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Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

Biden should present evidence he can beat Trump, Democratic leaders say

By meerna Jul11,2024
Biden should present evidence he can beat Trump, Democratic leaders say

Democratic leaders on Wednesday urged President Biden and his campaign to present a compelling case for a viable path to victory, amid a wave of poor polling in key battleground states and growing concerns that he will not be able to defeat former President Donald Trump in November.

The call comes as top union leaders have expressed serious concerns about his candidacy, a growing number of members of Congress and other Democrats have called for him to step down, and even members of Biden’s senior campaign staff have begun to express doubts about his prospects.

In a secret meeting Wednesday, some of the nation’s labor leaders — many of them staunch Biden supporters — said Americans’ doubts about Biden’s ability to do the job were hurting his candidacy and repeatedly asked Biden campaign officials about their plan to defeat Trump, according to two people familiar with their comments, which like others in this story, spoke on condition of anonymity to share private comments. Two of the most outspoken leaders were Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, and Shawn Fain, president of the United Auto Workers, two of Biden’s biggest union allies.

In a statement released Wednesday evening, the AFL-CIO leadership “unanimously voted to reaffirm its commitment” to Biden, saying, “No president has been more committed to helping workers than Joe Biden.”

Senior members of the campaign staff have become more pessimistic about Biden’s chances, though they are still aggressively trying to push the campaign forward and reassure allies about the president’s potential for a rebound.

“The vast majority of senior campaign staff are despondent and can’t see a way forward,” said a Democratic strategist familiar with the talks. A second person familiar with the discussions did not dispute the description.

“We can worry or we can work, and this team is doing the work that wins elections,” Biden campaign spokesman Kevin Munoz said in a statement.

Democrats, meanwhile, say the number of departures is likely to grow in the coming days, and lawmakers and donors are privately signaling they could publicly call on Biden to withdraw by the end of the week. They say they don’t want to embarrass Biden at the ongoing NATO summit in Washington while giving him time to make his own decision to drop out of the race.

On Wednesday, Sen. Peter Welch of Vermont became the first Democratic senator to call on Biden to withdraw, writing in an editorial in the Washington Post that he should do so “for the good of the country” because of the threat Trump poses. Additionally, Rep. Pat Ryan (D-N.Y.), one of the party’s most vulnerable members; Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.); and Antonio Delgado, the lieutenant governor of New York who previously represented the swing district in Congress, have also called on Biden to resign.

In the first presidential debate with Trump on June 27, Biden was unable to finish sentences, often stuttered and at times seemed confused about what question he was trying to answer. Democrats panicked over the performance, raising questions about his fitness to serve another four years as president and renewed concerns about the 81-year-old’s mental acuity.

Biden and his campaign continue to publicly maintain that he will not abandon the race and that he is capable of defeating Trump in the election, which will be held in 117 days. The Biden campaign told Democratic senators on Wednesday that campaign chair Jen O’Malley Dillon, senior campaign adviser Mike Donilon and White House counsel Steve Ricchetti will meet Thursday for a briefing on the path forward. The Biden campaign said it conducted a poll immediately after the debate that showed no significant movement in key swing states for Biden.

The Democratic senator said that if the campaign team told senators that the president had gotten little or no worse, “I don’t think anyone would believe it,” adding that senators would look for “compelling evidence that they can turn things around.”

Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy 2020 campaign manager and former White House communications director, expressed private frustration within the party that the campaign has not yet produced empirical evidence that Biden has recovered from his debate setback and then failed to gain enough momentum to win.

“If they have data that supports the path to victory they see, they should release it now and help people who want to defeat Trump rally around it,” Bedingfield wrote on social media. “People want to see that path.”

Ron Klain, a longtime Biden adviser and former White House chief of staff, said there was a consensus among Biden’s team that he remains the best candidate to defeat Trump. “He wins in 2024, just like he did in 2020 — because his personal values ​​and character ultimately trump Trump,” Klain wrote in a text message.

Democrats have been privately sketching out possible scenarios and their timing if Biden decides to leave the race, including Biden possibly endorsing Vice President Harris for the nomination. One Democratic strategist said timing is of the essence: “Any iteration of this, the earlier is better,” avoiding “crazy chaos” near or at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August.

Biden announced in a letter to Democratic allies Monday that he is “firmly committed to staying in this race, fighting it to the end, and defeating Donald Trump.” But former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday — a show Biden regularly watches — where she described Biden’s candidacy as an open question.

“It’s up to the president to decide whether he’s going to run,” said Pelosi, who has remained a member of the House since resigning as speaker. “We all encourage him to make that decision. Because time is running out.”

House Democrats’ concerns are rooted in pre-debate polls that showed Biden already trailing Trump in districts he won comfortably in 2020, with approval ratings in the low 40s, according to a person who has seen the data. In both House and Senate polls, Democrats in lower districts continue to outperform Biden in voter surveys.

An AARP poll released Tuesday — conducted by polling firms working for the Biden and Trump campaigns — showed Biden trailing Trump by six percentage points in Wisconsin in a five-way contest that featured independent candidates. Biden beat Trump in Wisconsin by less than a percentage point in 2020. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) maintained a three-point lead over her Republican opponent, businessman Erik Hovde, in the AARP poll.

“He’s just a liability everywhere,” said another Democrat working on campaigns this cycle who has seen private polls across the country.

The campaign began another round of polling this week, though results have not come in, people familiar with the operation said. Biden also announced he will sit down for an interview with NBC News anchor Lester Holt in Austin on Monday that will air during the first night of the Republican nominating convention.

National public polls showed Trump with a slight lead before the debate — a sharp contrast to the lead of about four points that Biden held over Trump at the same point in the 2020 campaign. Since the debate, national polls have shown an average shift of 2.5 points toward Trump, according to an average of Washington Post polls.

Democrats are particularly concerned about Biden’s diminished status compared to the 2020 campaign. At this point in the cycle, he was leading Trump by nine points in RealClearPolitics polls. Biden won the popular vote by 4.5 points in November. Trump currently leads the same average by more than three points.

Some Democrats have grown concerned in recent days about the pace of fundraising for Biden and independent groups supporting his campaign, as big-money fundraisers have been reluctant to work with their networks or decline to donate. The campaign was taking in more than $3 million per day after the debate, according to people familiar with internal statistics. Donations have since fallen off, and campaign aides are waiting for the GOP convention next week to see if enthusiasm returns.

The uncertainty among large donors about giving to independent groups has made it difficult to “balance the checks,” said one fundraiser involved in the effort. “I think a lot of large donors will move their funds to the House and Senate. If Biden is going to stay in office, he needs to pray that the small donors will come through.”

On Wednesday, George Clooney, the Oscar-winning actor and longtime Democratic donor, said Biden should drop out of the race. Clooney — who co-hosted a fundraiser for Biden in Los Angeles last month — said the president “wasn’t even the Joe Biden of 2020” at the event.

“This is not just my opinion; it is the opinion of every senator, member of Congress and governor I have spoken to privately,” Clooney wrote in the New York Times. “Everyone, regardless of what they say publicly.”

He continued: “The dam has burst. We can bury our heads in the sand and pray for a miracle in November, or we can tell the truth.”

Lauren Kaori Gurley and Liz Goodwin contributed to this report.

By meerna

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