Biden campaign tries to stamp out Democratic calls to drop out

President Biden’s reelection campaign and Biden’s allies are going to great lengths to stamp out questions from Democrats over whether he should drop out of the race after an abysmal debate performance.

The campaign spent much of the weekend trying to calm the nerves of party leaders, as well as donors, and trying to convince them that Biden supporters are somehow fired up after a debate performance that sent Democrats into full-blown panic mode.

“They are trying, but it’s not working,” a Democratic bundler told The Hill when asked about the outreach. “There was a DNC call that was dubious at best. You can’t unsee what was seen.”

The bundler was referring to a call hosted by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) on Sunday that reportedly fueled more anger about the Biden team’s postdebate response, which some saw as lacking.

“I think they’re taking it very seriously. I don’t think they’re offering any solutions. I think their solution is to wait it out,” the bundler said.

Others contend much more needs to be done by the campaign in terms of outreach, calling such efforts “predictable.”

“I think their outreach is predictable, I don’t think the outreach solves the basic problem, which is people saw the event with their own eyes,” a Democratic lobbyist and donor told The Hill. “I don’t know that any amount of outreach is going to change a lot of peoples’ view, which is they watched for 90 minutes and it filled in a narrative that was already out there.”

“Literally either in politics or out of politics, I haven’t found a single person I’ve talked to who is willing to defend the debate,” the source added.

Conversations about Biden dropping out began almost immediately during and after Thursday’s debate with former President Trump, during which the president often provided sluggish, meandering answers to questions on topics he frequently addresses in stump speeches on the campaign trail. At times, he struggled to finish his answers, though he had a few stronger moments when addressing Trump’s conviction.

In a Saturday memo, Jen O’Malley Dillon, the Biden campaign’s senior adviser, insisted “the beltway class is counting Joe Biden out” and that internal dials show focus groups thought Biden won the debate and that it had little if any impact on the race.

“For all the hand-wringing coming out of Thursday, here’s the truth: This election was incredibly close before Thursday, and by every metric we’ve seen since, it remains just as close,” O’Malley Dillon wrote.

But one day before, at a campaign stop for Vice President Harris in Las Vegas, voters there expressed serious reservations.

“You can’t tell me that there’s not anyone better,” one voter told a reporter traveling with Harris, describing the debate as “terrible.”

Another voter who questioned Biden’s mental acuity asked: “Who’s running the country?”

The latest attempt at trying to convince Democrats that Biden doesn’t need to step aside comes as new polling shows more than 40 percent of the party thinks he should be replaced, with more than 4 in 10 Democrats in a USA Today/Suffolk University poll on Monday saying he shouldn’t be the nominee.

One Biden ally acknowledged the team knew they would face setbacks after Biden’s debate performance, giving some credit to Harris who got into a testy exchange with CNN right after the debate where she acknowledged a slow start but fiercely defended Biden on substance.

“The campaign was shocked by the debate, and knew it had a full-blown crisis,” the Biden ally said. “The VP’s CNN performance helped calm some fears, but they knew it was a setback.”

Some Democrats say the campaign is doing what it’s supposed to.

“The campaign is doing what a campaign is supposed to do — support the candidate,” former Rep. Chris Carney (D-Pa.) said. “There has been unease among some Democrats about a second Biden term even before the campaign began. Those voices gained resonance after the debate. If they continue to resonate will depend on Biden’s subsequent performances and the campaign’s ability to credibly message strength and clarity.”

In addition to O’Malley Dillon’s memo, the campaign kicked off the week by unveiling an ad that highlighted Biden’s argument that he’s up for another term. It also hit Trump over Jan. 6, 2021, just before the Supreme Court ruled on presidential immunity and offered a major victory for the former president that will likely delay any further criminal trials. The Biden campaign has also announced in recent days that it has raised $33 million since the debate.

Biden himself has acknowledged that his debate performance was lacking, saying he doesn’t debate as well as he used to in a speech in North Carolina that was noticeably more energetic than the night before.

Over the weekend, Biden returned to Camp David — where he spent nearly a week before the debate to prep — with his family on a previously scheduled trip, during which first lady Jill Biden called Vogue to insist that her husband isn’t dropping out of the 2024 race.

She said the family, who closely advises Biden on his political future, “will not let those 90 minutes define the four years he’s been president. We will continue to fight.”

Now, talk has turned to Biden exposing himself more in the hopes it might shift the narrative away from the debate and showcase him in settings where he performs better. That includes participating in more town halls, in-person press interviews, and giving more speeches.

In a call the campaign held after the Supreme Court immunity ruling on Monday, officials were asked in light of the ruling and the debate performance whether Biden’s public activity would change.

“We are in campaign season and the president is going to continue to hit the battleground states and campaign as he has been campaigning for months,” principal deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks responded.

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