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What Biden Is Doing to Survive as He Faces Calls to Drop Out of Race

What Biden Is Doing to Survive as He Faces Calls to Drop Out of Race

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Good evening. Tonight, we’re taking a look at the strategy behind President Biden’s efforts to steady his candidacy. And I’m covering a new ad campaign from Republicans who want to defeat Trump.

A defiant President Biden sent a simple message on Monday to the detractors who say he needs to bow out of the presidential race: Bring it.

“Any of these guys that don’t think I should run, run against me. Announce for president, challenge me at the convention,” Biden said while calling into MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show, all but daring the Democrats who have been complaining about his electability since his disastrous debate performance to stand up and do something about it.

Biden has been roundly criticized not just for his halting debate performance but also for moving too slowly to acknowledge and quell the hailstorm of doubts about his fitness to campaign and serve another four years. He is now rolling out a more aggressive playbook to try to shut down talk of his being shoved aside as the Democratic presidential nominee.

Biden campaigned in North Carolina the day after his showdown with Donald Trump, but it wasn’t until Friday, eight days after the debate, that he sat for questions about it in a major television interview. He held campaign events in two swing states over the holiday weekend.

“Even the president acknowledges that, that there was too much distance between, you know, between the debate and being out there,” said Gov. Wes Moore of Maryland, a Democrat, noting the North Carolina stop. “He understands that, in order to be successful, we’re going to have to do that and then some.”

It’s not clear whether it’s going to be enough to save his candidacy, particularly as new revelations, like the frequency of visits to the White House by a Parkinson’s expert, keep questions about the 81-year-old president’s health in the spotlight. But, 11 days after the debate, Biden’s strategy is coming into focus.

Here are four key elements that seem to be in the Biden Survival Kit.

In recent months, time has not exactly been on Biden’s side. But Doug Sosnik, a Democratic strategist who worked in Bill Clinton’s White House for six years, learned one thing as he was navigating the fallout of the investigations and scandals that dogged that presidency: Every day you stay alive — politically speaking — is a day you aren’t dead.

“Where Biden is now is where we were then,” Sosnik said. “The Biden strategy, for now, is to stay alive and buy more time.”

That may be why Biden and his team keep setting goal posts that are several days away. Last week, he told an ally he knew the coming days would be crucial, which may have helped buy him a long weekend to give the interview and campaign. This week, he’s hosting NATO member countries in Washington and has promised a news conference — but not until Thursday. And next week is the Republican National Convention, which would hardly be a good time for Democrats to announce the withdrawal of their nominee.

Time is now Biden’s best friend. Every day that Biden does not suffer a major wave of public defections is a day closer to the Democratic National Convention and the election itself — and one day less for Democrats to come up with any alternative to his candidacy.

“Right now,” Sosnik said, “buying time is as good as it gets if you’re the Biden White House.”

Half a dozen leading House Democrats said it’s time for Biden to step aside. A senior White House aide does not want him to seek re-election. Some governors were dismayed after a private call they held with the president last week.

It’s not an ideal situation for the incumbent president. But all three of those examples are either unfolding privately or being relayed anonymously — which makes it much easier for his team to dismiss them.

So far, six rank-and-file House Democrats have publicly called for Biden to bow out of the race. But the president is benefiting from a dynamic — one that, as the de facto head of the party, he has helped to engineer — in which no leading Democrat wants to be the first to be publicly disloyal.

“There’s a lot of people who would like for him to step aside, but I think for a number of reasons they don’t want to be the first to say it,” Sosnik said.

That has allowed Biden to portray the opposition to his candidacy as the purview of “elites,” as he did on MSNBC on Monday, even though nearly three-quarters of voters believe he is too old to be effective.

Biden spent the weekend campaigning in Wisconsin and Philadelphia, including at a Black church where he was able to speak directly to the base that propelled him to the White House in 2020: Black voters.

His allies have also promoted the way Black lawmakers in Congress have rallied to his side, my colleague Robert Jimison reports.

Younger Black lawmakers have stayed largely quiet, Robert pointed out, while the highest-ranking Black congressional Democrat, Hakeem Jeffries, has not moved to tamp down the sentiments of Democratic lawmakers who want to see Biden replaced.

But Biden’s allies are nevertheless pressing their party to close ranks and to stop discussing alternatives.

“The president is a nominee, and the president has earned it,” Moore said. “And I think as long as the president says that he is the nominee and he’s staying in this race, I just don’t think it’s useful for any other conversations to be taking place.”

Since the debate, Democrats have begged Biden to prove he can handle the demands of campaigning by speaking extemporaneously and sitting for interviews.

But, even as he ramped up his campaign schedule over the weekend and sat for the TV interview on Friday, he has still been guarded in how he steps out.

Biden spoke with the help of notes at church on Sunday, and chose a friendly venue — “Morning Joe” — to call into on Monday morning. Rather than go directly to Capitol Hill to make his case to lawmakers himself, he sent them a letter.

It hasn’t stopped Democrats like Senator Jon Tester of Montana from pressing Biden to do even more

“President Biden has got to prove to the American people — including me — that he’s up to the job for another four years,” he said on Monday.

And it doesn’t exactly project the kind of fearlessness or stamina Biden is trying to communicate.


Whether the Democratic nominee is Biden or somebody else, Sarah Longwell would like that person to beat Trump.

And Longwell, a Republican strategist who is the executive director of the group Republican Voters Against Trump, thinks the best messengers are former Trump voters themselves.

Longwell told me Monday that the group is announcing a $300,000 ad campaign in swing states, which will run on cable from July 17 to 19 during the Republican National Convention, that will feature erstwhile Trump voters explaining why they won’t vote for the former president one more time. They are also putting up 15 billboards around the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, where the convention will be held.

“Our role is to help voters understand the threat Donald Trump poses by using credible messengers and making sure people see its threat clearly,” Longwell said.

It’s the opening salvo in what Longwell hopes will be a $50 million ad campaign to defeat Trump (the group has raised $25 million so far, she said).

Republicans who dislike Trump are a small but significant slice of the electorate, and Longwell’s group is working to persuade them that he is too dangerous to return to power.

“We desperately need someone who can prosecute a case against Trump effectively,” Longwell said. “I also view that as my job, and that’s what this campaign is about.”

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