Aggressive Biden goes full force against calls to step down

President Biden is getting aggressive and going on offense as he seeks to beat back calls that he leave the top of the Democratic ticket after a party uproar over his poor debate performance against former President Trump.

Biden’s new take-no-prisoners strategy is a significant change from the last week, when some complained he was late to call Democrats and counterpunch amid rising calls for his withdrawal.

It is intended to buy more time as he and his advisers run out the clock ahead of the Democratic convention, while framing Biden as the person who is controlling the shots, Democrats close to the Biden campaign say.

“The strategy is a defiant one,” said one strategist close to Biden’s inner circle. “It’s basically, ‘I’ve got the delegates so I control the process here’ and basically, ‘I control the narrative. Democratic voters voted for me to be the nominee and I’m going to be the nominee in a number of weeks.’”

In a letter Monday to Democratic members of Congress, Biden said it’s time to unite behind him as the way to defeat Trump, firmly rejecting calls to step down ahead of lawmakers’ return to Congress.

“The question of how to move forward has been well-aired for over a week now. And it’s time for it to end,” Biden wrote in the letter. “We have one job. And that is to beat Donald Trump. We have 42 days to the Democratic Convention and 119 days to the general election. Any weakening of resolve or lack of clarity about the task ahead only helps Trump and hurts us.

“It’s time to come together, move forward as a unified party and defeat Donald Trump,” Biden added.

Simultaneously, the president made a live call to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program on Monday to fire back at his critics.

When co-host Mika Brzezinski introduced him as the presumptive Democratic nominee, a chuckling Biden said, “I’m more than presumptive. I’m going to be the Democratic nominee.”

“The bottom line here is that we’re not going anywhere. I am not going anywhere,” Biden told Brzezinski and co-host Joe Scarborough. “I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t absolutely believe that I am the best candidate to beat Donald Trump.”

Later in the day, Biden got on a call with major Democratic donors and vowed to beat Trump, saying he was “done talking about the debate.”

“We can’t waste any more time being distracted,” he told the fundraisers.

More than a dozen Democratic strategists, operatives and donors interviewed by The Hill acknowledged they were unsure if the approach by the president would ultimately work.

Questions are still swirling around the president’s health and stamina. On Monday, The New York Times reported that an expert in Parkinson’s disease from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center visited the White House eight times in eight months from last September until this spring. One of the meetings was with Biden’s physician, the Times reported. The White House pushed back on the report saying an examination for Biden found no signs of Parkinson’s and that the president isn’t being treated for it.

Still, Democrats welcomed Biden’s new tack saying it was a significant and welcome change from the president’s approach last week.

One former Biden administration official said it was a “good political strategy” from Biden and his team. “They are barreling forward,” the strategist said. “The [Democratic] leadership either seems to be quiet or on board. But what we don’t know is if there is a group of Democrats — not just one by one — who are willing to jump in front of the train.”

The former administration official nodded to the time element — the Democratic convention begins in six weeks — in saying the strategy could be effective. “Every week he’s still the nominee means it’s more likely he’ll be the nominee,” the official said.

All that said, time is running out on the party to put its divides behind it and unify behind a candidate.

“There’s time but not a lot of it to see how things settle,” said former Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), who served as the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Israel said Biden could use the NATO summit this week in Washington to remind donors, activists and voters of his leadership “and continue to prove to the public that the debate was a one off.”

But, Israel added, “clarity is critical, and this climate of doubt and despair can’t extend beyond the middle of the month.”

Democratic strategist Jim Manley acknowledged that he was watching the fallout from the debate “with clear trepidation,” saying he also had trouble understanding the lack of engagement by Biden last week.

“The idea that it took four or five days to reach out to [House Minority Leader Hakeem] Jefferies and [Senate Majority Leader Chuck] Schumer was political malpractice,” Manley said.

But the revised strategy is a “shot across the bow,” Manley added. “If his goal is to stay in the race, it’s absolutely the right thing to do. They’re sending a strong message to the Hill that they’re not backing down and they’re drawing a line in the sand.”

Following Biden’s call with donors, one Democratic bundler was feeling slightly more optimistic than in previous days: “When Biden has some piss and vinegar in him, how can you not feel better?”

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