campaign began more than a year ago, the official said.

Democrats have received such assurances before. However, from month to month, Biden’s approval rating has not changed. Some officials and donors grew impatient, turning the discussions into a potential deadlock.

“What’s going on [during the debate] so the reality became clear to all of us,” said a person close to the White House. “We live with that hope [Biden] would have the stamina and physical capacity to provide an energetic embodiment of presidential leadership, which is very critical. However, due to his position on this subject, they deceived us and it became clear.”

“Let’s take a deep breath and see how things play out in a week or 10 days,” said Biden donor Alan Kessler of Philadelphia. Meanwhile, if people want to discuss anything from potentially having another [on the ticket] How to handle last night maybe this should happen. But before people jump off bridges or start the draft movement, let’s take a deep breath and see how things develop.”

Whether or not Biden remains on the ticket ultimately depends largely on Biden. He was the runaway winner of the Democratic presidential primary, the equivalent of a coronation. The Biden campaign has significant influence over its delegates, which makes it doubtful that they will abandon him over their objections.

As a practical matter, Biden should step aside voluntarily. It may take some convincing from party mandarins — chiefly former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S., who endorsed Biden in the 2020 primary. .

“Democrats have a whole group of outstanding people who can pick up the baton and carry it forward,” said one Biden contributor, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss party strategy. “This is really a decision that the president, the first family and his top advisers should take seriously. The fact is politics is executive and his approval rating is mired in the 30s and the country can’t get Donald Trump back.”

“This is more than Joe Biden,” the fundraiser said. “This is about the future of the country”

So far, those with the gravitas to convince Biden to step aside have largely remained loyal. Obama turned it off Message in X said: “There are nights of bad arguments. Trust me, I know. But this election is still a choice between someone who fought for ordinary people all his life and someone who only thinks about himself.”

Asked by NBC News whether Biden is the best messenger on the ticket, Pelosi did not directly answer.

“I’ve been a very big supporter of President Biden,” he said. “He is a great president. He has done great things for our country.”

“We have to stay the course,” Clyburn said.

If the Democratic elite intervenes and convinces Biden to leave the party, the party could face new problems.

There is a split within the party between those who believe Vice President Kamala Harris should be the successor and those who prefer one of the country’s well-known governors, such as Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, Pennsylvania’s Josh Shapiro, California’s Gavin Newsom or JB Pritzker. State of Illinois.

Electing a governor would cut both ways. It could signal a sharp break from a largely unpopular president, but it risks alienating African-American voters, a loyal Democratic constituency who favor Harris.

“There is enough frustration and concern about him [Harris] — he has no real support — I don’t see a way to secure his nomination,” said one Democratic source, who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak freely about the vice president.




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