Biden meeting Democratic governors as political crisis deepens

President Joe Biden was set to meet Democratic governors Wednesday amid new reports that he is weighing whether he should stay in the race.

Blue state leaders will sit down with Biden at the White House in his most significant face-to-face meeting with Democrats since the debate. The president seeks to calm fears that his reelection campaign against former President Trump could be doomed after his poor debate performance last week.

Two published reports Wednesday said Biden has told an unnamed top ally that he may not be able to stay in the race if he cannot quickly convince the public that he is up to the job.

The unnamed sources said Biden would take a couple of days to assess the situation.

The White House quickly denied the reports.

“That claim is absolutely false,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates wrote on the social media platform X. “If the New York Times had provided us with more than 7 minutes to comment we would have told them so.”

The meeting came after Democratic governors huddled online Monday and insisted on a private gathering with Biden.

Biden is also having a private lunch with Vice President Kamala Harris, although the White House portrayed that as routine and not directly connected to the political firestorm.

Harris would be a leading candidate to be the Democratic nominee if Biden stepped down.

Biden reportedly spoke with Democratic House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries Tuesday in an effort to tamp down speculation that he could step aside.

Biden’s inner circle — including first lady Jill Biden — has so far remained firm that he is not even considering dropping out of the rematch against Trump.

Polls for now show the race is effectively a dead heat, although some Democrats are bracing for new post-debate surveys that could show Trump opening up a lead.

But there’s growing anxiety among donors and on Capitol Hill about the president’s ability to beat Trump. Lawmakers fret that he could drag down Democratic candidates up and down the ballot.

Biden’s so-far limited outreach to fellow Democratic elected officials since the debate has not helped quell the jitters.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday there were “legitimate questions” about whether Biden is healthy enough to run, and Rep. James Clyburn suggested he would back Harris if Biden dropped out, a less than ringing endorsement of his longtime ally.

Biden, 81, told donors at a fundraiser that he was exhausted after extensive overseas travel in the weeks before the debate, even joking that he “nearly fell asleep” on the debate stage.

The president gave a halting and disjointed performance in the clash with Trump last week, appearing to lose his train of thought at times and offering meandering answers to simple questions.

Biden supporters and campaign surrogates framed the debate as a “bad night” and an isolated incident. But some reports say Biden has been showing his age much more in recent months.

If Biden does drop out of the race, it is far from clear what would happen next.

Harris would be the most likely front-runner to replace him at the top of the ticket. But other top Democrats might balk at a coronation.