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Biden to host governors at White House to discuss political future

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - JUNE 27: U.S. President Joe Biden walks off stage during the CNN Presidential Debate at the CNN Studios on June 27, 2024 in Atlanta, Georgia. President Biden and Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. President Donald Trump are facing off in the first presidential debate of the 2024 campaign. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — President Biden will welcome a group of Democratic governors to the White House Wednesday night to discuss his political future — the 81-year-old’s latest effort to quiet calls to step aside following his disastrous debate performance last week.

Several of the current roster of 23 Democratic state chief executives are considered potential successors to the oldest-ever sitting president.

It is unclear which governors will attend the evening meeting, which will be held hours after White House chief of staff Jeff Zients convenes an all-staff briefing meant to reassure jittery Biden aides.

“I think the governors just want a direct and candid conversation with the president,” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, one of the expected attendees, told CNN Tuesday. “We want to make sure he’s doing OK.”

“I think we’ve all got to be upfront and honest that what we saw in the debate – it was rough,” Beshear added.

“It [was] a rough night, and regardless of polls that you see, it’s going to hurt the campaign,” he said.

Biden has thus far rejected calls for him to step aside to allow a new nominee to face former President Donald Trump in the Nov. 5 election, even as polls show the Republican’s lead growing over Biden and internal Democratic surveys showing Trump could win states that the Democrat easily won in 2020.

Biden shifted to a new explanation Tuesday night for freezing up and losing his train of thought at the debate — claiming at a fundraiser that he was exhausted from recent international travel, even though he had 12 days to recover from his most recent foreign trip to Italy, including seven consecutive days of debate prep at Camp David, where sessions reportedly began after 11 a.m.

“I decided to travel around the world a couple of times… shortly before the debate,” Biden told Democratic donors in McLean, Va. “I didn’t listen to my staff… and then I almost fell asleep on stage.”

Staff even set aside time for afternoon naps in the week ahead of the debate, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) on Tuesday became the first sitting member of Congress to call for Biden to leave the race — likening the step to President Lyndon B. Johnson deciding to leave office after one term in 1968.

Rep. Jared Golden (D-Me.) wrote in a Tuesday op-ed that he believes that “Trump is going to win. And I’m OK with that.”

Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-Wash.) said Tuesday in a local TV interview that “Biden is going to lose to Trump. I know that’s difficult, but I think the damage has been done by that debate.”

Rep. Jared Golden (D-Me.) wrote in a Tuesday op-ed that he believes that “Trump is going to win. And I’m OK with that.”

Biden will host the governors despite not reaching out directly to key allies in Congress.

Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), whose support for Biden effectively secured him the 2020 presidential nomination, told CNN that the president has yet to call him.

“I want, like everybody else, to hear more from the president,” Clyburn said Wednesday morning, calling for Biden to have more unscripted public events after relying heavily on teleprompters at initial post-debate events.

“I have not engaged him in one on one conversation” since the debate, the congressman said, adding, “I saw what I saw Thursday night, and as I said, I saw that as being concerning.”

Biden is expected to appear publicly next week for press questioning during the annual NATO summit, which will be hosted in Washington — with press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre saying Tuesday it would be a “big boy press conference” with many questioners rather than a more limited format with just two US reporters selected.

If Biden does decide to exit the race, Beshear — along with Govs. Gavin Newsom of California and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan are considered possibilities to replace him atop the ticket.

Govs. Phil Murphy of New Jersey, Jared Polis of Colorado, JB Pritzker of Illinois and Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania also are widely pegged as potential future contenders for the presidency.

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