Biden Party Allies Close Ranks as Poll Signals Voter Concern

(Bloomberg) -- Key Democrats rallied behind Joe Biden’s reelection bid as a poll suggested his stumbling debate performance against Donald Trump last week made more Americans skeptical about the president’s ability to lead.

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Representative Jim Clyburn, a critical ally who helped turn around Biden’s floundering 2020 candidacy, said that while “there were some trepidations” among House members after the debate, Biden “should continue to run on his record” and the contrast with Trump.

“He should stay in this race,” Clyburn, a Democrat from South Carolina, said on CNN’s State of the Union. “He should demonstrate going forward his capacity to lead the country.”

That question has come into sharper focus since Thursday’s debate, prompting days of furious public pushback from Biden’s congressional supporters and his campaign.

In a defiant series of memos to donors and surrogates over the weekend, the campaign dismissed alarm over Biden’s sputtering performance as a creation of pundits and operatives out of tune with ordinary Americans.

Biden would be the 2024 Democratic nominee, they said unequivocally, and any drop in support measured in upcoming polls was merely a temporary reflection of “bed wetting” by the chattering class.

Still, voters are expressing growing doubt about Biden’s health. A CBS News poll of registered voters published Sunday showed 27% believe the president has the mental and cognitive health to serve, compared with 35% in early June.

Biden’s debate performance was “a big problem” and “there are very honest and serious and rigorous conversations taking place at every level of our party” about what to do, Representative Jamie Raskin, an influential Maryland Democrat, said in an MSNBC interview.

It’s up to Biden to decide “whether he’s the candidate or someone else is the candidate,” Raskin said.

Biden was spending Sunday with family members at Camp David, the reclusive presidential retreat near Washington where he prepared for the debate, for a visit that had been scheduled before his faceoff with Trump.

His allies fanned out on Sunday political talk shows, arguing that the president had a bad night and seeking to turn the focus to what Clyburn called Trump’s “30-some-odd lies” during the debate.

“I understand there’s a lot of hand-wringing and concern and pearl-clutching amongst the commentariat,” Senator Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat and Biden campaign co-chair, said on ABC’s This Week. “That’s great. That’s expected, frankly.”

Maryland Governor Wes Moore, a Democrat, said Biden deserves his party’s respect and confidence. “Joe Biden is not going to take himself out of this race, nor should he,” Moore said on CBS’s Face the Nation.

Immediately after the debate, Biden and first lady Jill Biden made a two-day campaign and fundraising swing that included receptions with deep-pocketed donors in New York’s Hamptons and New Jersey.

“I understand the concern about the debate,” Biden said Saturday at the oceanfront Hamptons estate of hedge fund manager Barry Rosenstein and his wife, Lizanne, who hosted him at a fundraiser. “I get it. I didn’t have a great night.”

Biden’s campaign said Sunday it had raised more than $33 million since Thursday, with $26 million coming from grass-roots donations. Thursday was the best grass-roots fundraising day yet and Friday was the second-best, according to the campaign.

Biden, 81, acknowledged after the debate that voters might have concerns about his age and vowed to stay in the race. Jill Biden, a key force in his decision to run for reelection, said Friday she told her husband “we are not going to let 90 minutes define the four years that you’ve been president.”

Polls have consistently showed that many US voters are unhappy about the choice between Biden and Trump, who turned 78 this month. In the CBS poll, 50% said Trump has the mental and cognitive health to serve as president.

The June 28-29 survey of 1,130 people has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

“Let us not make a judgment about a presidency on one debate,” former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on CNN. “Let’s move on from that. It’s all an opportunity.”

--With assistance from Ian Fisher, Victoria Cavaliere and Justin Sink.

(Updates with Raskin comments in eighth paragraph.)

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