Joe Biden launches new offensive to hold on to presidential nomination

Joe Biden launched an aggressive effort to hold on to his party’s presidential nomination on Monday, issuing a defiant letter to wavering congressional Democrats and appearing on national television to insist: “I’m not going anywhere.”

Biden’s moves, including an appearance on a strategy call for major contributors later in the day, came after his grip on the Democratic leadership in Washington continued to erode, with some senior members of his party calling for him to drop out at the weekend.

The multipronged counteroffensive — hitting crucial constituencies on Capitol Hill, the left-leaning media and the donor classes — appeared part of a co-ordinated effort by the president’s team after fitful attempts to quell a party rebellion in the days following his damaging debate performance failed to end a push for him to step aside.

In his letter to congressional Democrats, Biden wrote that more than 14mn voters had chosen him as the nominee and that “any weakening of resolve or lack of clarity about the task ahead only helps Trump and hurts us”.

“The question of how to move forward has been well-aired for over a week now,” wrote Biden. “And it’s time for it to end.”

Shortly after sending the letter to Capitol Hill, Biden called into MSNBC, the cable television network watched by many Democrats, to insist that he was staying in the race. “I’m not letting up,” he said. “The bottom line here is, we’re not going anywhere. I’m not going anywhere.”

The president also said he was “getting so frustrated by the elites” in the party who were trying to push him out. “Run against me. Go ahead. Announce for president. Challenge me at the convention,” he said.

But questions about Biden’s health erupted again on Monday in a bad-tempered press conference, where White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre refused to give any detailed response to a New York Times report that a Parkinson’s disease expert had visited the White House eight times in eight months since last summer — including one meeting with the president’s physician.

Jean-Pierre said she could not confirm the nature of the visits for “security reasons” but said the president had undergone three neurological tests since entering office during his annual physical exams.

In another exchange at the briefing, the White House’s national security spokesperson, John Kirby, responded to a question about Biden’s mental faculties, saying he had “not seen any reason, whatsoever, to question or doubt his lucidity, his grasp of context, his probing nature and the degree to which he is in charge of facts and figures”.

The timing of Biden’s counterattack came as congressional Democrats were returning to Washington following a holiday recess, with some preparing to launch their own effort to convince the president to stand down.

In one of their first strategy sessions following the break — a conference call convened Sunday by Democratic House leader Hakeem Jeffries — seven senior representatives from the party — Jerry Nadler, Adam Smith, Jim Himes, Mark Takano, Don Beyer, Jamie Raskin and Joe Morelle — called for Biden to drop his campaign, according to a Democratic lawmaker.

The call was the clearest sign yet that Biden’s efforts to reassert his fitness, which included an ABC News interview on Friday, have done little to allay the anxiety in his party about his ability to fight a gruelling campaign against his Republican rival.

Himes, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, argued that if Biden remained the presidential nominee, the party would lose the White House, Senate and House, according to a person familiar with the matter. The seven declined or did not respond to requests for comment.

After the details of the private call leaked to the media, Beyer posted on X: “I support the Biden-Harris ticket, and look forward to helping defeat Donald Trump in November.” Raskin told NBC that he “never said that” Biden should leave the race and believes the president can beat Trump.

Other Democrats — particularly Biden’s allies in the Congressional Black Caucus — also came to his defence.

“We’re not going back, we’re moving forward,” posted CBC chair Steven Horsford on X.

The viability of Biden’s re-election bid will dominate discussions in Washington as Nato leaders arrive in town for a summit to celebrate the alliance’s 75th anniversary. He is expected to deliver remarks on Tuesday and hold a press conference on Thursday at the Nato summit, before heading to Michigan for a campaign rally on Friday.

In his letter to congressional Democrats, Biden wrote that he had “no doubt” that the Democrats would beat Trump because of the issues — the economy, abortion and democracy — while refraining from addressing the concerns about giving an 81-year-old man another four-year term.

Donors, officials and other power brokers have floated other candidates to fight Trump, including vice-president Kamala Harris and governors Gretchen Whitmer and Gavin Newsom, and have made inquiries about how hundreds of millions of dollars raised by Biden’s campaign could be transferred to anyone who replaced him on the ticket.

Additional reporting by James Fontanella-Khan in New York and Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington

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