Biden’s closest aides hold secret talks about how to convince the president to step aside

A group of Joe Biden’s closest aides are mulling how to convince him to exit the presidential race  (AP)
A group of Joe Biden’s closest aides are mulling how to convince him to exit the presidential race (AP)

A small group of President Joe Biden’s closest aides and confidantes have begun to huddle for closely-held discussions on how best to convince him to bow out of the 2024 presidential election.

“He needs to drop out,” one Biden campaign official told NBC News, offering a blunt assessment of his re-election chances. “He will never recover from this.”

The select cadre of Biden advisers — some from the president’s campaign and some from within his White House staff — have been brainstorming how best to pitch the famously stubborn 81-year-old president on passing the torch to another candidate who would run against Donald Trump in the November general election. If Biden dropped out, he’d be the first American president not to seek a second term since Lyndon Johnson bowed out of the 1968 presidential race amid the tumult of the Vietnam War.

Some have begun to recognize the gravity of Biden’s situation as polls have shown his support faltering as donations to his campaign have slowed since his disastrous debate on June 27 that caused panic within the Democratic party. Since then, Biden has faced public calls from a dozen lawmakers to ditch his re-election bid, a number that’s reportedly set to grow following this weeks’ NATO summit.

A person close to the Biden campaign told The Independent there is a growing realization within the re-election brain trust that Biden currently has no path to defeat Trump, while a second official who spoke to NBC said “no one involved in the effort” believes he can win.

The existence of the discussions, which were first reported by The New York Times, were confirmed by a person familiar with them to The Independent.

But a Biden campaign spokesperson, senior adviser TJ Ducklo, flatly denied any such talks have taken place.

“Patently false. This team stands with the president,” he said in a statement.

President Joe Biden meets with British Prime Minister Keir Starmer in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, July 10, 2024, in Washington. (AP)
President Joe Biden meets with British Prime Minister Keir Starmer in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, July 10, 2024, in Washington. (AP)

Biden has spent the two weeks since his disastrous prime-time debate with Trump attempting damage control with a series of interviews and appearances meant to demonstrate his vitality and vigor in comparison to the shuffling, mumbling figure who appeared on the Atlanta debate stage and often had trouble finishing complete thoughts.

He has spent the last few days on a whirlwind schedule while hosting heads of state and government from NATO at the alliance’s annual summit, and is set to hold his first open press conference on home soil since 2022 Thursday evening.

The president has steadfastly refused to consider stepping away from the presidential race and has insisted that he is the best person to take on Trump, largely because he is the only person to have defeated him before.

But some of his advisers have become convinced that Biden, the oldest man ever to run for or serve as president, cannot recover from the self-inflicted damage caused by his debate performance, which was met by a deluge of negative reporting on his age and how it has affected his mental capacity.

In recent days, a number of House and Senate Democrats have openly called on the 46th president to stand aside, and a top fundraiser — actor and activist George Clooney — has penned a New York Times op-ed arguing for Biden to pass the torch.

The Independent understands that House and Senate leaders have quietly suggested that their members hold off on calling for Biden’s exit as he hosts world leaders this week, and a number of Biden confidantes say the president is hoping a strong performance at his Thursday press conference could give him momentum for staying in the race.

A memorandum penned by top Biden campaign bosses Jen O’Malley Dillon and Julie Chavez Rodriguez says Biden’s argument that he is the party’s best candidate against the man he defeated four years ago still holds because the campaign has found “no indication that anyone else would outperform the president” against his predecessor.

“Hypothetical polling of alternative nominees will always be unreliable, and surveys do not take into account the negative media environment that any Democratic nominee will encounter. The only Democratic candidate for whom this is already baked in is President Biden,” they said.

But the view that he is best-positioned to defeat Trump doesn’t match the public’s feelings.

According to a new Washington Post and IPSOS poll released on Thursday, a majority of Democratic voters surveyed say he should stand down, with the same poll showing Vice President Kamala Harris doing slightly better against Trump in a hypothetical matchup.