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Biden tells Hill Democrats he is staying in the race


Washington
CNN

President Joe Biden told congressional Democrats in a letter released Monday that he will continue his re-election campaign despite growing concerns about his mental health and the viability of his campaign, while 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 seeing this race through to the end, and to defeating Donald Trump,” Biden wrote in the letter, obtained by CNN.

In the strongly worded letter, Biden sought to allay growing concerns about his viability.

“The question of how to move forward has been widely debated for over a week now. And it’s time for that to stop. We have one job to do. And that’s 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 job at hand only helps Trump and hurts us,” Biden concluded. “It’s time to come together, move forward as a unified party, and defeat Donald Trump.”

It’s a crucial week for Biden’s political future, as he seeks to calm rising tensions as the House and Senate resume sessions for the first time since the debate. More than a handful of leading House Democrats told Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries on Sunday that Biden should step aside because of concerns about Democratic runoff elections.

Shortly after the letter was released, Biden appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” as part of a strategy to make “improvised” appearances to allay concerns about his age.

But this appearance, although energetic, may not have had the expected impact.

Biden gave a lengthy and sometimes off-topic response to a question about his letter to House Democrats calling for unity and lambasted Trump for hitting the golf course after the debate. Trump has largely stayed under the radar as Biden battles the news cycle.

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

He continued: “I went around the country for a number of reasons, including making sure that my instincts were right and that the party still wanted me to be the nominee. And all the data, all the data shows that the average Democrat who voted, 14 million of them who voted for me, still wants me to be the No. 1 candidate.”

And in a pointed rebuke to his critics, Biden said: “I’m so frustrated with the elites. I don’t mean you, I mean the party elites. They know so much more. But if any of these guys don’t think I should run, run against me. Go ahead. Announce your candidacy for president. Challenge me at the convention.”

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

Congress returns to Washington on Tuesday for the first time since the June 27 CNN debate that sparked widespread concern about Biden’s ability to secure a Democratic victory in November and stay in office for four more years.

In the week since his disastrous debate performance, Biden has personally reached out to about two dozen House Democrats, a campaign official told CNN, and spoken with party leaders — including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Reps. Nancy Pelosi and James Clyburn — in an effort to reassure them that concerns within the party are being heard.

Since then, Schumer and Clyburn have expressed support for Biden, while Jeffries has remained silent.

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

Asked about Pelosi’s comments, Biden told ABC News: “It was a bad episode. There’s no indication that it’s a serious problem. I was exhausted.”

On a call with senior House Democrats convened by Jeffries on Sunday, a half-dozen lawmakers expressed their own concerns in a conversation that one aide described to CNN as “pretty brutal.”

These lawmakers — who, according to CNN, include Reps. Jerry Nadler, Adam Smith, Mark Takano and Joe Morelle — represent the top Democrats on the House Judiciary, Armed Services, Veterans Affairs and Administration committees.

A campaign official declined to say whether the president had spoken directly with Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, who organized a simultaneous effort among like-minded senators to explore the possibility of a formal request for Biden to withdraw. 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 will be Tuesday with Democratic senators and their leaders.

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

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

Also Monday, the Biden campaign is holding a conference call with its national finance committee, a source familiar with the event said, in another sign of rapprochement. A senior Democratic adviser told CNN that Biden is expected to join the conference call, underscoring one of the campaign’s key concerns about whether donors will continue to support him or redirect their money to House and Senate campaign efforts if he remains in the race.

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

The call is expected to take place around 12 p.m. Eastern time, and it’s not yet clear how many donors will participate. 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 jaded” about the president’s performance in the debate. About 500 donors participated in that call.

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

“We’ve always believed that when you love someone, you have to tell them the truth. And I think we came to that by being honest about the feedback we were getting. We were honest about the concerns we were getting from people,” Moore said.

He continued: “And we are also honest about the fact that as the president continued to tell us and show us that he was all in on this, we said we would support him.”

CNN’s Jeff Zeleny contributed to this report.

News Source : amp.cnn.com
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