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White House insists Biden will ‘absolutely not’ suspend re-election campaign: ‘He is staying in the race’

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President Biden is ‘absolutely not’ considering dropping out of the 2024 presidential race, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday. 

The White House has maintained Biden will continue running for a second term, even amid pressure from Democrats and former staffers and allies to step aside. 

A New York Times report was published Wednesday morning suggesting that Biden had spoken privately with confidants about the possibility of dropping out of the race.  

But when asked during the briefing if Biden would drop out of the race, Jean-Pierre was defiant. 

‘Absolutely not,’ she said. ‘And you heard, I think, I believe directly from the campaign as well.’ 

Jean-Pierre maintained that the president’s poor debate performance was due to his having ‘a cold’ and echoed his own explanation from Tuesday night — that he was still recovering from ‘jet lag’ following his trip to Europe for the G-7 summit. 

‘It was not his best night. He understands that it is fair for people to ask that question, but we cannot forget his record and what he’s been able to do. We cannot forget how he has been able to deliver for the American people for almost four years,’ she said. ‘That matters too. And he has the most historic record, the most in modern politics, and that should matter.’

Jean-Pierre said Biden ‘wants to continue to do that work.’ 

‘A lot of what’s on his agenda is very much popular with the majority of the American people, whether it is continuing to build a strong economic — economic policies — he’s done that, creating new jobs — he’s done that — 15 million jobs. He wants to work on that and continue to do that. And so he wants to continue to deliver, expanding health care — all of these things he believes is important,’ she said. ‘He wants to make sure that people do not forget about the record that he has been able to lay out on behalf of the American people.’ 

Jean-Pierre again stressed that the debate was just ‘a bad night.’ 

‘It was not his best night. He had a cold. He was jetlagged. You heard directly from the president about this,’ she said. ‘And when we get knocked out, when he gets knocked down, he gets right back up.’ 

She added: ‘That’s what I would focus on. The president continues to be very steady and continuing to work for the American people.’ 

Jean-Pierre maintained Wednesday that Biden ‘is staying in the race.’ 

Biden himself said: ‘I am running. I am the leader of the Democratic Party. No one is pushing me out.’ 

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris reportedly made a surprise appearance on a Democratic National Committee call, in a reported effort to try to calm chaos among allies within the party after the debate. 

White House chief of staff Jeff Zients urged people during an all-staff meeting Wednesday to tune out the ‘noise’ and focus on the task of governing.

Jean-Pierre confirmed Zients’ efforts, noting that he acknowledged to White House staffers that the last several days have been difficult. 

Biden reportedly has made outreach on his own, and spoke with top Democratic lawmakers like Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Delaware Sen. Chris Coons and South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn. 

But the chief of staff also encouraged White House aides to ‘continue being a team’ and to tune out negativity and stay focused on the work of governing. 

Jean-Pierre was also asked about comments Biden made in 2020, in which he referred to himself as a transition candidate, and hoped to be a bridge to the next generation of Democratic leaders. 

She responded by saying Vice President Kamala Harris is ‘the future of the party.’ 

‘His statement stands. I mean, one of the reason why he picked the vice president, President Kamala Harris, is because she is indeed the future of the party,’ Jean-Pierre said, adding that Biden is ‘very proud to have partnered with her and continue to partner with her and delivering an unprecedented record for the American people.’ 

‘And I think he’s going to continue, certainly to do that. They’re going to do that as partners. Like I said, I just saw them before walking into the briefing room. We they stopped by to talk to me and my team, and they’re ready to go. They’re ready to continue. So the transition would happen in eight years,’ she said. ‘I mean — I’m not going to get into, speculate from here. But you ask me if his remarks and statement still stands. Yes, it still does.’ 

Meanwhile, Biden is planning to host Democrat governors Wednesday night for a meeting. 

Among the Democratic governors who were planning to attend in person were Tim Walz of Minnesota, who leads the Democratic Governors Association, J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, Maura Healey of Massachusetts, Daniel McKee of Rhode Island, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Andy Beshear of Kentucky and Gavin Newsom of California, according to their aides. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy were planning on attending virtually.

A USA Today/Suffolk University poll released this week found that more four in 10 Democrats said the Democratic Party should intervene and replace Biden as the nominee. Overall, 54% of the voters polled were in favor of Biden dropping out.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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