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Why Biden is surviving right now

Why Joe Biden is surviving right now

If you listened to the rhetoric coming from some House Democrats during the last week, it seemed like President Joe Biden was toast. A dozen lawmakers publicly said the president should stand aside or was going to lose to former President Donald Trump on Election Day. Lawmakers’ private analyses were far more brutal — Biden is done, it’s over, he needs to go now.

Then there’s this Wall Street Journal story, which is incredibly damning. It says Biden couldn’t remember the word “veteran” at a fundraiser. The story also details how Biden missed a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on the sidelines of the G7 in 2022. In private, many Hill Democrats say Biden is fatigued, forgetful and often confused.

But a mix of political dynamics has changed Biden’s fortunes for the moment. We emphasize that this reprieve may be temporary. House and Senate Democrats are both caucusing today and we expect these meetings could get messy.

We wanted to explore four key factors that have given the 81-year-old Biden some breathing room.

1) Who’s against Biden and who isn’t. Not a single Senate Democrat has said that Biden should step off the party’s presidential ticket. They’ve expressed concerns and warned Biden still has to make his case to remain the Democratic nominee. But none has declared Biden is unfit for office or isn’t capable of serving another term.

And while there are a dozen or so House Democrats openly speaking out against Biden, most of his critics inside the party are doing so behind the scenes. None of the current dissenters are considered thought leaders in the House Democratic Caucus either.

2) Leadership is listening to everyone — and hearing different things. If House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer were going to move against Biden, they’d need near unanimity in their ranks that the president wasn’t fit to run. They have nothing even remotely close to that.

The Congressional Black Caucus, the most powerful bloc of House Democrats, is firmly behind Biden.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ top two leaders, Reps. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) and Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), issued a statement late Monday declaring: “We stand with President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and the Squad — often critical of the president — are backing him as well. Biden called AOC over the weekend.

Jeffries made no bones Monday once again declaring his support for the president:

Later, we asked Jeffries what he’d say to his colleagues who are still skeptical about backing Biden. Jeffries clearly is frustrated with the inquiries:

“But I can tell you what is clear in this caucus is there is no light between us and the president in putting the American people first, defeating Donald Trump, and getting to work on those solutions the American people sent us here for,” added House Minority Whip Katherine Clark.

3) Moderates are caught between their own political survival and party loyalty. Moderate and vulnerable red-state Democrats aren’t yet coming out in droves calling for Biden to give it up. While these lawmakers will do whatever it takes to win their own races, they also want to stay somewhat loyal to the party and to Biden. Plus, it’s a big deal to dump a sitting president like this.

That’s part of what’s keeping Democrats like Sens. Jon Tester (Mont.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and others from demanding Biden step aside. Instead, they’re saying it’s valid to question Biden’s ability to defeat Trump. Tellingly, however, these vulnerable Democrats aren’t saying what they think Biden should do to reassure them.

But while this may be a good stall tactic before national attention shifts to the GOP convention next week, Biden’s defenders worry that Democrats’ own amplification of his problems is only serving to weaken the president further.

Take Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.), for example. Smith said she has “a lot of concerns” about Biden and that Democrats should have a “robust discussion about what comes next.”

Yet when we asked if Smith is concerned that the discussion itself is just feeding into the GOP attacks on Biden and hurting his ability to defeat Trump, she said people should be talking about how Trump is a liar, a “convicted felon” and wants to “strip away women’s reproductive freedoms.”

4) It’s hard to dump a president. Here’s the reality — it would be really difficult to boot Biden off the ticket. First of all, Biden is dug in very deep. Biden has said repeatedly that he won’t drop out of the race.

Then there are a plethora of questions about ballot access and access to the Biden campaign’s hundreds of millions of dollars in contributions.

Added to that is the fact that millions of voters have voted for Biden in primaries. And elected Democrats aren’t willing to buck them.

Here’s CBC Chair Steven Horsford of Nevada:

 

— Jake Sherman, Andrew Desiderio and John Bresnahan

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Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.