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Biden campaign rushes to convince Senate Democrats that Biden can win

Sen. Peter Welch, D-Vt., is one of the growing number of Democrats expressing public concerns about President Biden's ability to continue running for re-election.
AP Photo/John McDonnell
Sen. Peter Welch, D-Vt., is one of the growing number of Democrats expressing public concerns about President Biden's ability to continue running for re-election.

Updated July 11, 2024 at 16:00 PM ET

President Biden's top campaign staff attempted to salvage support from Democratic Senators Thursday in a nearly two-hour meeting that did not appear to immediately resolve their fears.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who was one of the first Senators to publicly raise concerns about Biden's continued candidacy, told reporters following the meeting that he needs to see more from the campaign and more from Biden himself.

"Some of my concerns are allayed, some other have been deepened," Blumenthal said. "I need more of the kind of analytics that show the path to success."

Biden Campaign senior advisors Mike Donilon and Steve Ricchetti and Biden campaign Chair Jen O’Malley Dillon called the meeting a day before as support for Biden appeared to deteriorate among Democrats on Capitol Hill.

The meeting was viewed by many Democrats as a critical opportunity for Biden's team to convince skeptical and fearful senators that Biden can not only run and win, but he can help Democrats keep control of the Senate.

In a memo obtained by NPR, Jen O’Malley Dillon and Julie Chavez Rodriguez told staff on Thursday that there’s a path to win the election, despite the “setback” of the debate, focusing on the “Blue Wall” states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

“While there is no question there is increased anxiety following the debate, we are not seeing this translate into a drastic shift in vote share,” they said in the memo, citing internal polling data as well as an ABC/Ipsos poll showing the race is a toss-up in key states.

That poll also shows a majority of Democratic voters wanted Biden to step aside. They said there is no sign in the polls that alternate Democratic nominees would do any better than Biden.

They said the campaign needs to stay focused on contrasting Biden’s achievements with Trump’s record on reproductive rights and on the Project 2025 agenda. “The surest way to help Donald Trump is to spend his convention talking about our nominating process instead of the MAGA extremism that will be on stage in Milwaukee,” they said.

The vast majority of Senators left the meeting eager to avoid questions from reporters. However Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., reiterated her support for Biden.

But a growing number of Democrats — publicly and privately — have raised concerns about Biden in recent days. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo, publicly confirmed that he told members this week that he is worried Biden will lose the election "by a landslide" and "take the House and Senate" with him.

Further criticism followed, including from Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley.

"I think President Biden should look at all of the information and carry on detailed conversations with key leaders, including Leader Schumer and Leader Jeffries, and should do what's best for the nation," Merkley told NPR in an interview.

He acknowledged that leaders and rank and file members are "extremely worried."

Vermont Sen. Peter Welch wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post sayin that Democrats "cannot unsee President Biden's disastrous debate performance" and urging Biden to back down.

But most have stopped short of asking him to step aside. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., has raised concerns but repeated a line shared by most Democrats: ultimately, the decision is out of their hands.

“Well that’s up to him," Tester said Wednesday. "That’s up to him."

Copyright 2024 NPR

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.
Jeongyoon Han
[Copyright 2024 NPR]