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Democrats’ Crack-Up Over Joe Biden’s Campaign Continues
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Democrats’ Crack-Up Over Joe Biden’s Campaign Continues

Plus: The GOP begins behind-closed-doors work on a new party platform.

Happy Monday! We’re one week out from the start of the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee. Your Dispatch Politics team will be on the ground to cover what, surprisingly, may be the more predictable of the two party conventions this year.

Up to Speed

  • President Joe Biden looks competitive with former President Donald Trump in a Saturday poll of swing state voters from Bloomberg. The president led his Republican challenger in Michigan and Wisconsin and was within the margin of error in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and North Carolina. But the poll was not entirely positive for Biden, as he trailed Trump by 7 points in Pennsylvania, which will likely be a key battleground state this November. That comes after a CNN poll last week found Biden trailing Trump nationally by 6 points, while Vice President Kamala Harris trailed him by 2 points.
  • As calls to drop his reelection bid grow, Biden is scheduled to deliver a “major speech” next Monday coinciding with the first day of the Republican National Convention, NewsNation reported Sunday. The president’s speech will take place at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, and focus on “democracy and civil rights” in honor of the 60th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. Perhaps notably, Johnson famously abandoned his 1968 reelection bid that March after barely winning the New Hampshire primary and seeing his job approval ratings plunge.
  • Trump on Friday disavowed Project 2025, the Heritage Foundation’s roadmap for the next Republican administration that Democrats have used as a club against the former president. “I know nothing about Project 2025,” Trump wrote in a Truth Social post. “I have no idea who is behind it. I disagree with some of the things they’re saying and some of the things they’re saying are absolutely ridiculous and abysmal. Anything they do, I wish them luck, but I have nothing to do with them.” Biden’s campaign spent much of the weekend attempting to tie Project 2025 to Trump, pointing out that a number of his former aides have been involved in it. In response to Trump’s post, a Project 2025 spokesperson said in a statement on X that the initiative does not speak for any candidate and represents a coalition of conservative groups “advocating policy & personnel recommendations for the next conservative president.”
  • Two of Trump’s rumored potential vice presidential picks also attempted to distance the former president from Project 2025 on Sunday shows. “Think tanks do think tank stuff,” Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida told Dana Bash on CNN’s State of the Union. Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio made similar comments to Kristen Welker on NBC’s Meet the Press. “On the Project 2025 issue, what the media and the Democrats are trying to do is attach its most unpopular elements to the Trump administration,” he said. “It’s a 900-page document. I guarantee there are things that Trump likes and dislikes about that 900-page document, but he is the person who will determine the agenda of the next administration.” Both Rubio and Vance also made notable comments amid the brewing battle over issues in the GOP’s next platform. Vance said he supported access to the abortion pill mifepristone, while Rubio endorsed changing language in the platform to affirm that abortion is a state issue, saying he hoped that “our platform will reflect our nominee.”
  • As the platform battle is set to begin, pro-life organizations are changing their messaging strategy to sway voters on the issue, Politico reported Monday. To counter effective ads from the left that feature women who went through hard pregnancies and had difficulty obtaining abortions, the pro-life coalition will run its own ads featuring women who were in similar situations and chose to carry their children to term. “Democrats do this well,” Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America Director of State Public Affairs Kelsey Pritchard told the outlet. “Republicans need to match them on this and do even better. That’s how they can get ahead in 2024.”

‘He Can’t Go On’

President Joe Biden makes a campaign stop at a Biden-Harris campaign election office in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on July 7, 2024. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
President Joe Biden makes a campaign stop at a Biden-Harris campaign election office in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on July 7, 2024. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden was struggling to save his embattled reelection bid Monday morning as the number of prominent Democrats urging the 81-year-old commander in chief to pull the plug on his 2024 campaign spiked over the weekend.

Biden is showing no signs of abandoning his campaign, telling ABC News’ George Stephanopolous Friday in his first and only television interview since a disastrous debate performance hurled his campaign against presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump into uncertainty that he was committed to staying the course. “If the Lord Almighty came down and said, ‘Joe, get outta the race,’ I’d get outta the race. The Lord Almighty’s not comin’ down,” the stubborn president said.

Biden reaffirmed that message during a weekend campaign swing, telling voters in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that he’s not going anywhere. “I’m the nominee of the Democratic Party,” Biden said during a campaign rally in Madison, Wisconsin. “Some folks don’t seem to care who you voted for—well, guess what?  They’re trying to push me out of the race. Well, let me say this as clearly as I can: I’m staying in the race. I’ll beat Donald Trump.  I will beat him again.”

Biden Monday appeared to be belatedly stepping up his effort to keep wavering Democrats in the fold, firing off a defiant letter to Democratic members of Congress and telephoning into MSNBC’s Morning Joe to declare he would not exit the race under any circumstances. 

But 10 days after Biden’s televised faceoff with Trump in Atlanta, the former president is in the driver’s seat—more so than was the case beforehand. On June 27, the day they met on a CNN stage, Trump’s lead over Biden in national polling averages was 1.5 percentage points. This morning it was 3.3 percent. On June 27, Trump’s lead over Biden in the key battleground states was 3.2 percent; this morning it was 3.8 percent. 

Voters were concerned about Biden’s age and infirmity before the debate—with worries that he is unfit for the presidency, either now or over the course of a second term, only increasing since. And now Biden is losing the confidence of top Democrats in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate and prominent party insiders across the country. 

Punchbowl News reported Sunday that four House Democrats in committee leadership positions want Biden to step aside: Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee; Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee; Rep. Joe Morelle of New York, the ranking member of the House Administration Committee; and Rep. Mark Takano of California, the ranking member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

That followed news from the Washington Post that Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia was organizing a group of fellow Democrats in the Senate with the goal of pressuring Biden to stand down ahead of the party’s August 19-22 convention in Chicago. Wealthy Democratic donors and fundraising bundlers, including those in Hollywood—a crucial component of Biden’s financial base of support—also are involved in efforts to convince the president to withdraw.

“I intend to stop any contributions to the party unless and until they replace Biden at the top of the ticket. This is realism, not disrespect. Biden is a good man and has served his country admirably, but the stakes are far too high,” Abigail Disney told CNBC, adding that she sees Vice President Kamala Harris as a capable alternative. 

Biden so far has managed to hang onto support from at least one critical Democratic constituency, black voters. And robust crowds at his post-debate rallies suggests the bottom has not dropped out of the president’s candidacy. But Democratic operatives are telling Dispatch Politics that Biden’s hold on the nomination is growing more precarious by the day. In part, this is because Democrats have wholeheartedly embraced a central element of the president’s reelection pitch—that his Republican challenger is a threat to American democracy. 

“Considering the president’s candidacy is untenable, it’s only a matter of time until [convention delegates] start saying so publicly. He can’t go on,” a Democratic insider in Pennsylvania told us, requesting anonymity to speak candidly.

“If Biden stays in, the grassroots will have his back because people will fight to beat Trump no matter what. But I can’t name a single person who is comfortable with the state of the race,” added a veteran Democratic campaign operative who is based in the Southwest.

Republicans Clamp Down as They Draft a New Platform

Members of the Republican National Committee’s platform committee have already met in Milwaukee to approve what Donald Trump’s campaign advisers have promised will be a “streamlined” document of the GOP’s statement of political positions—some of which, the Washington Post reports, will be a softening of the party’s views on abortion.

Here’s what we’re hearing, from two sources familiar with the process: The 112 delegates to the Republican National Convention serving on the platform committee saw the draft of the platform that was personally edited by Trump himself. They have received no paper copies, and they were not allowed to bring their phones into the room with them. According to Maggie Haberman of the New York Times, the committee quickly and “overwhelmingly” passed the slimmed down platform, which will have to pass a vote of the full convention next week. A source with knowledge told Dispatch Politics the draft platform passed 84 votes to 18, with “no amendments allowed.” Trump himself briefly called into the meeting, this source said, and the Trump campaign brought in a large sign that read “VOTE YES,” which campaign staffers walked around the room with.

These are some notable departures from the more open process of drafting and approving a platform, which typically happens in the week of party business before the pomp and circumstance of the actual national convention. This contrasts with 2016, when the drafting of the Republican platform to fit the party’s unconventional nominee was a chaotic but fairly transparent process. The GOP did not adopt a platform in 2020.

It reflects the incredible amount of control Trump and his campaign are exerting over the party. Earlier this year, the former president’s team sought to remove any Trump critics within the RNC from the platform and rules committees. And to the extent there has been or will be any dissent about modifications to the platform, they will likely continue to come from social conservatives and pro-life activists who have already raised the alarm about a “watered down” position on allowing abortion policy to be set by the states.

Spokespersons for both the RNC and the Trump campaign did not reply to requests for comment from Dispatch Politics.

Notable and Quotable

“I’m getting so frustrated by the elites—now, I’m not talking about you guys—but about the elites in the party who, ‘They know so much more.’ If any of these guys don’t think I should run, run against me. Announce for president. Challenge me at the convention.”

—President Joe Biden in an impassioned call-in interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, July 8, 2024

David M. Drucker is a senior writer at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was a senior correspondent for the Washington Examiner. When Drucker is not covering American politics for The Dispatch, he enjoys hanging out with his two boys and listening to his wife's excellent taste in music.

Michael Warren is a senior editor at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was an on-air reporter at CNN and a senior writer at the Weekly Standard. When Mike is not reporting, writing, editing, and podcasting, he is probably spending time with his wife and three sons.

Charles Hilu is a reporter for The Dispatch based in Virginia. Before joining the company in 2024, he was the Collegiate Network Fellow at the Washington Free Beacon and interned at both National Review and the Washington Examiner. When he is not writing and reporting, he is probably listening to show tunes or following the premier sports teams of the University of Michigan and city of Detroit.

Grant Lefelar is an intern at The Dispatch, based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company for the 2024 summer, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, wrote for a student magazine, Carolina Review, and covered North Carolina state politics and news for Carolina Journal. When Grant is not reporting or helping with newsletters, he is probably rooting for his beloved Tar Heels, watching whatever’s on Turner Classic Movies, or wildly dancing alone to any song by Prefab Sprout.