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  /  News   /  Biden speculation swirls as White House, allies fight off calls to drop out

Biden speculation swirls as White House, allies fight off calls to drop out

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You can also read about RFK Jr.’s debate counterprogramming here. RFK Jr. also joined NewsNation immediately after his event. Watch that interview hereGet factbasedunbiased news coverage 24/7 with the NewsNation app

President Biden and his top aides are circling the wagons in the face of calls for him to consider dropping out of the 2024 race after a bad debate performance Thursday night against former President Trump.

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The White House and Biden himself at fundraisers and on social media said the president had no intention of dropping out of the race, while Democratic lawmakers generally signaled support for Biden continuing to serve as their standard-bearer.

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), a top ally instrumental in Biden’s South Carolina primary victory in 2020, blamed Biden’s poor debate on excessive preparation.

“Yes, it was a bad performance. I’ve been around these things. I’ve been a part of debate preparation before, and I know when I see what I call preparation overload. And that’s exactly what was going on,” Clyburn said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The White House forcefully pushed back at an NBC News report that the Biden family would be discussing the future of the campaign during a gathering on Sunday at Camp David. The Camp David gathering is mostly centered on a family photo session with photographer Annie Leibovitz, and sources inside and outside of the campaign said it was not a discussion about whether Biden should leave the race.

“100% media-fabricated bulls—,” deputy campaign manager Rob Flaherty posted on the social platform X.

Biden’s fate will ultimately be his decision, and Democrats have signaled they are prepared to rally behind him as the nominee.

But what kind of pressure Biden comes under to drop out remains a question very much in play, particularly as Democrats mull the possibility of losing the White House and the Senate majority, which could give more chances for the GOP to confirm conservative justices to the Supreme Court.

Some Democratic voices were acknowledging the discussion, and at least spoke of a world where Biden might not be the nominee.

“Obviously, there was a big problem with Joe Biden’s debate performance, and there’s also just a tremendous reservoir of affection and love for Joe Biden in our party,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said Sunday on MSNBC’s “Velshi.” Raskin argued Biden “came back roaring” in North Carolina, where he held a rally on Friday after the debate.

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“So, we’re having a serious conversation about what to do. One thing I can tell you is that regardless of what President Biden decides … our party is going to be unified, and our party also needs him at the very center of our deliberations in our campaign,” said Raskin, scolding Republicans for sticking with former President Trump despite his legal problems.

“And so, whether [Biden’s] the candidate or someone else is the candidate, he is going to be the keynote speaker at our convention. He will be the figure that we rally around to move forward and beat the forces of authoritarianism and reaction in the country.”

Former Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak, a former Democratic National Committee vice chair, in a lengthy post on Facebook argued elected officials remain “shockingly silent” in public about replacing Biden for fear of political retribution.

“It is absolutely not too late to pick a new candidate. Hold two forums for candidates who meet a threshold, do a straw poll and the delegates pick,” Rybak wrote.

“Having been a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee I can say it is unlikely this would happen without a huge push from the public—you and me—right now,” he continued.

Democrats say replacing Biden would be an incredibly fraught process, however, and would create further division in the party. “It would be tough to do at this point,” one operative said. 

The turmoil left Democrats over the weekend expressing worry about the trajectory of the campaign, even as many donors take a wait-and-see strategy, in part to see what polls say in the wake of the debate.

“The fact of the matter is, we’re losing. And we’re losing big,” said one Democratic strategist. “They can say, ‘Oh, it was one bad night,’ but the narrative now among voters is this guy isn’t even old. He’s just not all there. And that hurts. We can sugarcoat this all we want but that’s the truth.”

“People will be paying closer attention to his every move,” the strategist said. 

Sources close to the Biden campaign said the president has no plans to step aside. If anything, the sources said, he would campaign harder to prove doubters wrong. 

“He still adamantly believes he’s the best person we have to defeat Donald Trump,” said a source close to the campaign. 

A memo from campaign chair Jen O’Malley Dillon dismissed the “beltway class” for counting Biden out after the debate. The campaign pointed to the $33 million raised in the 72 hours around the debate as evidence that support had not dried up among donors. 

Anita Dunn, one of Biden’s most senior advisers, said Saturday on MSNBC there had been no conversations about dropping out of the race, and that the focus has been on “what do we do next.”

Thursday’s debate was seen as a pivotal moment in the campaign, largely because the president’s campaign had pushed for the early debate to try and shake up the race. Trump narrowly led Biden in battleground states for months, and the campaign viewed it as an opportunity to remind voters of the possibility of a second Trump presidency.

Biden’s stumbling performance led to a full-fledged panic as the debate went on — a panic that continued into the weekend despite efforts by some top Democrats to tamp it down.

Former President Obama, for example, quipped that “bad debate nights happen” but that it didn’t change the stakes of the race.

Clyburn said Sunday on CNN he does not believe Biden would have a problem leading the country for the next four years, “because he’s done a great job of leading for the last three-and-a-half years.”

These statements of assurance followed calls by The New York Times editorial board, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial board and pundits such as MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough for Biden to drop out of the race.

The Biden campaign has dismissed pundits and editorial boards ever since the 2020 campaign, when it argued the Beltway media underestimated then-candidate Biden’s support among voters. That attitude was on display again in the face of headlines about dropping out of the race.

“If we do see changes in polling in the coming weeks, it will not be the first time that overblown media narratives have driven temporary dips in the polls,” O’Malley Dillon wrote in a memo shared with reporters.

Polling after the debate has been a mixed bag for the Biden operation. A Morning Consult poll conducted within hours of the debate found Biden still led Trump 45-44 when respondents were asked to choose between them.

CBS News poll conducted Friday and Saturday found 27 percent of respondents said Biden has the mental health to serve as president, down from 35 percent earlier in June. The poll found 50 percent of voters said Trump has the mental health to serve as president, and it did not ask voters which candidate they would vote for.

Miranda Nazzaro contributed.