The White House denies ‘The New York Times’ claim that Biden is considering dropping out of the race

The president will give an interview, a press conference and two rallies, aware that if he stumbles again, like he did in the debate against Trump, he will be under enormous pressure to stand aside

The president of the United States, Joe Biden, this Tuesday during an event in Washington.
The president of the United States, Joe Biden, this Tuesday during an event in Washington.BONNIE CASH / POOL (EFE)
Miguel Jiménez

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre expressed her desire on Tuesday to “turn the page” on doubts about Joe Biden’s physical and mental capacity to run for re-election. But her claim that last Thursday’s disastrous debate on CNN was just “a bad night” due to a cold is not convincing even Biden’s people, and there is increasing pressure on the president to reconsider whether to continue in the presidential race. The New York Times reported that Biden had told a close ally that he “is weighing whether to continue in the race” — according to the paper’s headline on Wednesday. The White House has flatly denied the allegation. “That claim is absolutely false. If The New York Times had provided us with more than seven minutes to comment, we would have told them so,” said senior deputy press secretary Andrew Bates.

In reality, the headline appears to have gone beyond what was stated in the article. In the report, the ally — who speaks on the condition of anonymity — says is that if Biden continues to stumble, as he did during the debate against Donald Trump, where he faltered and left sentences unfinished, his candidacy may be untenable. “He knows if he has two more events like that, we’re in a different place,” the ally told The New York Times. Sources quoted by AP also note that the president has acknowledged that the next few days are decisive.

Biden has performed better in his public appearances after the debate, but he has not passed the teleprompter test. At a rally in Raleigh, in his brief speech about the ruling that grants broad immunity to Donald Trump and in other recent events, he has depended on it. On Friday, Biden will be interviewed by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, and next week, he will give a press conference for the NATO summit in Washington. These appearances will serve to show whether he is able of speaking coherently and remain focused without a teleprompter. The president has also stepped up the campaign, adding events in Madison (Wisconsin) and Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), two swing states.

If he goes blank in Friday’s interview, or is unable to finish his sentences at the rallies or the press conference, there will be overwhelming pressure on him to drop out of the race. That is what Biden’s anonymous ally communicated to The New York Times. It’s no secret that these events will be decisive to the future of Biden’s campaign. His performance will serve to clarify the doubts over whether his stumbles at the debate were an “episode” or a “condition,” as expressed by former House speaker, Nancy Pelosi.

At Tuesday’s press conference, the first at the White House since the debate, Karine Jean-Pierre fielded direct questions about whether Biden suffers from Alzheimer’s, dementia or some other neurodegenerative disease. “It’s a no. And I hope you’re asking the other guy the same exact question,” she replied. The New York Times, meanwhile, reported that according to sources close to Biden, the president’s lapses seem to be becoming increasingly frequent, more pronounced and more worrying. Such episodes are not predictable, but they seem more likely when he is in a large crowd or tired after a particularly grueling program, the sources added.

The Democrats have been plunged into crisis. While few Democrats have openly questioned Biden, doubts are being expressed privately. On Wednesday, the president will meet at the White House with Democratic governors behind closed doors to try to clear up those concerns.

Doubts about Biden are eating away at Democrats. On the one hand, it is obvious to them that he is not in top shape. On the other hand, there is no clear alternative. In defending his decision to stay in the race, Biden has pointed to three data points: his voting intention did not drop significantly after the debate, most Democratic voters want him to continue, and viable alternatives would not have a better result against Donald Trump.

At an event with donors of a political action committee, a prominent Democratic election consultant, Dmitri Mehlhorn, stressed that the most obvious alternative — Vice President Kamala Harris — may not be very effective. “Kamala Harris is more threatening to those swing voters than a dead Joe Biden or a comatose Joe Biden,” he said, according to a recording that Semafor to which has had access. “So if Joe has to go, it’s going to be Kamala and if it’s Kamala, it’s going to be harder.”

“Seventy-two percent of people want something different. Why not give it to them?” asked the former Bill Clinton aide James Carville, on a conference call for dozens of donors to the Democratic SuperPAC American Bridge, a major source of opposition research and paid campaigns against Donald Trump, according to Semafor. “They’re just asking for a different choice.”

Michelle Obama

The majority of voters believe that Biden should withdraw from the re-election race, but most Democrats still support him. One in three voters in the party believe he should drop out of the race, but no prominent elected Democrat fares better than Biden in a hypothetical showdown against former president Donald Trump in the Nov. 5 election, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll on Tuesday.

Among the names of prominent Democrats presented to respondents, only Michelle Obama — the wife of former Democratic president Barack Obama — surpassed Biden and led Trump by 50% to 39% in a hypothetical showdown. Michelle Obama has repeatedly said that she has no intention of running for president. Her husband has publicly supported Biden, although privately he has expressed concern about the campaign.

Harris, for example, led Trump by one percentage point, 42% to 43%, a difference that was within the poll’s 3.5 percentage point margin of error, making her result statistically similar to Biden’s. California Governor Gavin Newsom, a rising star of the Democratic Party who many observers predict could run for president in future elections, fared slightly worse, with 39% to Trump’s 42%.

About 70% of Democrats in the survey said they had never heard of Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, whom some Democratic donors consider a good candidate following his win in the traditionally Republican state. The fact that Beshear, a relative unknown, trailed only Trump by a narrow margin in the Reuters/Ipsos poll (36% to 40%) illustrates the extent to which Democrats oppose the former president and are willing to vote for any of the party’s candidate.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer trailed Trump 36% to 41%, while Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker had 34% support to Trump’s 40% in a poll conducted online among 1,070 voters across the country.

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