All the rumors about Joe Biden withdrawing from the race: What we know

Rumors have begun circulating about whether President Joe Biden will withdraw from the 2024 presidential race following last week’s debate, which raised questions about his readiness to serve.

While unconfirmed, the reports are the first indication to become public that the 81-year-old president may be seriously considering whether he can recover after his performance on the debate stage in Atlanta on June 27. 

The debate infused a new dynamic into an election contest that had been marked by few surprises this year. Voters were familiar with Biden and former President Donald Trump and had previously decided between the two in 2020.

Still, many House Democrats were caught in a state of uncertainty as they faced a barrage of questions on the morning after the debate. Some chalked it up as little more than a bad night for Biden, but others are watching closely to see how voters react and whether Biden can execute a quick political recovery.

Here’s a look at what we know so far. 

The New York Times report on Biden withdrawing

According to the New York Times, Biden has told a key ally that he knows he may not be able to salvage his candidacy if he cannot convince the public in the coming days.

The president, whom this unnamed ally emphasized is still deeply in the fight for re-election, understood that his next few appearances heading into the holiday weekend must go well – particularly an interview scheduled for Friday with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News and campaign stops in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

"He knows if he has two more events like that, we’re in a different place" by the end of the weekend, said the ally, referring to Mr. Biden’s halting and unfocused performance in the debate. The person, who talked to the president in the past 24 hours, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive situation.

US President Joe Biden speaks following an operational briefing at the DC Emergency Operations Center in Washington, DC, US, on Tuesday, July 2, 2024. (Credit: Bonnie Cash/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A top adviser to Biden, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the situation, told the Times that the president was "well aware of the political challenge he faces." That person added on Wednesday that Biden was aware that the outcome of his campaign could be a different ending than the one his is fighting for, but that the president believes he is an effective leader who is mentally sharp and "doesn’t get how others don’t accept that." 

Andrew Bates, a White House spokesman, said the NYT report was "absolutely false" and that the White House had not been given enough time to respond.

ABC News report on Biden withdrawing

Sources told ABC News on Wednesday that Biden privately acknowledged that the next few days would be critical to determining whether he can stay in the race for a second term.

"This is false," Bates also said about the ABC News reporting.

ABC News also claimed that Biden has privately told at least two people close to him in the last few days that he recognizes how difficult his political predicament is.

While he still views himself as the best candidate to defeat Donald Trump, he signaled to one ally that he is keeping an "open mind" about his path forward, sources familiar with conversations told ABC News.

TMZ suggests Biden will withdraw

TMZ learned one top campaign official privately told at least one mega-donor that "it's only a matter of time" before Biden bows out of the race.

TMZ was also told the official is saying the focus has now shifted from singular support for a Biden re-election to, "Democrats have to retain The White House." In other words, it's no longer all about Biden.

In addition, the official said Biden still needs time to process the panic within his party, and some of that involves understanding polling trends. 

"The convention is not that far away and if it is to be vice president Kamala Harris, there is a lot of work that would need to be done," TMZ executive producer Michael Babcock told LiveNOW from FOX's Andy Mac. "Everyone's been setting up for Joe Biden. If it's not Joe Biden, I mean, time is really of the essence here. So if the switch is to happen, I would think it's going to be sooner rather than later.  I don't think this is something that's going to happen in late July; I think you're looking at sometime over the next couple of weeks, if not days."

Rep. Clyburn discusses ‘mini-primary’

On Wednesday, Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., who is often credited as the man who delivered the presidency to Joe Biden with a pivotal endorsement four years ago, sent a message to the president and elected officials across the nation that it may be time to move on.

Clyburn, a Biden campaign co-chair, outlined a process to replace Biden during an interview with CNN. Should Biden step aside, Clyburn said, he expects a "mini-primary" featuring Vice President Kamala Harris, governors and others in the run-up to the Democratic National Convention in August.

"You can actually fashion the process that’s already in place to make it a mini-primary and I would support that," said Clyburn, who also spoke to Biden on Wednesday in a conversation his office refused to discuss.

Clyburn's decision to spell out in detail how Biden might be replaced was viewed as a clarion call by some top donors, party insiders and even members of Biden's campaign who increasingly believe that Biden will be forced to step aside.

Biden says he had jet lag ahead of debate

In the initial moments of Thursday’s debate, aides said the president was suffering from a cold.

Biden’s wife, Jill, told supporters Friday in New York City that he didn’t "feel that great" during the debate. It’s not clear what that meant, whether it was the cold, a sense of exhaustion or something else. But the first lady put forward the campaign’s main argument that 90 minutes should not define his entire presidency.

Biden offered another explanation Tuesday night at a Virginia fundraiser, saying his problem was with jet lag after having gone to France, California and then Italy before taking down time in Delaware and at Camp David.

Biden made the comments at a rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, a day after his debate, stating, "I know I’m not a young man, to state the obvious … I don’t walk as easy as I used to. I don’t speak as smoothly as I used to. I don’t debate as well as I used to, but I know what I do know: I know how to tell the truth."

He continued: "I know right from wrong. And I know how to do this job. I know how to get things done. And I know, like millions of Americans know, when you get knocked down you get back up."

White House responds

Despite the rumors and claims that Biden will withdraw from the race, a top aide said the president vowed Wednesday to keep running for reelection.

"Let me say this as clearly as I possibly can as simply and straightforward as I can: I am running … no one’s pushing me out," Biden said on a call with staffers from his reelection campaign. "I’m not leaving. I’m in this race to the end and we’re going to win."

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When White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked whether Biden would consider stepping down, she also said, "Absolutely not."

"He understands it is fair for people to ask that question," she continued, adding, "I cannot lay out something that would change the president’s mind" about seeking a second term.

Pierre said Biden "is clear-eyed. And he is staying in the race." She also repeated that Biden was jetlagged from travel and had a cold prior to the debate. 

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Over the past week, Biden has been pulling every possible lever to try to salvage his reelection campaign — talking to top legislators, pumping up his campaign staff and meeting later in the day Wednesday with Democratic governors before a planned weekend traveling and doing the ABC interview.

This story was reported from Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed.