White House cites past Netanyahu praise of 'focused' Biden

‘I’m not leaving’: Biden rejects pressure to quit, as Democratic governors back him

US president hammers the message that ‘I’m in this race to the end’ in meetings with party officials, amid attempt to salvage his reelection bid after poor debate performance

US President Joe Biden speaks during a Medal of Honor Ceremony at the White House in Washington, July 3, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
US President Joe Biden speaks during a Medal of Honor Ceremony at the White House in Washington, July 3, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON — US President Joe Biden vowed to stay in the 2024 presidential race during a call with campaign staff on Wednesday and insisted in meetings with Democratic lawmakers and governors that he is fit for reelection despite his shaky debate performance last week.

Biden dialed in to a call with worried members of his campaign team and told them he wasn’t going anywhere, according to two sources familiar with the call.

“No one is pushing me out. I’m not leaving. I’m in this race to the end,” Biden said in an email blast by his campaign, urging supporters to “pitch in a few bucks” to help defeat his rival Donald Trump in the November 5 presidential election.

Biden met for more than an hour at the White House on Wednesday night, in person and virtually, with 24 Democratic governors who afterward described the conversation as “candid” but said they were standing behind Biden despite being concerned about a Trump victory in November.

“The president is our nominee. The president is our party leader,” said Governor Wes Moore of Maryland. He added that, in the meeting, Biden “was very clear that he’s in this to win.”

In his debate with Trump on Thursday, Biden mumbled under his breath, lost his train of thought at times and, at one point, talked of beating Medicare. The president has said that he was tired after two foreign trips and the White House has said he had a cold.

Maryland Governor Wes Moore speaks to reporters after meeting with US President Joe Biden, July 3, 2024, at the White House in Washington, as New York Governor Kathy Hochul and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz listen. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Asked Wednesday if Biden was considering stepping down, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said: “Absolutely not.”

During a briefing with reporters, Jean-Pierre tried to fend off questions on the subject by quoting past praise of Biden by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu was asked during a February interview with ABC News about Biden’s mental capacity after a special counsel issued a report stating that Biden suffered from memory loss.

“I have had more than a dozen extended phone conversations with President Biden… I’ve found him very clear and very focused,” Netanyahu responded.

Jean-Pierre read out that response along with a statement given by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to assert the president’s ability to do the job well.

Soon after she spoke, though, two national polls suggested Biden’s chances against Trump — who rattled off a series of well-worn falsehoods during the debate — had deteriorated.

A Wall Street Journal survey found Trump beating Biden by a margin of 48 percent to 42%, up one percentage point, while a New York Times/Siena poll found Trump’s lead over Biden had widened by three points to 49% to 43%.

In a call among House Democrats on Wednesday, Arizona’s Raúl Grijalva called for Biden to drop out of the race while Representative Seth Moulton from Massachusetts pointed to Biden’s age as a liability.

“The unfortunate reality is that the status quo will likely deliver us President Trump,” Moulton said in a statement. “President Biden is not going to get younger.”

While the campaign has highlighted fundraising successes with grassroots donors and held damage control calls with donors, Reed Hastings, a major Democratic Party donor and a co-founder of streaming platform Netflix, called for Biden to step aside.

Vice President Kamala Harris has meanwhile gained support as his potential replacement.

US President Joe Biden, right, and Republican presidential candidate former president Donald Trump, left, during a presidential debate hosted by CNN, June 27, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP/Gerald Herbert)

Dmitri Mehlhorn, an adviser to LinkedIn co-founder and Democratic megadonor Reid Hoffman, told Reuters his team would “enthusiastically support a ticket led by our tough and savvy vice president if Biden were to step aside for any reason.”

Melhorn said Harris was the only serious national contender who had already been subjected to major attacks by Trump’s “Make America Great Again” supporters.

“We would lose Joe’s superpower brand, but we would gain other benefits and would still be competitive,” he said.

Governors as alternatives?

Democrats and donors concerned about Biden’s viability in the November election will be closely watching an interview with ABC News expected to be taped Friday during a campaign visit to Madison, Wisconsin, and aired throughout the weekend.

The White House said Biden has spoken with Democratic leaders in Congress as well as with Democratic Representative Jim Clyburn, who was instrumental in Biden’s 2020 win.

Clyburn, who has said he would back Harris as the presidential candidate if Biden stepped aside, told CNN on Wednesday that the party should hold a “mini-primary” if Biden steps aside, the first senior party member to talk publicly about how replacing Biden as a candidate could work.

If Harris were the nominee, this primary process “would give us an opportunity, not just to measure up who would be good to be at the top of the ticket, but also who would be best in second place,” he said.

A handful of governors are potential rivals to Biden if pressure for him to step aside were to increase, but many of them also speak on Biden’s behalf on the campaign trail.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, California Governor Gavin Newsom, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro and Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear have all been mentioned as possible replacements to Biden.

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