Biden meets with Democratic governors as White House works to shore up support (2024)


By Nancy Cordes, Ed O'Keefe

/ CBS News

Washington President Biden met with 20 Democratic governors Wednesday night as the White House and his reelection campaign work to shore up support for him after last week's shaky debate performance.

The governors at the meeting included Tim Walz of Minnesota, the chair of the Democratic Governors Association; Gavin Newsom of California; J.B. Pritzker of Illinois; Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan; Kathy Hochul of New York; Wes Moore of Maryland; John Carney of Delaware; Maura Healey of Massachusetts; Dan McKee of Rhode Island; and Andy Beshear of Kentucky. Others attended virtually.

"Yes, he's fit for office," Walz told reporters outside the White House following the meeting. "None of us are denying Thursday night was a bad performance. It was a bad hit, if you will, on that, but it doesn't impact what I believe, that he's delivering."

Moore was more tempered with his remarks, saying that the governors "were honest" with Mr. Biden "about the feedback" they are receiving regarding the debate.

"We were honest about the concerns that we were hearing from people," Moore said. "And we were also honest about the fact that, as the president continued to tell us and show us that he was all in, that we said we would stand with him."

Biden meets with Democratic governors as White House works to shore up support (1)

Hochul said that Mr. Biden is "in it to win it," adding that "all of us" in the meeting "pledged our support to him, because the stakes could not be higher."

"I feel very confident in his abilities, we talked about the plan, and how he's going to be very focused on issues that matter to Americans. And I felt very confident coming out of this meeting as well," Hochul said.

In a separate statement released through his office, Newsom said that he "heard three words from the President — he's all in. And so am I. Joe Biden's had our back. Now it's time to have his."

In the meeting, three governors expressed "pointed," but "not harsh" criticism of Mr. Biden's electoral chances in the wake of his debate last Thursday and openly questioned his ability to win their states.

Two people familiar with the sit-down told CBS News that Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, Maine Gov. Janet Mills and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Luján Grisham expressed concerns with the president's performance and fretted openly it could spoil his chances of winning their states.

Spokespeople for all three governors didn't reply to requests for comment late Wednesday and early Thursday.

"The basic gist was, 'You're too old and it won't fly in our states,'" one of the people familiar with the meeting said.

The president had no notable response to the criticism, the people said, as he reiterated his plans to keep running despite a tough debate performance affected by what he described as a need for more sleep and a cold.

Mr. Biden told governors he needs to get more sleep and curtail public events and meetings that begin after 8 p.m., according to meeting participants.

It's a stark admission for a commander in chief who is regularly kept out past that hour for state dinners and other appearances and is known to take some work home with him to continue working late into the night. The admission could also draw campaign attacks from Republicans who might question whether the 81-year old would be able to carry out presidential duties late at night or during overnight hours if the need arises.

Biden under pressure

The meeting came as the White House and Biden campaign work to keep Democratic governors and other elected Democrats in the fold after his rocky debate. Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas became the first Democratic lawmaker to call on Mr. Biden to drop out of the presidential race on Tuesday, a suggestion the campaign quickly dismissed.

In an all-staff campaign call earlier Wednesday, Mr. Biden said he will remain in the race, sources familiar with the call told CBS News.

"Let me say this as clearly as I possibly can and as simply and straightforward as I can: I am running. I'm the nominee of the Democratic Party. No one's pushing me out. I'm not leaving," the president said, according to one source.

The meeting with governors is notable because up until this point, it's mostly been Mr. Biden's top aides and advisers who have been reaching out to elected Democrats to reassure them after his debate performance. Members of the Democratic Governors' Association held a call Monday to discuss the ongoing response to last week's debate and a widespread concern among the state chief executives that Mr. Biden has done little outreach to governors, specifically over the course of the campaign year, according to two people familiar with arrangements for the call.

The Biden campaign had been trying to arrange time for Vice President Harris to speak with governors, but the governors decided Monday they wanted to hear directly from the president.

"They'd like to hear from him directly before going and sticking out their necks for him again," said one of the people familiar with the plan, granted anonymity to speak frankly about them.

Prior to the meeting, Hochul and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy — who hosted one of the fundraisers the president and first lady attended over the weekend in the New York area — were the only two governors known to have spoken directly to Mr. Biden since the debate.

Beshear told reporters Monday that "the debate performance was rough," but that he will continue to support Mr. Biden "so long as he continues to be in the race." Beshear added that Mr. Biden is the candidate, and "only he can make decisions about his candidacy."

Beshear, Pritzker and Whitmer — all governors who have been floated to replace the president if he were to step down as the presumptive Democratic nominee — co-headlined a fundraiser in Los Angeles for Mr. Biden last Thursday evening. The event was a multi-million dollar affair that put potential future presidential aspirants in a room full of donors who could bankroll their future campaigns.

On "Face the Nation" Sunday, Moore was emphatic about his continued support for the president, insisting that "Joe Biden is our nominee. Joe Biden is our leader."

Hunter Woodall contributed to this report.

  • Joe Biden
  • Election

Nancy Cordes

Nancy Cordes is CBS News' chief White House correspondent based in Washington, D.C. Cordes has won numerous awards for her reporting, including multiple Emmys, Edward R. Murrow awards, and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award.

Biden meets with Democratic governors as White House works to shore up support (2024)


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