Some Biden Advisers Are Discussing How to Persuade Him to Step Aside


WASHINGTON — Some longtime aides and advisers to President Joe Biden have become increasingly convinced that he will have to step aside from the campaign, and in recent days they have been trying to come up with ways to persuade him that he should, according to three people briefed on the matter.

A small group of Biden’s advisers in the administration and the campaign — at least two of whom have told allies that they do not believe he should keep trying to run for a second term — have said they would have to convince the president of several things.

They said they have to make the case to the president, who remains convinced of the strength of his campaign, that he cannot win against former President Donald Trump. They have to convince him to believe that another candidate, such as Vice President Kamala Harris, could beat Trump. And they have to assure Biden that, should he step aside, the process to choose another candidate would be orderly and not devolve into chaos in the Democratic Party.

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Those discussions were recounted by three people familiar with them who, like others in this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive situation. There is no indication that any of the discussions have reached Biden himself, one of the informed people said.

The White House denied the account. “Unequivocally, this is not true,” said Andrew Bates, a White House spokesperson. “President Biden’s team is strongly behind him.”

T.J. Ducklo, a spokesperson for the Biden campaign, said the same for the president’s political staff. “Patently false,” he said. “This team stands with the president.”

The people who are closest to the president, a group that includes some of his longest-serving advisers and members of his family, remain adamant that Biden will stay in the race. A person familiar with the group dynamics said that such conversations are not happening in the group closest to Biden, that he is still committed to staying in the race and that he still believes he is the best person to beat Trump.

The conversations have been happening outside that small orbit but include some of his most loyal and longest-serving allies.

Among the biggest obstacles that those people see is convincing Biden that he cannot win. The president told confidants before his disastrous debate showing June 27 that he believed he had a better chance of winning a second term than Harris had at winning, according to a person told of the matter. Two people close to the president said he remained convinced that he had a better chance of winning than she did.

The internal deliberations speak to the standoff between Biden and his party, in which the president has become increasingly entrenched in his conviction to run, and party leaders are publicly hinting that now may be the time for him to step aside.

Now, in the third week of the biggest political crisis to have faced his presidency, Biden remains convinced that he is the man to win. His view is increasingly at odds with the mood of voters and members of his own party.

A majority of Democrats feel that Biden should step aside, according to a Washington Post-ABC News-Ipsos poll published Thursday. The poll also showed that the race remains close between Trump and Biden, but that Harris would fare slightly better if she were to replace him on the ballot. Biden and his advisers have long dismissed polling that shows concern over his age or ability to serve, and have been encouraged that polls continue to show a tight race between Biden and Trump two weeks after the debate.

The consensus inside Biden’s operation is that it will take hard numbers to convince him, particularly polling showing that his support has eroded significantly.

The decision by the respected Cook Political Report this week to move six key states in the Electoral College in Trump’s direction reflected the mounting electoral challenge he faces. But some polls have shown that Biden is still within striking distance of Trump, and that may bolster his belief that he can still recover.

A memo written by two top Biden campaign officials and distributed to staff Thursday reaffirmed the view that Biden is still the best candidate to beat Trump.

“The movement we have seen, while real, is not a sea change in the state of the race,” said the memo, written by Jen O’Malley Dillon, the campaign chair, and Julie Chávez Rodríguez, Biden’s campaign manager.

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