Biden expands efforts to quell calls to step aside after Trump debate

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Wednesday expanded his contact with lawmakers, Democratic governors and staff after days of criticism that he has not done enough to quell nervousness that he might have to drop his bid for re-election.

The outreach includes calls to Democratic congressional leaders and a planned meeting Wednesday night with Democratic governors. Nearly a week after the debate, he and his senior aides are still trying to recover from last week’s devastating performance and quell growing calls to resign as the party’s nominee in the November election.

During a call with campaign officials, Biden made it clear that he has no intention of dropping out of the race. According to a campaign aide, he told the crowd, “Let me say this as clearly as I can, as simply and directly as I can: I’m in.”

“Nobody is pushing me out,” the president added, also saying, “I’m not leaving. I’m in this race until the end and we’re going to win.”

Moments later, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre echoed Biden’s comments during a press conference, telling reporters that the president is “absolutely not” considering resigning.

During the campaign call, Biden also called for his party to unite heading into the fall, telling his aides that “when Democrats unite, we always win. Just as we beat Donald Trump in 2020, we will beat him again in 2024.”

The call was hosted by Biden campaign chair Jen O’Malley Dillon and Biden campaign manager Julie Chávez Rodriguez. Both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were present, a source familiar with the matter said.

Harris told her staff she was fully behind Biden, saying, “We will not give up. We will follow the example of our president. We will fight and we will win.”

The all-campaign staff meeting was billed by O’Malley Dillon and Chávez Rodriguez as a “quick call to all staff to check in as a team.”

In an email to campaign staff obtained by NBC News, the two campaign leaders said, “From now on, we will be emailing and calling all staff more frequently to ensure you are all aware of the latest updates and broader campaign priorities for the day.”

The two also told staffers that the emphasis Wednesday would be on keeping the race steady, drawing a contrast with former President Donald Trump and highlighting Biden’s upcoming events in swing states, such as his upcoming trip to Wisconsin on Friday.

Biden also spoke separately on Wednesday with former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, sources familiar with the conversation told NBC News.

A spokesman for Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., a former House leader, told NBC News that the two had spoken on Wednesday, but that “the contents of that conversation remain private.”

Biden spoke with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries on Tuesday.

Also on Wednesday, White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients held a call with White House staffers, urging them to “get things done,” “keep your heads high” and “execute the president’s agenda,” a White House official told NBC News.

Zients also told staff to shut out outside noise and chatter and to remain disciplined.

The meeting with the governors on Wednesday night follows a meeting of a group of state officials on Tuesday hosted by Gov. Tim Walz, D-Minn., who chairs the Democratic Governors Association.

Walz and Democratic governors Gavin Newsom of California, JB Pritzker of Illinois, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, John Carney of Delaware, Wes Moore of Maryland, Maura Healey of Massachusetts, Dan McKee of Rhode Island, Kathy Hochul of New York and Andy Beshear of Kentucky plan to attend the meeting in person at the White House, while others will participate virtually.

Harris will also attend the governor’s meeting, along with Biden, a White House official told NBC News.

“Democratic governors are proud to be among the President’s closest partners and allies during the campaign. Together, we created millions of jobs, rebuilt roads and bridges across the country, and made critical investments in communities that have been left behind for too long. The President has worked side by side with us to deliver for the people of our states, and we look forward to speaking with him today,” Walz said in a statement.

A Democratic source familiar with the meeting plans said the governors are supportive of Biden and that, “at a time when everyone wants to get back to the core contrast in this race, they want to hear from the president and provide important insights from their states as allies and people who have served as surrogates for his campaign.”

Newsom sent out an email Wednesday raising money for the upcoming meeting with Biden. The subject line read: “Heading for the White House.”

In it, he told supporters: “As you read this, I’m on my way to Washington, D.C. to meet the President tonight and stand with him at the White House. Once that’s over, I’ll be hitting the road to campaign for him and the Democrats who are on the ballot in several swing states.”

“One of the places I will be going is Pennsylvania, where I will be with Senator Bob Casey who is running for re-election in a tough race against a well-funded opponent… The truth is, we all have to play our part if Democrats are to win this fall,” the email reads.

The donation links in the email took supporters directly to Casey’s campaign donation page.

One Democratic lawmaker, Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, has already called on Biden to withdraw his reelection bid, fearing his defection could prompt a slew of elected officials to break with the president. Others have said they are waiting for a new round of polls to gauge whether Biden’s support has collapsed and whether his debate performance has affected any close ballot races.

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