Biden's TV interview fails to quell re-election concerns among lawmakers, donors and strategists

President Joe Biden speaks to supporters during a campaign rally at Sherman Middle School on July 05, 2024 in Madison, Wisconsin. 

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President Joe Biden did not assuage Democratic anxieties about his 2024 reelection bid against former President Donald Trump during a highly-anticipated ABC News interview on Friday night, his first televised interview since his fumbling debate performance in June.

On Saturday, House Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., officially called on Biden to bow out of the presidential race.

“This is not a decision I’ve come to lightly, but there is simply too much at stake to risk a second Donald Trump presidency,” Craig said in a statement on Saturday morning. “That’s why I respectfully call on President Biden to step aside as the Democratic nominee for a second term as President and allow for a new generation of leaders to step forward.”

Craig is now the fifth House Democrat to call on Biden to exit. Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Il., made his own announcement during an MSNBC interview Friday, just before the full ABC News 22-minute interview aired.

They join a growing choir of Democratic lawmakers, donors and strategists losing faith in Biden’s ability to wage a successful campaign against Trump. Reps. Lloyd Doggett, D-Tx. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz. and Seth Moulton, D-Mass. have also publicly called on Biden to step down.

“The president is rightfully proud of his record,” said David Axelrod, who served as a senior advisor to former President Barack Obama, after the ABC News interview aired. “But he is dangerously out-of-touch with the concerns people have about his [capacities] moving forward and his standing in this race.”

Earlier this week, former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., some of Biden’s closest allies, publicly validated concerns about Biden’s fitness for reelection. Pelosi, for example, said it was “legitimate” to ask whether Biden’s debate performance was simply a one-off episode or representative of a more long-term condition.

Both Pelosi and Clyburn noted that they still support the president as he vies for a second term.

Jeffries meeting Sunday

On Wednesday, Biden held a host of calls and meetings, including with Pelosi, Clyburn and a gathering of Democratic governors to try and reassure his concerned supporters.

While the list of Democrats stepping forward with their qualms about Biden grows, much of the panic is playing out behind closed doors.

Several Democratic lawmakers and their staff spoke to NBC News anonymously Friday night and Saturday morning, doubling down on their concerns about Biden even after the ABC News interview.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., is working to organize a Sunday virtual meeting of Democratic committee ranking members where Biden will likely be a topic of discussion, NBC News reported.

On the other side of Capitol Hill, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., is trying to convene a meeting of Democratic senators next week to talk about Biden’s reelection concerns and the impact it might have on down-ballot races, according to the NBC News report.

Losing donor support

Meanwhile, the donor class has been sounding its own alarm bells on Biden.

“We need to move beyond the gerontocracy!!” Galaxy CEO Michael Novogratz, a crypto billionaire and Democratic donor, posted on social media Saturday morning. “We need to sweep the floor of the team that’s been in charge the past 30 years and pass the reigns!! It’s time.”

Novogratz previously backed the campaign of long-shot Democratic challenger Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., before he dropped out of the race.

But Novogratz is part of a swelling wave of Democratic donors losing support for Biden. Some of them, like Disney heiress Abigail Disney, have embargoed their future donations to the party until the president bows out of the race, CNBC previously reported.

A flurry of polls including from the New York Times/Siena College and the Wall Street Journal have found Biden losing ground against Trump following his debate flop on June 27. His debate performance has been remembered mostly for moments where he tripped over his words, failed to piece together coherent sentences at times or spontaneously paused mid-answer appearing to gather his thoughts.

“It was a bad episode. No indication of any serious condition. I was exhausted. I didn’t listen to my instincts in terms of preparing and a bad night,” Biden told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos during the Friday interview.

The president added staunchly that he is not planning to drop out of the 2024 race.

“If the Lord Almighty came down and said, ‘Joe, get out of the race,’ I’d get out of the race,” Biden said. “But the Lord Almighty’s not coming down.”

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