Biden’s desperate campaign to convince Democrats that he must stay in the race

The president has recruited party heavyweights to show their support and is trying to spread the message that changing candidates at this point would be political suicide

Joe Biden arrives aboard 'Marine One' at the Fort McNair base in Washington, this Monday, July 1.
Joe Biden arrives aboard 'Marine One' at the Fort McNair base in Washington, this Monday, July 1.Elizabeth Frantz (REUTERS)
Iker Seisdedos

The president of the United States, Joe Biden, returned to the White House on Monday after a tough few days: a week at Camp David preparing for the debate with Donald Trump last Thursday; the big night in Atlanta, which ended up becoming one of the worst moments of his political career; a rally in North Carolina; election events in New York and New Jersey; and the rest of the weekend back at Camp David for a long-scheduled session with photographer Annie Leibovitz and to reflect on the future with the help of his family.

All this activity is part of Biden’s campaign to make it appear that it is business as usual and to downplay his disastrous performance in the presidential debate, where he appeared vulnerable and incapable of countering Trump’s lies — and at some points — of even finishing his own sentences. In the wake of the debate debacle, mainstream media have questioned whether he should remain the Democrat Party’s nominee. But Biden is not willing to withdraw his candidacy for re-election, and is trying to convince voters that this determination to run for the White House is due to more than a selfish impulse, and that he is capable of beating his rival at the polls, as well as completing a second term, at the end of which he will be 86 years old.

For this public relations campaign, the president has called out the heavyweights of the Democrat Party, who closed ranks with Biden and appeared on various political programs on cable television to publicly support him. They also took to social media, with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both posting messages. According to Axios, the messages of support from both were orchestrated by the Biden campaign.

The argument is clear. Former House speaker Nancy Pelosi said this weekend that it is unfair to reduce a presidency to 90 minutes of a bad debate. According to South Carolina Representative James Clyburn, House Democratic Minority Whip, Biden may not have done well on Thursday, but the prospect of Trump back in the White House is much worse. Delaware Senator Chris Coons called on voters to understand that anyone can have a bad afternoon, while Wes Moore, Governor of Maryland said it was unreasonable to think about changing candidates at this point.

“Biden is going to be the Democratic nominee. End of story”

Over the weekend, Biden’s re-election campaign — which has raised $33 million since the debate, despite concerns expressed by some powerful donors — also worked hard on damage control by contacting voters directly. The message? Biden is not going to resign. “Biden is going to be the Democratic nominee, period. End of story.,” reads one of the emails. “If he were to drop out, it would lead to weeks of chaos, internal foodfighting, and a bunch of candidates who limp into a brutal floor fight at the convention, all while Donald Trump has time to speak to American voters uncontested.”

As can be seen, there is an element of pragmatism in this defense strategy: changing a candidate at this point is almost unprecedented and there is no guarantee that the move will work.

The Democrats lost all opportunities to open a serious debate on the advisability of choosing Biden — a man who will be 82 years old if he wins the November election — as the presidential candidate, in part, due to the good results of the midterm elections in November 2022. If the result had been as disastrous as the polls predicted, that would perhaps have led to a decision to find a replacement. So far, polls have not recorded significant changes in voter support for Biden’s candidacy after the disastrous debate. If that were to change in the coming days, there would still be time to consider a replacement, although none of the candidates that have been floated (with vice president, Kamala Harris, as the most logical option) seem to have enough support.

Biden’s entourage has also responded to the criticism against the team who helped the president prepare for the debate — an effort that was led by Ron Klain, one of Biden’s most constant and veteran allies. Klain has been accused of not knowing how to read the game he was facing. According to U.S. media reports, the president called Klain to make it clear that neither he nor his family blamed him for the disaster.

Klain will once again advise Biden for the second debate, which is scheduled for September 10 in ABC studios. Until then, Biden’s strategy is to appear at more public events and deliver a memorable speech at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago at the end of August. He also plans to multiply his appearances in the media, from which he has been conspicuously absent during his presidency, fueling suspicions that this reluctance to grant interviews and press conferences is due to a fear of showing the world the true state of his capabilities. That was precisely there is such alarm over his disastrous performance in the Atlanta debate, which was watched by 51 million viewers.

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