Web Stories Thursday, July 25

Nearly two weeks after President Joe Biden’s stunningly halting debate performance, many of his fellow Democrats are still fretting about it – and anxiously wondering whether Biden is really the party’s best bet to defeat Donald Trump in November.

But the president and his team are done talking about it.

Aides to the president told CNN that not only are they no longer interested in discussing Biden’s on-stage fiasco last month, and there are simply no outstanding questions about the president’s political future to debate. Biden is staying in the race, they say, and there is nothing that could change that.

It doesn’t matter how many more Democratic lawmakers might call on Biden to drop out; it doesn’t matter what news outlet releases a new editorial calling on the president to abandon his campaign for a second term; it doesn’t matter how Biden’s upcoming public appearances and interviews go.

“We’re done talking about the debate and focused on a singular mission: Defeating Donald Trump in November,” one Biden aide told CNN.

And rather than worry about the president’s political future, a senior administration official told CNN, “I’m moving on to my day job.”

They may not find it so easy to move on.

Tuesday’s White House press briefing was once again dominated by questions about Biden’s health, mental fitness and the political fallout of the debate. Diplomats in Washington for the NATO summit this week are nervous about whether Biden will be able to defeat Trump a second time. And the president himself is set to face the press in a rare solo news conference on Thursday at the summit, where he’s sure to face intense questions about the future of his political life and his health.

Despite all that, asked about the likelihood the president had considered withdrawing since the debate, a longtime adviser to Biden said: “Zero. He truly believes he is the only person who can defeat Donald Trump. It’s not an act.”

Aides also say that the president’s family, some of whom had privately discussed whether Biden should fire any senior staff in the immediate aftermath of the CNN debate, remain all in on the 81-year-old president’s pursuit of a second term.

The adviser told CNN that some members within the president’s inner circle have expressed concern about the deterioration of support for Biden on Capitol Hill – but that only the president’s own family could persuade him to exit the race, and only if they had hard data.

“Jill and Valerie won’t let him go down in flames,” this adviser told CNN, referencing the president’s wife and sister by their first names.

The president, for his part, has sought to personally reassure nervous supporters in recent days, including by calling into meetings this week with donors and elected officials. In a letter written to Democratic lawmakers on Monday, Biden forcefully called on his party to turn the page on the debate, saying: “The question of how to move forward has been well-aired for over a week now. And it’s time for it to end. We have one job. And that is to beat Donald Trump.”

“We have 42 days to the Democratic Convention and 119 days to the general election,” he added. “Any weakening of resolve or lack of clarity about the task ahead only helps Trump and hurts us.”

But those moves have done little to calm the nerves of some despondent Democratic elected officials. On Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Democrats in the House and Senate emerged from their respective caucus meetings and told reporters that there had been plenty of airing of concerns about the president’s viability. Those conversations would continue into the week, some of them said.

The president’s letter to his colleagues angered some lawmakers, who found it wholly dismissive of real concerns that exist across the party. “He told us to go F ourselves,” one House Democrat said.

Democrats, including those inside the administration, view this week as critical to Biden’s political survival, in no small part because lawmakers on Capitol Hill gathered privately for their weekly meetings on Tuesday. Neither House nor Senate Democrats emerged from their meetings with a consensus on how to move forward, though it was clear that concerns had been aired behind closed doors.

On the House side, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries listened as he was confronted with concerns and frustrations from all factions of the caucus during House Democrats’ Tuesday meeting. The open mic format, during which roughly 30 lawmakers spoke, was designed so Jeffries and his leadership team could hear directly from members during the group’s first in-person meeting since the presidential debate.

While Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn, a staunch Biden ally, called the meeting “very positive,” another Democratic member in the meeting told CNN that there was a sense of “sadness” in the room from “talking about someone you love who is in obvious decline.”

In the Senate meeting, Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Jon Tester of Montana all said they thought Biden cannot win the election, a source familiar told CNN. The approach from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was that it was kind of a fait accompli and there wasn’t much he could do, and if the senators thought he should get out, they should call the president, the source said.

Reporters are also continuing to press the White House for answers as press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre faces a daily onslaught of questions about the president’s health and medical records.

Jean-Pierre on Tuesday defended her statements to the press about her answers about Biden’s health, acknowledging that the past few weeks have been an “unprecedented time” and that she was working to “meet the moment.”

CNN’s Nikki Carvajal, Annie Grayer, Dana Bash, Ted Barrett and Michael Williams contributed to this report.

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