Defiant Biden Rallies Democratic Governors During Candid Meeting

(Bloomberg) -- Leading Democratic governors offered some of the strongest words of support yet for President Joe Biden and his bid for reelection after a crisis meeting at the White House, which was said to have included an admission from the 81-year-old that he will have to work a reduced schedule to avoid fatigue.

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The Roosevelt Room gathering included more than 20 governors, with approximately half attending in person and the others participating virtually. It unfolded as anxiety mounted over Biden’s attempt to beat former President Donald Trump in November with polls showing he’s losing ground to his Republican opponent after a disastrous debate performance last week. Some donors and members of Congress are becoming increasingly vocal in calling for him to step down from the ticket, with some of the Governors in attendance touted as possible replacements.

After the meeting, several governors addressed the press or used social media to trumpet their support for Biden, frequently using similar language.

“The president is our nominee. The president is our party leader. And the president has told us, and he was very clear back there, that he is in this to win this,“ Maryland Governor Wes Moore told reporters after the gathering late Wednesday.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, who told CNN on Tuesday that the President needed to get in front of the American people and explain his strategy to win, didn’t immediately offer the same words of support, even though he’s made clear he’s behind Biden.

Instead he commented through a spokesperson that “the meeting was candid and he appreciated hearing directly from the president.”

Presidential Defiance

Biden opened the gathering with a show of defiance against signs of weakening support.

But the President also admitted he requires more sleep and will work fewer hours, the New York Times reported, citing people with knowledge of the conversation. This would include restricting events after 8 p.m., the paper wrote, noting that Biden blamed his hectic travel schedule prior to the debate for his weak performance against Trump.

The central message though he delivered to the governors is that he’s not leaving the race.

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“No one is pushing me out” and “I’m in it to win it,” he told the room according to a person briefed on the gathering.

Biden received tough questions, especially from governors in swing states, and said he wants to do more unscripted events, said the person , who asked not to be named because the discussion was private. Vice President Kamala Harris closed the event by calling on the group to present a united front in support of Biden, the person said.

Most of the attendants promptly did just that. New York Governor Kathy Hochul said she’s convinced Biden can win after hearing his plans and warned about the dangers of a Trump re-election.

But the specter of last week’s debate, which set of a maelstrom of concerns about Biden’s age and health lingered.

“None of us are denying Thursday night was a bad performance,” said Minnesota Governor Tim Walz. “But it doesn’t impact what I believe he’s delivering.”

Along with Pritzker, those present included California Governor Gavin Newsom, Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer and Kentucky’s Andy Beshear. Along with Moore, they’ve all been touted as possible replacements for Biden on the 2024 ticket even as they seek to express their support for the President.

Newsom and Whitmer didn’t address reporters after the meeting but issued statements with sentiments and wording in support of Biden.

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