NEW YORK: A sense of concern is growing inside the top ranks of the Democratic Party that leaders of Joe Biden‘s campaign and the Democratic National Committee are not taking seriously enough the impact of the president’s troubling debate performance earlier in the week. DNC Chairman Jaime Harrison held a Saturday afternoon call with dozens of committee members across the country, a group of some of the most influential members of the party.He did not acknowledge Biden’s weak showing Thursday night or the avalanche of criticism that followed.
Multiple committee members on the call, granted anonymity to talk about the private discussion, described feeling like they were being gaslighted – that they were being asked to ignore the dire nature of the party’s predicament. The call, they said, may have worsened a widespread sense of panic among elected officials, donors and other stakeholders.
Instead, the people said, Harrison offered what they described as a rosy assessment of Biden’s path forward. The chat function was disabled and there were no questions allowed.
Many donors, party strategists and rank-and-file DNC members are publicly and privately saying they want the 81-year-old Biden to step aside to allow the party to select a younger replacement at the Democratic National Convention in August. As of now, though, Biden’s closest allies insist he remains well-positioned to compete against Republican Donald Trump and have given no indication they will push him to end his campaign.
Those best positioned to replace him – Vice President Kamala Harris, California governor Gavin Newsom and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer among them – reiterated their support for Biden after the debate.
Many are anxiously awaiting the first major round of post-debate public polling to determine their next steps.
Polls from CNN and 538/Ipsos conducted soon after the debate found that most debate-watchers thought Trump outperformed Biden. But the two men’s favourability ratings remained largely unchanged, just as they did in the aftermath of Trump’s conviction on charges in New York that he illegally participated in a hush money scheme to influence the 2016 election.
In a subsequent appearance on MSNBC, Harrison downplayed the significance of the conference call, which he said was part of a regularly scheduled communication “to talk about the state of the race” and the upcoming national convention with the DNC’s many elected members across the country.
Biden and his campaign have sought to project confidence in the days since Thursday’s debate in which the president, who already faced serious concerns about his physical and mental stamina, offered a performance punctuated by repeated stumbles, uncomfortable pauses, and a quiet speaking style that was often difficult to understand.
Just after Saturday’s DNC call, the Biden campaign released a memo from senior adviser Jen O’Malley Dillon insisting that the debate had no tangible impact on the election.
“On every metric that matters, data shows it did nothing to change the American people’s perception, our supporters are more fired up than ever, and Donald Trump only reminded voters of why they fired him four years ago and failed to expand his appeal beyond his MAGA base,” O’Malley Dillon wrote.
She added, “If we do see changes in polling in the coming weeks, it will not be the first time that overblown media narratives have driven temporary dips in the polls.”
Meanwhile, Biden spent much of Saturday courting wealthy donors in New York’s famed wealthy enclave of the Hamptons.
“I didn’t have a great night, but neither did Trump,” Biden said of the debate at one gathering in East Hampton.
Of Trump, Biden said, “The big takeaway was his lies.”
Trump, meanwhile, gloated about Biden’s performance at a rally Friday and suggested on his social media platform Saturday that Biden had faded “under tremendous pressure.”