Influential donors want to pressure Biden to drop out

NEW YORK — To many major donors of President Biden’s re-election campaign, one thing is obvious after last night's debate debacle: things need to change – and fast.

A hoarse-sounding Biden who struggled to finish sentences during his debate with former President Trump Thursday night did little to quell fears among the American people already worried about his age. For his most ardent supporters and donors, the 81-year-old president’s performance was “excruciating.”

Betty Cotton of New York, who has donated thousands to President Biden’s re-election campaign and serves as a regional finance committee member, said it was hard to watch.

“It was a disaster last night," she said. "He should seriously think about stepping down so that we don't lose the election."

And donors are considering putting their money where their mouths are. 

Prep for the polls: See who is running for president and compare where they stand on key issues in our Voter Guide

Less than 24 hours since the two men left the debate stage, Democratic donors were feverishly texting each other about facing a free fall ahead of the August convention in Chicago. With the clock ticking, bundlers − the people who give and rake in large sums − were openly wondering if they should be thinking about putting their money elsewhere. Other givers are having backroom discussions about whether they should step up to pressure Biden to step down directly.

A break in the debate between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump in Atlanta on June 27, 2024.

“This is really serious and I’d like to explore what the options are,” Cotton said.

Her plan for Friday consisted of getting on a lot of Zooms and air out the concerns of fellow donors and organizers. She’s been fielding panicked texts and emails since Thursday night, minutes into the debate starting.One former Obama Administration official, who served on Obama’s reelection committee and has raised funds for Biden, said they woke up to multiple text chains of current donors and former administration officials (both Obama-Biden and Biden-Harris) all “freaking out.” Other text threads expressed being “extremely disappointed.”

One recurring theme of these exchanges was whether Biden would be graceful enough to step aside so that the party could nominate someone at the convention, they said.

Donors sound off possible Democratic contenders

Among the names being floated by donors as alternatives were Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Shekar Narasimhan, founder of the AAPI Victory Fund, a political action committee, said his phone was “blowing up all morning.”A month ago, he’d co-hosted a campaign fundraiser for Biden, which raised more than $1million.

“I thought the debate performance by President Biden was terrible,” he said. “It has the unfortunate result of reinforcing the opinion that Biden is too old and not capable.”

For Narasimhan, this puts the spotlight on Vice President Kamala Harris.

Harris should no longer be seen just as Biden’s surrogate, but as his principal and as somebody that could step into his shoes if necessary, and carry on the job, he said.

“Change is necessary after last night’s debate,” he said.

Capitol Hill backs Biden publicly ... for now

Biden emerged Friday in North Carolina making clear he has no plans to put an end on his reelection bid.

"Folks, I don't walk as easy as I used to. I don't speak as smoothly as I used to. I don't debate as well as I used to. But I know what I do know: I know how to tell the truth," Biden said as his campaign rally drew to a closeOn Saturday, the president will face donors at planned fundraisers in New York’s Long Island and in New Jersey before returning to Camp David.

Asked if Biden was considering not running for re-election after last night, a campaign spokesperson said: “absolutely not.”

Biden's reelection campaign said that it raised $14 million on the day of the debate and the morning after.

Top Democratic leaders outside of the Biden campaign on Friday were noticeably reticent. On Capitol Hill, congressional Democrats ducked discussing Biden’s future.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a former House speaker, ignored multiple questions by reporters about the president’s performance. The California Democrat did say, "compared to (Trump) who was lying the whole time, we saw integrity on one side and dishonesty on the other."

Asked for reaction Democratic House Leader Hakeem Jeffries told reporters: "We’re going to win the House in November."During a gaggle, longtime Biden ally Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) said the president should "stay the course."

Those outside the Beltway, however, are channeling Obama's calm when asked about Thursday's debate. They emphasized how voters are clear-eyed about the realities of Biden and Trump.

"I believe everyone’s mind has been made up for four years," Democrat Anton Gunn, a protégé of Clyburn, who worked on the 2008 presidential campaign.

He said voters have known these two candidates for years and will keep a steady head when it comes time to vote in November.

"You are either for the convicted felon and incessant liar, Donald Trump, or against him," said Gunn, who worked in the Obama White House. "This debate will not change those facts."

Donors wait to see how Biden will respond

But the political spin did not help assuage the fears of organizers and donors.

Francesca Hagadus, a longtime Democratic political organizer, from Pleasantville, New York, said she would like to see Biden stepping aside but is worried about the potential chaos it could create.

She couldn't sit through the debate, "I had to turn it off."

Another former Obama administration official said the only person who would have any say in influencing Biden's decision would be the first lady. Not Obama.

"If anything, Biden held a grudge that Obama was one of the people that convinced him not to run in 2016 and he regretted that," they said.

"Jill Biden will be under tremendous pressure to talk to him but he is incredibly stubborn. I think it's going to come down to Jill," they said. "If she chooses to."

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.