Democrats toe the line, close ranks around Biden

US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden walk off the stage after a campaign event in Raleigh, North Carolina, on June 28, 2024 (Mandel NGAN)
US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden walk off the stage after a campaign event in Raleigh, North Carolina, on June 28, 2024 (Mandel NGAN)

Democratic leaders rallied Sunday behind US President Joe Biden following his poor debate performance last week, as the White House denied a report he was meeting with family to assess his candidacy.

No major party figures have broken ranks to call for Biden to step down, with prominent Democrats including past presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton voicing full-throated support amid a torrent of doubts from everyday Americans -- and even a call from the New York Times editorial board to move aside.

The wave of party backing follows the 81-year-old's stumbling performance Thursday in the debate against Republican candidate Donald Trump, in which Biden often hesitated, tripped over words and lost his train of thought, highlighting concerns about his age.

"It's not about performance in terms of a debate, it's about performance in a presidency," Representative Nancy Pelosi, the former House speaker, told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday.

On "one side of the screen, you have integrity, the other side you have dishonesty," she said, echoing a number of party figures attempting to shift the focus from what they say was Biden's unfortunate performance to the barrage of lies that came from Donald Trump during the debate.

According to a CBS News poll conducted in the two days following the debate, nearly three-quarters of registered voters now believe Biden should not be running for president, including 46 percent of Democrats.

Biden and his family traveled to the Camp David presidential retreat late Saturday, where NBC News reported he was expected to assess the future of his reelection campaign following his performance.

White House senior deputy press secretary Andrew Bates, however, posted on X that the trip had been planned since before the debate, questioning the publication and claiming it had failed to ask for comment on the matter.

- 'Only Democrat' for the job -

The Biden campaign has meanwhile reported that it has raised $33 million since the debate, including $26 million from grassroots donors.

Biden should "absolutely not" drop out of the race, Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.

"It's our assignment to make sure that he gets over the finish line come November. Not for his sake but the country's sake."

On Friday, Biden attempted to tamp down the nay-saying with a fiery campaign speech in North Carolina in which he pledged to keep fighting.

He appeared alongside his wife, First Lady Jill Biden, who has fiercely defended her husband amid calls for him to step aside.

"On that campaign stage in North Carolina, I saw a forceful, engaged and capable Joe Biden," Democratic Senator Chris Coons, from Biden's home state of Delaware, said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

"I think it was a weak debate performance by President Biden," Coons said, adding that nonetheless "side by side, Donald Trump had a horrifying debate performance where, yes, he spoke plainly, but what he said was lie after lie after lie."

Biden, he added, is "the only Democrat who can beat Donald Trump."