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Troublesome Tuesday: Biden’s day rocked by calls to quit, bad polling, and a Trump reprieve

President Joe Biden faced his roughest day yet since his shaky debate with former President Donald Trump as he dealt with a growing number of Democratic voices calling for him to drop out, a damning poll, and another legal victory for Trump. Biden’s team has been rushing to perform damage control since his Thursday debacle, […]

President Joe Biden faced his roughest day yet since his shaky debate with former President Donald Trump as he dealt with a growing number of Democratic voices calling for him to drop out, a damning poll, and another legal victory for Trump.

Biden’s team has been rushing to perform damage control since his Thursday debacle, but Tuesday saw several cracks in the dam widen. More negative press coverage, growing calls from other Democrats for him to abandon his reelection ambitions, one of the worst polls since he launched his 2020 campaign, and another legal victory for Trump made Tuesday perhaps the roughest day for Biden in the entire 2024 campaign season.

Here is how it unfolded:


President Joe Biden speaks during a visit to the D.C. Emergency Operations Center on Tuesday, July 2, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Morning

The day began with a damning report from Politico, assembled from interviews with over two dozen Democrats with knowledge of the inside workings of the White House. The report portrayed Biden as angry and cloistered by a “cabal” of close advisers, cut off from the outside world. The president’s team disputed the characterization.

A few hours later, another major Biden ally turned on him. Former Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, the first 2020 Democratic presidential candidate to drop out to throw his support behind Biden, wrote in an op-ed for Newsweek that Biden should be replaced by Vice President Kamala Harris. He called the debate a “historically dreadful night” and Biden’s performance “heartbreaking.”

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Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) went the furthest a sitting Democratic representative had yet come to calling for Biden to drop out, arguing that the debate wasn’t an aberration. However, he stopped short of directly suggesting that Biden should drop out.

“I won’t go beyond that, out of my respect and understanding of President Joe Biden, the very proud person who has served us extraordinarily well for 50 years,” Quigley told CNN. “I just want him to appreciate at this time just how much it impacts not just his race but all the other races coming in November.”

Afternoon

Unfortunately for Biden, the worst was to come in the afternoon, with several crushing events occurring almost simultaneously.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) went further than Quigley, becoming the first sitting House Democrat to call on Biden to withdraw from the presidential race. In his lengthy statement, he thanked Biden for what he has done so far but cited his debate performance as showing that he didn’t have what it took to be president anymore.

“The president failed to effectively defend his many accomplishments and expose Trump’s many lies,” he said in a statement. “Recognizing that unlike Trump, President Biden’s first commitment has always been to our country, not himself, I am hopeful that he will make the painful and difficult decision to withdraw. I respectfully call on him to do so.”

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Nearly every sitting Democrat had defended Biden in the aftermath of the debate, but Doggett’s breaking ranks could mark a shift.

He was soon joined by former Obama Cabinet member Julian Castro, who said Biden should “absolutely” withdraw from the race.

“I believe that there are stronger options out there for Democrats,” Castro said on MSNBC. “We have a stable of folks who could do a better job, including Vice President [Kamala] Harris. It’s too risky to let Donald Trump walk into this in November.”

Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in an interview on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports that both Trump and Biden should take cognitive tests, a long-standing demand of Trump’s team.

She also ceded that voters were justified in wondering whether Biden’s debate performance was an “episode” or a “condition.”

Despite this, she retained her defense of Biden, saying it was up to the president as to whether or not he should drop out of the race.

“It’s going to be up to Joe Biden to do what he thinks,” Pelosi said. “There is no more patriotic person in our country than the president of — this president of the United States.”

Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME), who faces a difficult reelection bid this November, wrote in an op-ed released on Tuesday that Biden’s debate performance was “not a surprise” and it has been clear “for months” that Trump is going to win the presidential election.

“And I’m OK with that,” the House Democrat added. “There are winners and losers in every election. Democrats’ post-debate hand-wringing is based on the idea that a Trump victory is not just a political loss, but a unique threat to our democracy. I reject the premise. Unlike Biden and many others, I refuse to participate in a campaign to scare voters with the idea that Trump will end our democratic system.”

In her first press briefing since the debate, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre made a big admission — that embattled first son Hunter Biden attended a meeting with his father before the president’s speech regarding the Supreme Court’s immunity decision.

“Hunter came back with him and walked with him into that meeting, that prep, that speech prep, and you know, and he ended up spending time with his dad and his family that night,” Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday. “That is basically what happened.”

“What I can say is that he came back with his dad from Camp David,” she said. “He walked him into the speech prep. He was in the room.”

Her remarks lent credence to reports that Hunter Biden has been closely advising his father in political matters.

NBC News reported Tuesday that Hunter Biden has been “closely advising his father since the family gathered this past weekend at Camp David after Thursday’s debate.”

A person familiar with the matter said Hunter Biden has “popped into” a couple of meetings and phone calls the president has had with advisers, according to the outlet, which added, “Another person familiar with the matter said the reaction from some senior White House staff has been, ‘What the hell is happening?’”

Jean-Pierre also had to fight off several questions about Joe Biden’s mental acuity, which caused her to grow visibly frustrated.

“I have an answer for you: Are you ready for it?” Jean-Pierre responded when asked if the president has dementia or any other degenerative mental illness. “It’s a no. And I hope you’re asking the other guy the same exact question.”

Puck News obtained a leaked, damning Democratic internal poll showing Joe Biden with one of if not his worst showings in the presidential cycle yet. The president was found to be behind in every swing state.

The polling showed Joe Biden behind Trump by about 10% in North Carolina, Georgia, and Arizona, the last two of which the president won in 2020.

Trump also leads the president in Pennsylvania and Michigan, as well as Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Virginia, and New Mexico, according to the survey.

The poll was conducted by OpenLabs, a progressive nonprofit organization largely trusted by Democrats. The data found that while the debate hadn’t cratered national polls, as the Biden campaign has been keen to point out, it had a major impact on swing state voters who watched the debate and paid close attention to the race. States formerly believed to be blue strongholds were found to now be within Trump’s striking distance.

To make matters worse, Trump’s legal position improved substantially, with Judge Juan Merchan delaying Trump’s sentencing in the New York hush money case until September in light of the recent Supreme Court immunity decision.

Trump was formerly set to be sentenced on July 11, just days before the Republican National Convention. The delay all but guarantees Trump won’t see jail time before the November election and won’t face any restrictions on campaigning in the crucial months leading up to the election.

Long-shot Democratic candidate also Marianne Williamson threw her hat into the fray on Tuesday afternoon, thanking Joe Biden for his service but calling for an open convention to decide a new nominee.

“President Biden deserves our respect, our compassion, and our gratitude. The debate last week, however, made clear that the time is now for another Democratic candidate to take his place on the November ballot,” Williamson said in a video statement.

Evening

The president is set to step up his damage control beginning with a call on Wednesday with a group of Democratic governors looking for assurances. The call was precipitated by a governors-only call on Monday, during which they expressed concern and concluded that they would like to speak with the president directly.

“There isn’t a strategy someone is suggesting and there’s a concern about what’s coming next. What’s the president going to do to counter the impression left by the debate?” a source familiar with the call told NBC News about the prevailing feeling in the Monday call.

“What everybody needs is reassurance. No one said we need to go another direction,” they added.

Another person familiar with the call said in a statement that Wednesday’s call is sure to assuage their concerns.

“Democratic governors are some of the President and Vice President’s most proactive and vocal supporters because they’ve seen how the Biden-Harris Administration’s accomplishments are directly benefiting their residents,” they said. “The Biden/Harris team is in constant communication with the governors and their teams, including about yesterday’s meeting.”

The White House is also holding its own damage control call, with White House chief of staff Jeff Zients set to speak with the entire staff on Wednesday afternoon. A source familiar with the matter told the outlet that he is expected to tell staff to “weather the storm” and “keep your heads down.”

The president soothed donors at a fundraiser event late on Tuesday, admitting to his poor debate performance but blaming it on traveling too much during a six-minute address.

“I decided to travel around the world a couple of times … shortly before the debate. … I  didn’t listen to my staff … and then I almost fell asleep onstage,” he said, saying the move “wasn’t very smart.”

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“It’s not an excuse but an explanation,” the president said, stressing that it was “critical” to win the election.

However, the president’s explanation may not be enough, as 25 House Democrats are planning to call on him to withdraw himself from the presidential race if he “seems shaky” in the days to come, according to a House Democratic aide speaking to Reuters.

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