July 24th, 2024

Biden vows to keep running after his disastrous debate. ‘No one is pushing me out,’ he says

By Seung Min Kim, The Associated Press on July 3, 2024.

President Joe Biden listens during a visit to the D.C. Emergency Operations Center, Tuesday, July 2, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden defiantly vowed on Wednesday to keep running for reelection, rejecting growing pressure from within his Democratic Party to withdraw after a disastrous debate performance raised questions about his readiness. He said he would not be forced from the race.

“I am running. I am the leader of the Democratic Party. No one is pushing me out,” Biden said, according to a top aide who posted his comment on the X social media platform.

Biden and Harris made a surprise appearance on a Democratic National Committee call, according to three people familiar with the matter who were given anonymity to discuss the private conversation. The people said it was a pep talk, stressing the stakes of the election and returning to Biden’s previous post-debate comments that he would get back up after being knocked down.

It was one of several efforts by the president and his top aides to try to calm increasing anxiety among his allies on Capitol Hill and at top levels of his party.

Democrats are unsatisfied with the explanations of Biden’s debate performance, from both White House staff and Biden himself. And there is a deeper frustration among some Democrats who feel Biden should have handled questions about his stumbling debate performance much sooner and that he has put them in a difficult position by staying in the race.

White House chief of staff Jeff Zients urged people during an earlier all-staff meeting Wednesday to tune out the “noise” and focus on the task of governing.

Even as Zients acknowledged that the days since the Atlanta matchup between Biden and Republican Donald Trump have been challenging, the chief of staff stressed to more than 500 White House aides on the call the accomplishments and the track record of the Democratic administration and said governing will only become more crucial once the campaign season heats up, particularly after the Fourth of July holiday, according to a White House official.

Biden himself began making personal outreach on his own, speaking privately with senior Democratic lawmakers such as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Delaware Sen. Chris Coons and South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn, according to a second White House official and others with knowledge of the conversations. Zients also spoke personally with Schumer and Clyburn earlier Wednesday.

On Capitol Hill, there is increasing anxiety with each day as Biden had been slow to reach out to top Democrats and rank-and-file members, according to people familiar with ongoing conversations.

Zients tried to rally the staff’s confidence in Biden’s reelection apparatus, noting that the president has a “strong campaign team” in place and that the White House’s job was to focus on continuing to implement Biden’s agenda. He also told staff that Biden has always made it through tough times, despite being counted out over his decades in public office.

The chief of staff also encouraged aides to “continue being a team” and, while acknowledging the increasing political chatter, to “tune it out” and stay disciplined, according to the official, who was granted anonymity to relay Zients’ private remarks. Zients also urged White House staff to ask questions and offer feedback.

Staff-wide White House calls aren’t unusual, but Wednesdays’ 15-minute check-in came as Biden and senior White House officials were working to assuage rattled lawmakers, donors and other allies within the party amid sharpening questions about whether the 81-year-old president had the competency to run for a second term in office.

A memo sent Wednesday by campaign chair Jen O’Malley Dillon and campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez insists the election between Biden and Trump will still be close, seeking to downplay the lasting effects of the debate.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were also scheduled to hold one of their sporadic lunches on Wednesday, and the president was planning on hosting an assortment of Democratic governors at the White House in the evening.

Among the Democratic governors who were planning to attend in person were Tim Walz of Minnesota, who leads the Democratic Governors Association, J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, Maura Healey of Massachusetts, Daniel McKee of Rhode Island, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Andy Beshear of Kentucky and Gavin Newsom of California, according to their aides. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy were planning on attending virtually.

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Associated Press writers Will Weissert, Mary Clare Jalonick and Farnoush Amiri in Washington, Adam Beam in Sacramento, California; John O’Connor in Springfield, Illinois.; Mike Catalini in Trenton, New Jersey; Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis; Steve LeBlanc in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Joey Cappelletti in Lansing, Michigan; Dylan Lovan in Louisville, Kentucky; Makiya Seminera in Raleigh, North Carolina; and John D. Hanna in Topeka, Kansas. contributed.

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