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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Biden tells governors that he is staying in the race

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, center, speaks to reporters after meeting with President Joe Biden, at the White House in Washington, on Wednesday, July 3, 2024. Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, left, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, right, stand listening. President Biden told a group of Democratic governors that he’s staying in the 2024 campaign, giving the group the direct contact with him that many had craved in order to move forward after Biden’s disastrous debate performance the previous week. (Eric Lee/The New York Times)

By Maggie Haberman, Shawn Hubler and Reid J. Epstein

President Joe Biden told a group of Democratic governors on earlier this week that he was staying in the 2024 campaign, as the group peppered the president with questions about the path forward after Biden’s disastrous debate performance last week.

After Wednesday’s meeting, a handful of governors spoke with reporters outside the White House, with one, Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York, declaring, “President Joe Biden is in it to win it, and all of us said we pledged our support to him.”

Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota, the chair of the Democratic Governors Association, said: “He has had our backs through COVID, through all of the recovery, all of the things that have happened. The governors have his back, and we’re working together just to make very, very clear on that.”

But he added, “A path to victory in November is the No. 1 priority, and that’s the No. 1 priority of the president.”

Gov. Wes Moore of Maryland echoed the sentiment.

In a statement, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California said, “I heard three words from the president — he’s all in. And so am I.”

And Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan posted her support on the social media site X.

The meeting closed with Vice President Kamala Harris describing the threats to democracy that a victory by former President Donald Trump could pose, tossing at least one expletive into her remarks, according to a person briefed on what took place.

But Hochul’s statement that the governors “pledged our support” to Biden unsettled some people who had attended the meeting, according to the person briefed on what took place and another person who was also briefed. Both of those people said there was no around-the-room ask for support and that more than a half-dozen governors expressed concerns in the wake of Biden’s halting, whispered debate performance against Trump in Atlanta.

One, Gov. Janet Mills of Maine, bluntly told Biden that his age was fine but that people did not think he was up to running, according to one of the people briefed on what had happened. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico jumped in and said Biden was at risk of losing her state, according to another person briefed on what had taken place. Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut said he had to make the case to voters. Another asked Biden what the path forward was. (Aides to Mills and Lujan Grisham did not immediately respond to requests for comment.)

The meeting came together quickly, organized by Walz, after the governors met among themselves on Monday. Many at that meeting expressed exasperation that they had not had direct contact with Biden and still had no clear sense of what was happening after the debate.

The governors are among Biden’s staunchest defenders — Newsom will headline campaign events for the president in Michigan, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire this weekend — and they are among those who are most concerned about a second Trump administration. Governors were those dealing most closely with the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, at a time when Trump doled out aid to states based on which governors he felt had been personally obsequious to him, or at least uncritical of him.

But they also have been looking for answers.

Gov. Josh Green of Hawaii, who attended the meeting virtually and who is a physician who led his state’s response to the pandemic, said: “The president shared he is staying in the race. He shared candidly he was exhausted the day of the debate, and was very direct about that.”

Green added that Biden was “clear and focused in our meeting, and I found him to be solid.” He said that Harris “was amazingly supportive,” and described a Biden presidency as vastly preferable to another four years of Trump in office.

But he also added, “I suspect people will need to see the president in person and on TV to be convinced he is up to it.”

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