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'I'm not leaving,' Biden says in a fundraising email

President Biden, seen here at a watch party in Atlanta, Ga. on June 27, told campaign staffers on Wednesday that he is staying in the presidential race.
Mandel Ngan
/
AFP via Getty Images
President Biden, seen here at a watch party in Atlanta, Ga. on June 27, told campaign staffers on Wednesday that he is staying in the presidential race.

Updated July 03, 2024 at 18:15 PM ET

Three Democratic governors who met with President Biden Wednesday night in the wake of his terrible debate performance said they continue to back him, as the president himself said in a fundraising email Wednesday that he's "not leaving" the race.

The developments Wednesday came as speculation about Biden's future as the Democratic nominee continues to grow following last week's presidential debate.

"I'm the Democratic Party’s nominee. No one is pushing me out. I'm not leaving," the email said. "I'm in this race to the end, and WE are going to win this election."

Biden met for an hour with the Democratic governors Wednesday in an attempt to quell the growing concern over his continued candidacy.

“What we saw in there today was a guy who’s the guy all of us believed in the first time could beat Donald trump – and did beat Donald trump,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said after the meeting.

He said he believed Biden was “fit for office.”

Earlier Wednesday, Biden held a meeting with his campaign staffers and said he is staying in "this race to the end," a person on the call said, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe the private meeting. The meeting was one of a series of closed-door conversations he is having to try to reassure Democrats after last week’s disastrous debate led to calls for him to step down.

House Democratic leaders were holding a call Wednesday evening, a source familiar with the meeting said, as congressional Democrats weighed their options following Biden's verbal stumbles during his debate with former President Donald Trump.

House Democrats are nervous

With the fate of Congress also up in the air, some congressional Democrats were nervous about the prospect of the president remaining on the ticket.

So far, two House Democrats have called on Biden to withdraw: Texas Rep. Lloyd Doggett, and Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, who gave remarks to the New York Times.

Separately, a House Democrat told NPR that Biden "seems to be continuously declining and we've still got four-five months, and folks are worried there will be a decline and if something catastrophic happens ... after the convention then Democrats are really screwed."

"There's no perfect answer," the lawmaker said. "It's tough all around."

The representative said lawmakers couldn't take a risk that Biden showed no further signs of decline. "I can't risk total catastrophe,” the member said.

Some lawmakers want Biden to stay on the ticket

The House Democrat said members were generally in two camps: those who still support Biden and those who want him to withdraw from the presidential race.

Even Biden's supporters, this member said, were upset at campaign advisers who, in their view, put Biden in that position at the debate — and urged a campaign shakeup.

"If a nominee is going to stay, you have to send a strong signal you are going to change course," this member said.

Indeed, Aaron Fritschner, a spokesman for Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., said Beyer introduced Biden and spent two hours with him Tuesday night. He said Beyer described Biden's remarks as "charming, crisp and delivered without consulting a teleprompter." Beyer said Biden "was in good form," Fritschner added, adding the Virginia lawmaker said "nothing the president did or said last night” raised concerns about his age or capacity to do his job.

The House Democrat said those who want Biden to withdraw believe "it's too risky, the stakes are too high to risk that something happens to Joe Biden after the convention, in September or October," the member said.

If that happened, the member said, "We're scrambling for a nominee, and the GOP is going to sue to block us from replacing him. It gets harder after the convention."

But the lawmaker acknowledged that replacing Biden would be difficult. Even someone with clear name recognition among fellow Democrats would be a challenge.

“To lift someone's stature, to get the money, to get them vetted ... there's a sliver of folks who want to go with the devil they know rather than the devil they don't," the lawmaker said.

Biden is blaming his debate performance on jet lag

The White House has blamed the debate flub on a cold and a "bad night." On Tuesday, Biden told donors that a punishing travel schedule through many time zones was to blame. He had gone to Europe twice in two weeks in June, and also spent time at a Los Angeles fundraiser.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden spoke on Wednesday with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and has also held calls with Senate Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, and Delaware Sen. Chris Coons.

A Democratic aide, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk publicly, said Democrats will look to House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries for their next move, but added that former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina are playing a key role, adding there’s a “lot of deference to those two.”

Later Wednesday, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met at the White House with 25 Democratic governors.

Eleven of the governors were attending in person, including governors seen as potential future presidential candidates like California’s Gavin Newsom, Illinois’ J.B. Pritzker, Kentucky’s Andy Beshear, Maryland’s Wes Moore and Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer. Other governors attended by Zoom.

Minnesota's Walz acknowledged Biden's debate performance was "bad," but added: "it doesn’t impact what I believe: He’s delivered.”

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore called the conversation with Biden “candid” and “honest.”

“We were honest about the feedback we were getting. We were honest about the concerns we were hearing from people,” he said. “And we’re all honest about the fact that as the president continued to tell us and show us that he was all in that we said that we’d stand with him.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York echoed their remarks.

“President Joe Biden is in it to win it. And all of us said we pledged our support to him because the stakes could not be higher,” she said.

He will have a stream of events in coming days, including a trip to Wisconsin

Biden spent last weekend trying to persuade supporters that he could still do the job and a rally and fundraising events.

This week, he has a steady stream of events that will provide the public additional insight into whether the president can move past the headlines surrounding his debate performance.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Tamara Keith
Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. In that time, she has chronicled the final years of the Obama administration, covered Hillary Clinton's failed bid for president from start to finish and threw herself into documenting the Trump administration, from policy made by tweet to the president's COVID diagnosis and January 6th. In the final year of the Trump administration and the first year of the Biden administration, she focused her reporting on the White House response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Her reporting often highlights small observations that tell a larger story about the president and the changing presidency.
Claudia Grisales
Claudia Grisales is a congressional correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.
Deepa Shivaram
Deepa Shivaram is a White House Correspondent at NPR.
Deirdre Walsh
Deirdre Walsh is a congressional correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk.