Biden tells Hill Democrats he is staying in the race | CNN Politics (2024)

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President Joe Biden told congressional Democrats in a letter on Monday that he will continue his reelection bid despite mounting concerns about his mental fitness and the viability of his campaign, while also hitting back at party “elites” in an interview ahead of a critical week on Capitol Hill.

“I want you to know that despite all the speculation in the press and elsewhere, I am firmly committed to staying in this race, to running this race to the end, and to beating Donald Trump,” Biden wrote in the letter, obtained by CNN.

Biden sought to put growing concerns about his viability to rest in the forcefully worded letter.

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

President Joe Biden during the CNN Presidential Debate on June 27, 2024, in Atlanta. Austin Steele/CNN Related article Inside a despondent White House: Aides gripped by unease as Biden’s political future remains uncertain

It’s a critical week for Biden’s political future as he seeks to tamp down intensifying fallout with the House and Senate back in session for the first time since the debate. More than a handful of top House Democrats told Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries on Sunday that Biden needs to step aside amid concerns about down-ballot Democratic races.

Shortly after the letter was released, Biden called into MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” part of a strategy to do more “off-the-cuff,” unscripted engagements to quell concerns about his age.

But the appearance, while energetic, may not have had its intended impact.

Biden offered a lengthy and occasionally off-topic response to a question about his letter to Hill Democrats calling for unity and lambasted Trump for being on the golf course after the debate. Trump has largely stayed under the radar while Biden battles the news cycle.

“Well look — Democrats — Joe, let me say it this way, the reason I’ve been on the road so much, all over the country, while Trump is riding around in a golf cart, filling out his golf cart before, 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 gone over the country for several reasons, one, to make sure my instinct was right about the party still wanting me to be the nominee. And all the data, all the data shows that the average Democrat out there who voted, 14 million of them who’ve voted for me, still want me to be the nominee, No. 1.”

And in a pointed rebuke to his critics, Biden said, “I’m getting so frustrated by the elites. Now, I’m not talking about you guys, but by the elites in the party. They know so much more. But if any of these guys don’t think I should run, run against me. Go ahead. Announce — announce for president. Challenge me at the convention.”

Critical week ahead on Capitol Hill

The president will continue his outreach to Democratic lawmakers this week, a campaign official tells CNN. Tuesday will be a consequential day as members are set hold a planned caucus meeting with Jeffries, and one member told CNN they anticipate that is the day when the dam will break. Two sources told CNN that the meeting, the first time Democrats are gathering as a caucus since the June 27 debate, will be limited to members only and phones are not expected to be permitted inside.

Biden will meet virtually with the Congressional Black Caucus Monday night, two sources told CNN.

The CBC is arguably the president’s strongest group of support on Capitol Hill and is a key group for him heading into Tuesday’s Democratic caucus meeting. NBC News was first to report on the meeting with the CBC.

In the week following his disastrous debate performance, Biden personally reached out to roughly 20 House Democrats, a campaign official tells CNN, and has spoken with party leaders — including Jeffries, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Reps. Nancy Pelosi and James Clyburn — with a goal of reassuring them that the concerns within the party are being heard.

Since then, Jeffries, Schumer and Clyburn have voiced support for Biden.

Despite divisions in his caucus about Biden’s viability in November, Jeffries insisted on Monday that he is still behind the president.

“Yes, I made clear the day after the debate, publicly, that I support President Joe Biden and the Democratic ticket,” Jeffries told CNN’s Manu Raju when asked about Biden. “My position has not changed.”

“I’m for Joe,” Schumer told reporters when he arrived at the Capitol Monday and was asked if he supports the president continuing his race for reelection.

He would not answer if he has any questions about Biden’s mental and physical ability to lead the nation for four more years.

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

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

Several House Democrats have already publicly called for Biden to drop out of the presidential race, with Washington state Rep. Adam Smith becoming the latest to do so Monday afternoon.

“Well, look, I think he should step aside,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead.” “I think it’s become clear that he’s not the best person to carry the Democratic message. And here’s the thing: We have an incredibly strong message and record to run on. And all respect to the president, he’s done a great job.”

But Smith added: “We’ve got a good message. The president has shown he is not capable of delivering that message in an effective way.”

On a call with senior House Democrats convened Sunday by Jeffries, Smith was one of a half-dozen lawmakers who voiced their own concerns during a conversation one aide described to CNN as “pretty brutal.”

Those lawmakers — which CNN has reported to include Reps. Smith, Jerry Nadler, Mark Takano and Joe Morelle — represent the highest-ranking Democrats on the Armed Services, Judiciary, Veterans Affairs and House Administration committees.

President Joe Biden speaks during a barbecue for active-duty military families at the White House on July 4, 2024. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images Related article Biden’s fate is on the line in the most criticaldays of his 50-year political career

A campaign official declined to say whether the president had spoken directly with Sen. Mark Warner, the Virginia Democrat who organized a concurrent 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 evening, a source tells CNN, after news of the group’s efforts leaked. The next meeting will be Tuesday with Senate Democrats and their leadership.

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

Biden’s campaign on Monday highlighted a list of supportive statements from Hill Democrats, seeking to amplify the voices who have expressed confidence in the president’s candidacy in recent days.

Biden team hosted another top donor call

Also on Monday, the Biden campaign hosted a donor call with its national finance committee, another sign of outreach. A top concern of the campaign is whether donors will continue to back Biden or redirect their money to House and Senate campaign efforts if he stays in the race.

Biden said he is not exiting the race and that he believes he’s still the best candidate to beat Trump, three participants told CNN.

“My one job is to beat Donald Trump,” Biden said, according to one of the participants on the call, who said Biden thanked donors and renewed his pledge to keep the fight alive.

A second participant said of the president’s determination to continue running: “He ain’t budging an inch.”

Campaign chair Jen O’Malley Dillon lead the call, which had more than 300 participants, and Maryland Gov. Wes Moore offered a fiery defense of the president, the participants told CNN.

Moore was among the governors who met with Biden at the White House last week, telling reporters after the meeting he supports the president but acknowledged the concerns from voters.

During the question-and-answer portion of the call, Biden fielded a question from a donor about what he needs to do in the second debate — currently scheduled for September 10 — to perform better than the first debate, where 51 million Americans watched his meandering and low-energy performance.

Biden, dressed in a suit and flanked by an American flag and family photographs, outlined the strategy simply, two participants said: “Attack, attack, attack.”

DNC Finance Chair Chris Korge, who was among the final speakers on the call, was “begging us to stay in line,” one of the participants said.

Biden struck a defiant note on a call with donors, emphasizing that the party needs to shift the narrative back to Trump and the important issues at stake in November. There was a fair amount of discussion, according to one donor on the call, on “Project 2025.”

Biden made clear how damaging Trump’s agenda would be across the board, including for the economy, women and the LGBTQ community, one donor said.

Biden also smiled on screen when one donor said she would crawl through glass for him.

Another participant on the call, who has been critical of Biden and his campaign over the past week, praised the president’s words on Monday and said the campaign seemed to “finally” grasp the seriousness of the moment.

The ultimate test, this donor said, would be whether congressional leaders urge Biden to reconsider this week and whether the battleground map showed any signs of expanding or if the president’s support eroded in campaign polling this week following the long July 4 holiday weekend.

“It’s still a huge hole to climb out of,” the Democratic donor said, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid alienating the campaign. “It was already a steep hill to climb to victory.”

This story has been updated with additional developments and reporting.

CNN’s Morgan Rimmer, Annie Grayer, Haley Talbot, Ted Barrett, Donald Judd and MJ Lee contributed to this report.

Biden tells Hill Democrats he is staying in the race | CNN Politics (2024)
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