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Biden attempts to reassure campaign after debate stumbles: 'I'm in this race to the end'

The White House reaffirmed that the president is not considering stepping down or getting out of the presidential race despite outside speculation.
Joe Biden
Posted at 4:13 PM, Jul 03, 2024

President Joe Biden is trying to move forward as he navigates the fallout from last week’s debate performance, making it clear his intention is to stay in the presidential race amid growing concerns within his own party.

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris reiterated their run for reelection during an all-staff campaign call Wednesday.

“I’m in this race to the end and we’re going to win because when Democrats unite, we will always win. Just as we beat Donald Trump in 2020, we’re going to beat him again in 2024,” President Biden told staff, according to a source familiar with his remarks.

The president later added, “There is no one I’d rather be in this battle with than all of you. So let’s link arms. Let’s get this done. You, me, the vice president. Together.”

The call comes as the White House reaffirms the president is not considering stepping down or getting out of the race despite outside speculation.

“The president is clear-eyed and he is staying in the race,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Wednesday afternoon.

“He gets it. We get it. And so what we’re going to do is continue to look forward, continue to work on behalf of the American people,” Jean-Pierre added.

The president’s stumbles during his first debate of 2024 with former president Donald Trump have overshadowed his criticisms of Trump’s mistruths during the onstage meeting and led to a flurry of responses to quell distress.

While the president initially said, “I think we did well,” while stopping by a Waffle House immediately after the debate, he quickly acknowledged the poor performance, saying, “When you get knocked down, you get back up.” He told supporters winning the election was “critical” during a closed-door fundraiser Tuesday, while pointing to his international travel ahead of the debate, saying he didn’t listen to staff and “almost fell asleep on stage.”

In the days since, two House Democrats — Texas Rep. Lloyd Doggett and Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva — have publicly called for President Biden to leave the race.

"“I deeply respect President Biden and all the great things he has done for America, but I have grave concerns about his ability to defeat Donald Trump," Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton said in a statement to Scripps News on Wednesday. "When your current strategy isn’t working, it’s rarely the right decision to double down. President Biden is not going to get younger. Since Thursday night, I have been having nonstop, tough, honest conversations with colleagues and other Democrats. I’m taking time to seriously consider the best strategy for Democrats to win this election and set our country on a positive path forward."

But one prominent Democratic donor told Scripps News he’s skeptical that this pressure will sway the president.

"[President Biden is] not going to be susceptible to the donor-class calculations. And in fact, I think they're almost counterproductive if your goal is to ask Joe not to go forward,” the donor said. “He's a working-class kid. He grew up without a silver spoon in his mouth. He hates class-based politics viscerally. And he's not going to be pressured by a bunch of rich folks telling him that he shouldn't be president."

Seeking to quell dissent, the president spoke with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, along with key allies, Sen. Chris Coons and South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn, a Biden-Harris campaign co-chair, this week.

Sen. Peter Welch, a Democrat from Vermont, called the debate, a “disaster,” in an interview with Scripps News Wednesday.

Specifically, Welch sharply criticized members of the president’s reelection campaign who sought to minimize the impact of Biden’s performance.

“There were comments from staffers that were really inappropriate,” Welch said, “When you had some campaign operatives being dismissive and using the term, ‘bedwetters,’ I thought that was outrageous.”

Welch, who President Biden has not spoken with since the debate, said he had “full confidence that President Biden will make the right decision,” but declined to elaborate on whether he wanted him to depart the race.

Though Welch has not called on President Biden to step aside, he told Scripps News that the decision is the president's to make alone.

Later Wednesday, more than 20 Democratic governors, some who have stumped for Biden on the campaign trail, will meet with the president at the White House, a mix of virtual and in-person attendance, following up on a governors-only call earlier in the week following the debate.

“Democratic governors are proud to be some of the President’s closest partners and allies on the campaign trail. Together, we have delivered millions of jobs, rebuilt roads and bridges across the country, and made critical investments in communities that have for too long been left behind,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz stated. “The president has worked side by side with us to deliver for the people of our states and we’re looking forward to talking with him today.”

The governors are meeting to discuss the race and the “urgency of defeating Donald Trump,” according to a campaign official.

“At a time when there’s an appetite for unity and to refocus on the core contrast between the two parties ... I imagine many governors may use this opportunity to share perspective from their states and also hear directly from the President,” an official familiar with the matter said.

New polls released Wednesday further painted the picture of a candidate in decline, showing Trump widening his lead over President Biden nationally. In a Wall Street Journal survey, Trump maintained a six-point lead in the race, fueled primarily by a decline in support for President Biden. In the New York Times-Siena poll, Trump led the president 49%-43% among likely voters and expanded his lead to eight points among registered voters overall. Moreover, 74% of voters viewed the president as too old for the job in the Times poll, an increase of five percentage points since last week's debate.

Molly Murphy, the Biden campaign’s pollster, said such findings confirm the campaign’s internal numbers that show “the race remains incredibly tight,” and that the debate didn’t “fundamentally change the course of the race.”

“President Biden continues to narrow Trump’s support among independents, and we have work to do to bring home our coalition — all the while Trump appears unable to expand his coalition,” Murphy said.

The sentiment is reflected in a memo, obtained by Scripps News, that the campaign sent to Capitol Hill. The memo notes a steady race within a point and the margin of error, according to its internal data. It also underscores the strength of the campaign’s grassroots fundraising following the debate. The memo calls any future changes in polling a “moment in time and not a reshaping of the race,” pointing out a dip in polling for former President Obama following his debate in the 2012 race.

Campaign leaders Jen O’Malley Dillon and Julie Chavez Rodriguez noted they expect future fluctuation in the polls, according to a separate internal memo obtained by Scripps News. The memo also stresses the need for staff to “stay focused on our job of talking to voters about the choice in this election.”

The campaign has tried to maintain its focus on the stakes of the election and what it views as the threat of a Trump presidency.

The campaign launched a new ad Tuesday dubbed “250 Years,” in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision that grants the president broad immunity, stemming from Trump’s indictment for his alleged role in efforts to overturn the 2020 election and incite rioters on Jan. 6, 2021.

“It’s no platitude to say our democracy is on the ballot this November. The American people deserve a president who fights for them — not ‘a king above the law.’ If Monday’s decision showed us anything, it’s that the American people must reelect President Biden — for the survival of our country,” said Biden-Harris 2024 communications director Michael Tyler.

Meanwhile, the Trump campaign has maintained its confidence in the race.

“President Trump will beat any Democrat on November 5th because he has a proven record and an agenda to Make America Great Again,” stated Trump campaign leaders Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles.

The Trump campaign is riding the waves of its recent fundraising haul, the Supreme Court’s ruling and polling that shows Trump with an edge.

“They’re in disarray, their party is clearly collapsing, couldn’t be further from the truth from what we’re doing. President Trump is on the right side of the issues, and was before the debate,” a Trump campaign official told Scripps News, noting Trump can be expected to be seen back on the campaign trail. “It doesn’t matter who the democrats put up, Joe Biden’s record is their record and they’ve all been complicit about concealing the truth about Joe Biden,” the official said.

The White House has stated no one in the administration is hiding information about President Biden’s health or ability, calling him “sharp as ever.”

Americans will be able to see more of President Biden imminently. The president is expected to have a slate of high-profile appearances in his post-July Fourth schedule, including campaign travel to Wisconsin, a visit to Pennsylvania, an interview with ABC News and a solo press conference during the NATO leaders summit next week. He also participated in two radio interviews on Wednesday.