Biden’s Fourth of July Shrouded by Pressure to Drop 2024 Bid

(Bloomberg) -- Joe Biden’s reelection campaign limped into the US Independence Day holiday, exhausted by a week of the incumbent clawing to maintain his hold on his party’s nomination.

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The president is scheduled to host a Fourth of July barbecue with military families Thursday afternoon and to later deliver remarks and watch fireworks from the White House grounds. It’s been exactly seven days since his disastrous debate performance against Donald Trump intensified questions about his fitness for office, and triggered calls from within his own party for him to suspend his reelection bid.

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That pressure intensified Wednesday with a bombshell report in the New York Times that he had conceded that possibility to key allies.

The White House and Biden’s campaign quickly denied the Times report suggesting the president had vocalized to a supporter that he could ill-afford another misstep that would irrevocably damage his campaign. Biden himself insisted to campaign staff he intended to remain in the race.

“I’m in this race to the end and we’re going to win because when Democrats unite, we will always win,” Biden said in a call Wednesday alongside Vice President Kamala Harris.

Yet time is running out for the beleaguered president to convince anxious Democratic officials, donors and voters that he remains viable in his effort to prevent Trump from returning to office. In another blow, dozens of Democratic lawmakers are considering signing a letter demanding Biden withdraw from the race, a senior party official said.

That anxiety has only been fueled by a flood of recent reporting suggesting other Democrats are looking at possible replacement candidates — and by the Times reporting.

Biden told his allies that the race would be in a “different place” if upcoming events went poorly, the Times reported. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre subsequently said Biden had flatly denied making such a comment.

Biden plans to sit for an interview with ABC News on Friday to be broadcast that evening, and hold a rally in Madison, Wisconsin. On Sunday, he’ll travel to Philadelphia for another campaign event. He also plans interviews with Black radio stations in Philadelphia and Milwaukee to coincide with his travel.

Biden has been calling senior Democratic lawmakers – including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries – to shore up support on Capitol Hill, even as members of his party are publicly expressing dismay about his campaign.

So far, only two sitting House Democrats — Lloyd Doggett of Texas and Raul Grijalva of Arizona — have publicly called for Biden to step aside. Yet the president may not be able to survive a coordinated revolt among Democratic lawmakers worried that his poor performance could cost them seats or a shot at control of the House and Senate in the upcoming election.

Jean-Pierre said Biden had told her the calls with congressional Democrats were “strong.”

“He’s moving forward as being president. He’s moving forward with his campaign,” she added.

A Senate Democrat, however, said Wednesday evening that several colleagues had privately indicated they didn’t see a way for the president to survive politically. The senator, granted anonymity to speak frankly about discussions among colleagues, said Biden hadn’t assuaged concerns about his debate collapse against Trump.

Biden served for 36 years in the Senate, and Democrats there have been largely silent about his candidacy during a week of turmoil.

Later on Wednesday, Biden held a hastily arranged meeting with Democratic governors, many of whom are at the center of speculation about possibly replacing him on the ticket. Several emerged to say that they were firmly behind Biden. “The president was very clear that he is in this to win this,” Governor Wes Moore of Maryland told reporters.

Crisis Meeting

Moore and other nationally prominent governors with extensive fundraising networks like California’s Gavin Newsom, Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer and Illinois’s JB Pritzker went to the White House for the crisis meeting in person, while others joined virtually.

“I heard three words from the president — he’s all in. And so am I. Joe Biden’s had our back. Now it’s time to have his,” Newsom said.

Biden blamed the poor debate showing on a cold and strenuous travel in the weeks before the debate. He told the governors that he had a checkup with a physician for the cold and that he was healthy, according to a person familiar with the matter.

On Tuesday, the Washington Post said that former President Barack Obama had privately conveyed to allies that Biden’s path to reelection was more challenging following the debate.

Reuters published a new poll showing Harris – the most likely successor if Biden were to step aside – trailing Trump, the Republican candidate, by a single point. Momentum behind the vice president, who could take over the campaign’s sizable war chest, has gathered in recent days. The pair had lunch together on Wednesday afternoon and jointly dialed in to their campaign’s conference call.

A Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll in May showed Harris gaining trust among swing-state voters, 48% of whom say she’s ready to assume the duties of the presidency if Biden were unable to continue.

The Leadership Now Project, a group of business leaders who had organized to counter what they saw as threats to democracy during the last Trump administration, called for Biden to cede his place as the Democratic nominee.

”This process will undoubtedly be messy and is not without risk,” the group said in a statement. “However, the stakes are too high not to act.”

All-Hands Calls

In Wilmington, Delaware, staffers at Biden’s campaign headquarters received an email from campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez and chair Jen O’Malley Dillon saying the campaign would increase its cadence of all-staff calls and emails to better coordinate.

White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients held an all-hands meeting with staffers on Wednesday, imploring them to keep their heads held high and continue executing their responsibilities while acknowledging Biden “didn’t have a great night.”

“People are looking for chatter,” he said, according to a recording of the call obtained by Bloomberg. “Tune it out.”

The campaign’s memo asked staffers to emphasize the “full picture” of Biden’s support, downplaying recent polls that have shown a noticeable tilt toward Trump.

Part of that effort included sending a memo to congressional staffers stressing that polls remained within the margin of error, and the campaign’s belief that a bad showing in the coming weeks did not actually indicate “a reshaping of the race.”

A New York Times/Siena College poll released Wednesday, though, found Trump’s lead over Biden had grown to six points, 49% to 43%, with nearly three-quarters of voters saying the president is too old for the job.

South Carolina Democrat Jim Clyburn, who spoke with the president on Wednesday, told CNN he wants to see him in “town-hall type” events now and performing there would calm some fears.

--With assistance from Jennifer Jacobs, David Welch, Gregory Korte, Billy House, Jonathan Tamari, Akayla Gardner, Jon Herskovitz, Steven T. Dennis, Amanda Gordon and Erik Wasson.

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