US elections

Biden campaign tries to soothe panicked donors in tense phone calls


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Biden campaign tries to soothe panicked donors in tense phone calls

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's bid for immunity from federal prosecution for 2020 election subversion, at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 1, 2024.

REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

US President Joe Biden's halting and sometimes befuddled debate performance fans concerns about his age and sparks criticism from donors, voters and some Democrats

WASHINGTON – US President Joe Biden’s reelection team held difficult phone calls on Sunday and Monday, June 30 and July 1, with important campaign funders who questioned whether the 81-year-old Democrat should stay in the presidential race and why they should keep donating after his dismal debate performance last week.

The campaign’s National Finance Committee held a hastily scheduled call with hundreds of top Democratic donors and people who raise money for Biden’s campaign on Monday evening to tamp down panic, according to multiple sources familiar with the call.

Biden’s halting and sometimes befuddled debate performance Thursday fanned concerns about his age and sparked criticism from donors, voters and some Democrats.

While some donors pointed fingers at Biden aides who prepared him for the debate, others including the New York Times editorial board said Biden should step aside as the Democratic Party candidate against Donald Trump in the November 5 election. Biden and top Democrats say he has no plans to do so, and intends to beat Trump.

Biden campaign senior adviser Jen O’Malley Dillon and deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks on Monday told a call that early polls showed little damage from the debate. They added the campaign will make Biden more visible at town halls and through interviews to reassure the public he can handle the grueling campaign trail, according to a donor source who was on the call.

“A real key point is that they understand that they have to put him out there,” said the donor. Biden added public remarks to his schedule Monday evening about the Supreme Court’s presidential immunity decision.

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About five donor questions described as “pointed” were covered during the call, the source said. These included: “Can the president make it through a campaign and another term?,” the source said.

Biden campaign officials didn’t take any live questions and seemed to pick queries submitted earlier, a second source on the call said. “The message was, ‘We are not seeing any change in polling,'” the second source said. The “campaign will not win if the focus remains on his age.”

A second call with about 40 top donors on Sunday turned tense after Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez was asked if the campaign will offer a refund if Biden doesn’t run, a source familiar with the call said.

Biden’s campaign has about $91 million in the bank.

Chavez Rodriguez said that will not happen because Biden is running. Pressed further, she said the money would go to Vice President Kamala Harris if the president dropped out.

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“Some of us on that call have privately discussed if we should put our money somewhere else,” said one of the donors on Sunday’s call. “The past few days have been very disappointing.”

Biden is in a tight race with Republican Trump, and trailed him in battleground states before the debate last week. At that encounter, Trump unleashed a barrage of falsehoods, including repeating the lie that he won the 2020 election, and Biden seemed to struggle to finish his sentences.

Trump is now leading Biden in New Hampshire, a state a Republican hasn’t won since 2000, according to a St. Anselm College/WMUR poll published Monday, based on post-debate survey.

The Biden campaign said in a memo Monday that its own polling showed the debate did not significantly alter Biden’s appeal in battleground states.

Additionally, the campaign said, a “large majority of Biden 2020 voters who had a negative reaction to his debate performance are still voting for him.” –

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