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Biden should prove he can beat Trump, Democratic leaders say
Biden should prove he can beat Trump, Democratic leaders say

Amid a spate of poor polling results in swing states and growing concerns that Biden will not be able to defeat former President Donald Trump in November, Democratic leaders on Wednesday called on President Biden and his campaign team to present compelling evidence of a viable path to victory.

These demands came as leading labor leaders expressed serious concerns about his candidacy, more members of Congress and other Democrats called on him to resign, and even members of Biden’s senior campaign team began to share doubts about his prospects.

In a closed session on Wednesday, some of the country’s labor leaders – many of them staunch Biden supporters – said Americans’ doubts about Biden’s fitness for the job would hurt his candidacy and repeatedly asked Biden’s campaign staff about their plan to defeat Trump, according to two people familiar with their comments. like others for this story, he spoke on the condition of anonymity to share private comments. Two of the most vocal leaders were Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants, and Shawn Fain, the president of the United Auto Workers, two of Biden’s biggest union allies.

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

Senior campaign officials are now more pessimistic about Biden’s chances, even as they continue to do everything they can to push the campaign forward and convince their allies of the possibility of the president’s recovery.

“The overwhelming majority of senior campaign staff are desperate and see no way out,” said a Democratic strategist familiar with the talks. A second person familiar with the discussions did not dispute that description.

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

Meanwhile, Democrats expect the number of defections to increase in the coming days. Lawmakers and donors have privately indicated that they may publicly call on Biden to drop out by the end of the week. They argue that they do not want to embarrass Biden during the ongoing NATO summit in Washington, but at the same time give him time to decide for himself whether to drop out of the race.

On Wednesday, Senator Peter Welch of Vermont became the first Democratic senator to call on Biden to resign. In an op-ed in the Washington Post, he wrote that he should do so “for the good of the country” because Trump poses a danger. Representative Pat Ryan (Denver, New York), one of the party’s most vulnerable members, Representative Earl Blumenauer (Democrat, Oregon) and Antonio Delgado, the lieutenant governor of New York who formerly represented a swing district in Congress, also called on Biden to resign.

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

Biden and his campaign continue to publicly maintain that he will not drop out of the race and that he can beat Trump in an election that will take place in 117 days. The Biden campaign told Democratic senators on Wednesday that campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon, senior campaign adviser Mike Donilon and White House adviser Steve Ricchetti will meet on Thursday for a briefing on how to proceed. The Biden campaign said it conducted polls immediately after the debate that showed no significant movement in swing states for Biden.

One Democratic senator said that if the campaign team tells senators that the president’s position has deteriorated little or not at all, “nobody is going to believe it.” He added that senators would be looking for “convincing evidence that they can still turn things around.”

Kate Bedingfield, deputy campaign manager for Biden’s 2020 campaign and former White House communications director, expressed private frustration within the party that there was still no empirical evidence in the campaign that Biden had recovered from his debate setback and subsequently gained enough momentum to win.

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

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

Democrats have privately outlined possible scenarios and their timing should Biden decide to drop out of the race, including Biden possibly supporting Vice President Harris’ nomination. One Democratic strategist said time is of the essence: “The sooner the better” to avoid a “mad scramble” just before or during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August.

Biden announced in a letter to his Democratic allies on Monday that he is “determined to stay in this race, see it through to the end, and beat Donald Trump.” But former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday – a program Biden is known to watch regularly – and called Biden’s continued candidacy an open question.

“It’s up to the president to decide whether 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 stem from 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 continue to outperform Biden in lower electoral districts.

An AARP poll released Tuesday – conducted by pollsters working for the Biden and Trump campaigns – showed Biden trailing Trump by six percentage points in Wisconsin in a five-way race that also included third-party candidates. Biden beat Trump in Wisconsin by less than one percentage point in 2020. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) maintained a three-point lead over her Republican opponent, businessman Eric Hovde, in the AARP poll.

“He’s just a liability everywhere,” said another Democrat who is involved in campaigns this election cycle and has been monitoring private polls across the country.

The campaign launched another round of polling this week, but the results are not yet in, people familiar with the operation said. Biden also announced that he will conduct an interview with NBC News anchor Lester Holt in Austin on Monday that will air on 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 roughly four-point lead Biden had over Trump at the same point in the 2020 campaign. Since the debate, national polls have shown an average shift of 2.5 points in Trump’s favor, according to a Washington Post polling average.

Democrats are particularly concerned about Biden’s weaker status compared to the 2020 campaign. At that point in the election cycle, he was nine points ahead of Trump in the average of RealClearPolitics polls. In November of that year, Biden won the nationwide popular vote by 4.5 points. Trump now leads Trump by more than three points.

Some Democrats have grown concerned in recent days about the pace of fundraising for Biden and the independent groups supporting his campaign, as major donors to the president have shown reluctance to use their networks or refused to match their donations. The campaign was bringing in more than $3 million a day after the debate, according to people familiar with the internal numbers. Donations have since dropped off, and campaign advisers are waiting for the Republican National Convention next week to see if enthusiasm returns.

The uncertainty among major donors about whether to give to independent groups has made it “hard to balance the checkbook,” said one fundraiser involved in the effort. “I think a lot of the major donors will shift their funds to the House and Senate. If Biden wants to stay in office, he’s going to have to pray that the small donors 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 at that event that the president is “not even the Joe Biden of 2020.”

“That’s not just my opinion; that’s the opinion of every senator, congressman and governor I’ve spoken to privately,” Clooney wrote in the New York Times. “Every single one, regardless of what he or she says publicly.”

He continued: “The dam has broken. 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 reporting.

By Everly