Biden tells Hill Democrats he’s staying in the race


Washington
CNN

President Joe Biden told congressional Democrats in a letter Monday that he will continue his re-election campaign despite mounting concerns about his mental fitness and the viability of his campaign. In an interview ahead of a crucial week on Capitol Hill, he also lashed out at the party’s “elites.”

“I want you to know that despite all the speculation in the press and elsewhere, I am determined to stay in this race, to see this race through to the end, and to defeat Donald Trump,” Biden wrote in the letter, which was obtained by CNN.

In the strongly worded letter, Biden attempted to allay growing concerns about its feasibility.

“The question of how to move forward has been raging for more than a week. And it’s time for it to stop. We have one job. And that is to defeat Donald Trump. We have 42 days until the Democratic Convention and 119 days until the general election. Any weakening of resolve or lack of clarity about the task ahead only helps Trump and hurts us,” Biden concluded. “It’s time to come together, move forward as a united party, and defeat Donald Trump.”

It’s a critical week for Biden’s political future as he tries to defuse the growing unrest as the House and Senate return to session for the first time since the debate. More than a handful of top House Democrats told House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries on Sunday that Biden should step aside over concerns about Democratic races on lower ballots.

Shortly after the letter was released, Biden called MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” as part of a strategy to make more “off the cuff,” unscheduled appointments to assuage concerns about his age.

But while the performance was energetic, it may not have had the desired effect.

Biden gave a muddled response to a question about his letter to Hill Democrats calling for unity and criticized Trump for being on the golf course after the debate. Trump has largely flown under the radar as Biden battles the news cycle.

“Now look – Democrats – Joe, let me put it this way, the reason I’ve been on the road so much, all over the country, with Trump driving around in a golf cart, filling up his golf cart, golf cart before he even hits the ball – but anyway, he hasn’t been anywhere in 10 days, I’ve been all over the country, No. 1,” he said.

He continued: “And I’ve crisscrossed the country for a number of reasons, one, to make sure my instincts were right about the party that still wanted me to be the nominee. And all the data, all the data shows that the average Democrat that voted, 14 million of them that voted for me, still want me to be the nominee, No. 1.”

And in a sharp rebuke to his critics, Biden said: “I get so frustrated with the elites. Now I’m not talking about you guys, I’m talking about the elites in the party. They know so much more. But if any of these guys think I shouldn’t run, then run. Go ahead. Announce — announce for president. Challenge me at the convention.”

The president will continue his outreach to Democratic lawmakers this week, a campaign official tells CNN. Tuesday will be a key day, as members are scheduled to hold a caucus meeting with Jeffries, and one member told CNN they expect that to be the day the dam breaks.

Congress returns to Washington on Tuesday for the first time since the June 27 debate on CNN, which raised deep concerns about Biden’s ability to deliver a victory for Democrats in November and stay in office for another four years.

In the week after his disastrous debate performance, Biden personally reached out to about 20 Democrats in the House of Representatives, a campaign aide told CNN, and met with party leaders — including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, and Reps. Nancy Pelosi and James Clyburn — with the aim of reassuring them that concerns within the party are being heard.

Since then, Schumer and Clyburn have endorsed Biden, while Jeffries has remained silent.

Pelosi has said the questions surrounding Biden’s disastrous performance during the presidential debate were “legitimate.”

Asked about Pelosi’s comments, Biden told ABC News: “It was a bad episode. No indication of a serious condition. I was exhausted.”

During a call with top House Democrats hosted by Jeffries on Sunday, a half-dozen lawmakers voiced their own concerns in a conversation that one aide described to CNN as “pretty brutal.”

These lawmakers — who CNN reported include Reps. Jerry Nadler, Adam Smith, Mark Takano and Joe Morelle — represent the highest-ranking Democrats on the Judiciary, Defense, Veterans Affairs and House Administration committees.

A campaign official declined to say whether the president had spoken directly to Sen. Mark Warner, the Virginia Democrat who has been organizing a simultaneous effort among like-minded senators to explore the possibility of an official request for Biden to step aside. Warner canceled a follow-up meeting scheduled for Monday night, a source told CNN, after news of the group’s efforts leaked. The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday with senatorial Democrats and their leadership.

Biden told ABC News that Warner was a “good man” but had a “different perspective.”

Biden’s campaign on Monday highlighted a slate of endorsements from Hill Democrats, seeking to bolster the voices who have expressed confidence in the president’s candidacy in recent days.

Also on Monday, the Biden campaign is hosting a donor call with its national finance committee, a source familiar with the call said, in another sign of outreach.

Campaign chair Jen O’Malley Dillon will lead the call, and Maryland Gov. Wes Moore is expected to be among the speakers joining the call, the source said.

The call is expected to take place around noon ET, and it’s unclear how many donors will tune in. The campaign held a similar call last week, in which O’Malley Dillon defended the president’s health and said the team was “clear-eyed, not polly-ish” about the president’s performance during the debate. About 500 donors participated in that call.

Moore was one of the governors Biden met with at the White House last week. After the meeting, he told reporters he supports the president but acknowledged voters’ concerns.

“We always believe that if you love someone, you tell them the truth. And I think we were honest about the feedback that we got. We were honest about the concerns that we heard from people,” Moore said.

He continued: “And we’re also honest about the fact that the president continued to tell us and show us that he was fully committed, and we said we would stand with him.”

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