Biden faces donor pressure as he digs in on re-election bid

President Joe Biden is facing pressure from some major Democratic donors ahead of a critical few days in his campaign for re-election.

A number of donors are publicly warning they will withhold funds unless Mr Biden is replaced as the party's candidate following his disastrous debate performance last week.

Friday is a big day for the president as he seeks to shore up his candidacy with a rare primetime TV interview and a rally in Wisconsin.

Pressure on Mr Biden, 81, to step aside has grown following a debate marked by several instances where he lost his train of thought.

While he admitted that he "screwed up" that night, he has vowed to stay on as his party's standard-bearer taking on Donald Trump in the November presidential election.

Scrutiny on his public appearances has markedly increased since the debate.

In a White House speech to military families on Thursday to mark 4 July Independence Day, he stumbled over his words when referring to Trump as "one of our colleagues, the former president".

And in an interview with WURD radio in Philadelphia, he lost his thread and appeared to say he was proud to be the first black woman to serve with a black president.

Donors have been weighing their options. Abigail Disney, an heiress to the Disney family fortune, told business news channel CNBC that she did not believe Mr Biden could win against Trump.

She said her intent to pull support was rooted in “realism, not disrespect”.

“Biden is a good man and has served his country admirably, but the stakes are far too high."

The consequences of defeat in November "will be genuinely dire”, she added.

Ms Disney has given thousands of dollars to left-leaning political groups this year, according to Federal Election Commission records. But a spokesperson for the Biden campaign told BBC News she has not donated to the campaign directly this cycle.

A handful of other wealthy donors have conveyed similar intent.

Philanthropist Gideon Stein told the New York Times that his family was withholding $3.5m (£2.8m) to non-profit and political organisations active in the presidential race unless Mr Biden steps aside.

Hollywood producer Damon Lindelof, who has donated more than $100,000 to Democrats this election cycle, wrote a public essay in Deadline urging other donors to withhold their funds until there is a change.

The brother of Barack Obama's former chief of staff, Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel, told a conference in Colorado that withholding funding was the key to ensuring Mr Biden's exit from the race, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.

“The lifeblood to a campaign is money, and maybe the only way . . . is if the money starts drying up,” he said, according to the newspaper.

Abigail Disney in 2022
Abigail Disney, a longtime donor to Democrats, told CNBC she was pausing donations [Getty Images]

Ramesh Kapur, a Massachusetts-based Indian-American industrialist, has organised fundraisers for Democrats since 1988.

“I think it’s time for him to pass the torch,” Mr Kapur told the BBC this week. “I know he has the drive, but you can’t fight Mother Nature.”

There are some who are worried there's not enough time left for a new candidate to join the race, and they have decided to back Biden if he stays on.

A mega-donor the BBC spoke to this week, who declined to be named, said he planned to go ahead with a fundraiser for the president scheduled for later this month at his Virginia home.

The Biden campaign has said it raised $38m from debate day through to the weekend, mainly through small donations - and a total of $127m in June alone.

They have conceded he had a difficult debate but have said he is ready to show the public he has the stamina for the campaign.

On Friday morning they announced a new "aggressive travel schedule" in which he and his wife, along with Vice-President Kamala Harris and her husband, would blitz every battleground state.

He will start with a campaign rally in Madison, Wisconsin, on Friday, campaigning with Governor Tony Evers.

After that rally he is scheduled to sit down with ABC - the first television interview after the debate - in a bid to quell concerns about his age and mental faculties.

But the president is facing a series of negative polls which suggest his Republican rival’s lead has widened in the wake of the Atlanta debate.

A New York Times poll published on Wednesday suggested Trump was now holding his biggest lead yet at six points.

And a separate poll published by the BBC’s US partner CBS News suggested a slight shift towards Trump, who had a three-point lead over Mr Biden in the crucial battleground states.

Brajesh Upadhyay contributed to this report

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