House Democrats discuss Biden’s future in closed-door meeting refusing to comment

House Democrats discuss Biden’s future in closed-door meeting refusing to comment

President Joe Biden is set to discuss the future of his re-election campaign with his family at Camp David, Maryland, on Sunday. This follows a nationally televised debate on Thursday that left many Democrats concerned about his ability to defeat former President Donald Trump in the upcoming November election, according to five sources familiar with the matter. The trip to Camp David was planned before the debate, and Biden, along with First Lady Jill Biden, is scheduled to join their children and grandchildren there late Saturday.

Despite the public support from top Democratic leaders, including former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, and senior congressional Democrats like Reps. Hakeem Jeffries, Jim Clyburn, and Nancy Pelosi, there are private concerns about Biden’s viability. Two sources familiar with these discussions revealed that these leaders have expressed doubts in private, even as they continue to publicly back the president.

One Democratic House member, who believes Biden should drop out of the race but has not yet called for it publicly, mentioned that three colleagues shared the same sentiment during votes on the House floor on Friday. However, House leaders have not wavered publicly, and their aides have denied any behind-the-scenes doubts.

Ian Krager, a spokesman for former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, stated, “Speaker Pelosi has full confidence in President Biden and looks forward to attending his inauguration on January 20, 2025. Any suggestion that she has engaged in a different course of action is simply not true.” Similarly, Christie Stephenson, a spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, said her boss has “repeatedly made clear publicly and privately that he supports President Joe Biden and the Democratic ticket from top to bottom.” Brianna Frias, a spokeswoman for Jim Clyburn, emphasized that Clyburn has “total confidence in President Joe Biden and the Biden-Harris ticket.”

Top Democrats understand that Biden should be given space to determine his next steps, believing that only the president, in consultation with his family, can decide whether to continue or end his campaign early. One source familiar with the discussions noted, “The decision-makers are two people — it’s the president and his wife. Anyone who doesn’t understand how deeply personal and familial this decision will be isn’t knowledgeable about the situation.”

This account of a president and his party in crisis, just over four months before an election they believe will determine the fate of democracy, is based on interviews with more than a dozen Democratic officials, operatives, aides, and donors. All spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters, such as whether a sitting president might give up his re-election bid and how he could be replaced on the ballot.

Despite delivering a rousing speech at a rally in North Carolina on Friday that calmed some of his allies, Biden was described by one person familiar with his mood as humiliated, devoid of confidence, and painfully aware that the physical images of him at the debate — eyes staring into the distance, mouth agape — will live beyond his presidency, along with a performance that at times was meandering, incoherent, and difficult to hear. “It’s a mess,” this person said.

Another person familiar with the dynamics said Biden will ultimately listen to only one adviser: “The only person who has ultimate influence with him is the first lady. If she decides there should be a change of course, there will be a change of course.”

After the article was published, a source familiar with the situation stressed that the Camp David gathering was not a formal family meeting. “Any discussion about the campaign is expected to be informal or an afterthought,” the source said. “No one is sitting down for a formal or determinative discussion.”

Anita Dunn, one of Biden’s closest advisers, said on MSNBC’s “The Weekend” that Biden has not discussed dropping out of the race with aides and that internal talks have focused on moving forward. “We had a bad debate,” Dunn said. “What do we do next? You know, the president, above all, is focused on what do we do next? What do I need to go do?”

These private discussions among Biden, his family members, and his top advisers are being held against the backdrop of a reckoning for Democrats who were shocked both by Biden’s appearance and the frequency with which his train of thought appeared to veer off track. His campaign held a conference call on Saturday with members of the Democratic National Committee, which a Biden campaign official described as an effort to reassure party officials and demonstrate that his team is communicating with its allies. “We’re driving this,” the official said.

Biden’s top aides and advisers have told his staff to stay the course in meetings and discussions. Their message, according to one senior administration official: “We’ll weather the storm, just like we always have.”

Sources have described three groups of Democrats: those who will defend Biden under any circumstances, those who are ready to dump him, and those who are waiting to see what he does — and what his poll numbers look like in the coming days and weeks — before passing judgment. It’s the third group that Democratic insiders are monitoring closely.

“Democrats need to take a big breath and look at that polling, look at swing voters,” said one state Democratic Party chair. “Until I see something differently, he’s the person that’s put this coalition together, he’s the person that has the record, he’s the person that beat Donald Trump. Until I see something differently, he’s still the best person to beat Donald Trump.”

The Biden campaign declined to comment for this piece, instead pointing to a memo on Saturday from campaign chair Jen O’Malley Dillon that made the case that Biden can still win, pointing to the more than $27 million they raised between debate day and Friday evening. Notably, however, O’Malley Dillon acknowledged the possibility of tough polling ahead but said the blame will rest with the media: “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.”

The discussions among some Democrats include weighing the party’s best path to defeating Trump — sticking with an 81-year-old incumbent who could have another moment like Thursday night at any time between now and Election Day, or going with a different candidate whose path to nomination at the party’s convention next month could be a messy process.

Biden insisted on Friday that he will remain the party’s standard-bearer in November, telling a crowd at his rally in North Carolina: “I would not be running again if I didn’t believe with all my heart and soul I can do this job.”

The president has spent much of the past 48 hours attending fundraising events with some of the very Democrats most concerned about the impact of his debate performance. He addressed it head-on at one event on Saturday. “I understand the concern about the debate — I get it,” he added. “I didn’t have a great night.”

Party elites will urge him to exit the race only if they determine that he is “not viable and negatively impacting the House and Senate races,” said one big-time donor who is close to both Obama and Biden. Inherent in the wait-and-see approach is an acknowledgment that there is no clear replacement for Biden and that his departure could touch off a bloody eleventh-hour intraparty battle that might allow Trump to cruise to victory.

There’s also no feasible way to force him from his perch. All but a handful of the delegates to the Democratic convention were elected on their pledge to nominate him at the party’s convention in August. If he chooses to stand for that nomination, party insiders say, he will get it.

Moreover, according to a senior Democratic official, the party leadership would have much more control over choosing a replacement if Biden were to drop out after receiving the nomination than if he did so beforehand. Once a candidate is officially nominated, there is a process for the Democratic National Committee members to choose a successor. Biden is the dominant force at the DNC, and his preference for a successor would surely carry sway.

If Biden were to exit before that, his delegates might do what he asked of them — but they wouldn’t be bound in the same way they are now. In that scenario, the delegates could nominate anyone, and there could be a political brawl at the convention. “We need to have as much discipline as emotion,” the senior Democratic official said. “It’s not politically smart for Biden to step down.”

Source: NBC News, CNN

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