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President Biden doubles down on staying in race: 'Challenge me at the convention'

The president continues to maintain his fitness for office, as Democratic support and calls for him to exit the race grow.
President Joe Biden attends a church service
Posted at 8:21 AM, Jul 08, 2024

In a two-page letter sent to Congressional Democrats Monday morning, President Joe Biden said he is “firmly committed” to staying in the race as more Democratic leaders have called for him to step aside following his lackluster debate performance.

“I wouldn’t be running again if I did not absolutely believe I was the best person to beat Donald Trump in 2024,” President Biden wrote in the letter, adding that only three people unsuccessfully challenged his bid for reelection and Democratic voters have consistently chosen him as the nominee.

The letter was sent to lawmakers as they return to Capitol Hill following their July 4 recess.

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The calls from some Democratic donors have turned into a handful of Democratic lawmakers publicly imploring President Biden to step aside, with several others only going so far as to express concern and closely watch his performance.

But President Biden has dug in, rebuffing the criticisms from wealthy donors, pundits and others, saying he was frustrated by party elites.

“If any of these guys don't think I should, run against me. Go ahead. Announce for president. Challenge me at the convention,” he said during a previously unscheduled call in to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

The Biden-Harris campaign is on a post-debate blitz, meanwhile, in an apparent effort to quell the distress.

A memo the campaign sent to Hill offices obtained by Scripps News highlights President Biden’s energetic campaign rallies, swing state polling and grassroots support.

Since the debate, President Biden has spoken at various campaign rallies and has given several interviews attempting to silence criticism over his competency to run and reassure voters that he has what it takes to win reelection. The White House has repeatedly said the president is not considering stepping down.

The President joined a call with the Biden Victory Fund National Finance Committee, where the campaign says he told supporters “It’s time to put Trump in the bullseye,” framing his strategy for the next debate as “Attack. Attack. Attack. Attack.”

Later Monday evening, President Biden met virtually with the Congressional Black Caucus – whose members, by and large, have been vocal in maintaining their support for the President.

Some lawmakers offered their backing of the President, including leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, more progressive democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

“I made clear the day after the debate, publicly, that I support President Joe Biden and the Democratic ticket. My position has not changed,” Jeffries told CNN.

“I think it was a really good day,” said democratic donor and former Obama advisor Robert Wolf. “With the highlight being the Hakeem endorsement.” Wolf also noted the donor call “was great because he did it,” noting Biden “was humble that he wasn’t happy with his performance but was confident that we need to unify and will win.”

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green, whose family has known the president for years, was one of the governors included in the group call and said he would continue to support the president until he's told otherwise. He spoke with The Associated Press on Saturday, stating the focus should not be on Biden's age since Trump is only three years younger, but rather on temperament.

"For God's sake, these two guys have to hold the nuclear codes," Green reportedly said. "I don't want someone who tweets in the middle of the night and rages at other countries. That is not good. That's not the problem we have with President Biden."

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But pressure on Biden to step back is growing. Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas was the first Democrat in Congress to publicly encourage President Biden to withdraw from the race, followed by Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, Rep. Angie Craig of Minnesota, Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois and Rep. Adam Smith of Washington.

In an interview Monday morning with Scripps News, Quigley said he believes more members of Congress will come forward asking the president to step aside and described the move as "tough love."

The latest House Democrats to call for President Biden to step aside in the race include Rep. Adam Smith of Washington and Rep. Mark Takano of California. Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York is also among those on the list, according to Politico.

By the end of the day Monday, at least seven house Democrats had publicly called for Biden to step aside, and nearly two dozen House and Senate Democrats expressed worry or concern about Biden’s campaign strategy – calling this week his moment to make a case for why he should stay as the Democrat nominee.

House Democrats are scheduled to hold a press conference Tuesday afternoon, where the topic of Biden’s candidacy is sure to be a focus.

“Sadly, President Biden has a choice - vanity or virtue. He can either heed the voice of Father Time, or condemn the country to dark and cruel times,” said one prominent democratic donor.

President Biden said he’s had extensive conversations with party leaders since the debate and has taken the concerns seriously. However, he encouraged the party to come together, adding in his letter that further divisiveness would only help Trump’s campaign.

“We have 42 days to the Democratic Convention and 119 days to the general election,” President Biden said in the letter. “Any weakening of resolve or lack of clarity about the task ahead only helps Trump and hurts us. It’s time to come together, move forward as a unified party, and defeat Donald Trump.”

He followed up the letter to Congress with an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," where he doubled down on the point that he cares more about what the voters think than the "big names" of the Democratic party.

Rep. Quigley explains why he's calling for President Biden to step aside

This week presents a significant moment for the President. He’s scheduled to meet with world leaders at the NATO summit in Washington, before a solo press conference and other campaign engagements, all under heightened scrutiny.