Obama Rode to Biden’s Rescue—but Intervention Could Yet Come

The 44th president is one of four big names Democrats think could persuade his successor to stand aside. The others are Bill Clinton, Jill Biden, and Valerie Biden Owens.Updated Jun. 29, 2024 2:48AM EDT / Published Jun. 29, 2024 1:08AM EDT Photo Illustration by Erin O’Flynn/The Daily Beast/Getty Images.On Friday afternoon, in the aftermath of President Joe Biden’s disastrous debate against Donald

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The 44th president is one of four big names Democrats think could persuade his successor to stand aside. The others are Bill Clinton, Jill Biden, and Valerie Biden Owens.

Jake Lahut

US President Joe Biden.

Photo Illustration by Erin O’Flynn/The Daily Beast/Getty Images.

On Friday afternoon, in the aftermath of President Joe Biden’s disastrous debate against Donald Trump, private murmurs and public calls for an “intervention” ricocheted through Democratic circles. But then a hold-up emerged.

Some 17 hours after Biden botched his big debate moment, his former boss came to the rescue.

For many high-ranking Democrats, a single tweet from former President Barack Obama appeared to nix any chance of the 44th president meeting with the 46th and urging him to drop out.

“Bad debate nights happen. Trust me, I know,” Obama posted on X, alluding to his own rusty performance against Mitt Romney in 2012.

“But this election is still a choice between someone who has fought for ordinary folks his entire life and someone who only cares about himself. Between someone who tells the truth; who knows right from wrong and will give it to the American people straight—and someone who lies through his teeth for his own benefit.

“Last night didn’t change that, and it’s why so much is at stake in November.”

Democratic sources who spoke to The Daily Beast said there were only four credible messengers who could convince Biden to step aside.

Or, at the very least, four who could convince him to put withdrawal on the table as an option, if post-debate polling confirms Democrats’ worst fears: that Biden tanked his re-election chances and handed Trump a pass to a second term.

Those heavy hitters are: Obama; former President Bill Clinton; First Lady Jill Biden; and Valerie Biden Owens, the president’s sister and longtime campaign manager.

“Jill has a blindspot,” one Democratic donor bundler, who has known the Bidens for decades, told The Daily Beast.

According to this high-ranking Democrat, the first lady is overly protective of her husband and can sometimes unintentionally reinforce Biden’s image as too frail and too old for the job.

The source pointed to Biden’s post-debate appearance in Atlanta on Thursday. As she often does, Jill Biden grabbed her husband at several points, appearing to show him where to go.

It may well be just her way of showing affection. But, the source said, Joe Biden “is in his eighties, and it might be some of that ‘Watch out for this’ type of thing that you would do with a family member of that age.”

The senior Democrat was not as worried as others about how bad the first debate could prove for Biden’s chances.

Trouble is reportedly brewing among Biden donors. But according to the donor bundler, donors deciding not to show up to fundraisers, a scenario multiple outlets have reported, likely won’t make any difference in the president’s calculus.

If Bill, Jill, or Valerie intervened, that might actually move the needle, the source said.

Obama’s tweet therefore came as welcome news to the source, who had been inundated by worried texts from donors and other party bigwigs.

“I think it’s helpful, because everybody has so much respect for him,” the source said, calling Obama “the face of the party” before saying Biden is still technically in that role.

Nonetheless, the source could not “think of anybody else who would have as much sway over people as” Obama himself.

Others in the party worried what booting Biden from the ticket could entail.

“I’m not gonna lie, last night was not a good night for Joe Biden,” longtime North Carolina Democratic strategist Doug Wilson told The Daily Beast.

Yet Wilson said the president still enjoyed a strong base of support in his battleground state, citing the greeting for his arrival after the debate, on Air Force One.

“When it comes to North Carolina, I think we got a firsthand reaction to how the party and the base feels about him,” Wilson said. “To me, that feels like he still has support. It’s almost like a team coming from traveling, even after a loss.”

Wilson cautioned that chatter about pushing Biden out in favor of Vice President Kamala Harris—or the even more chaotic option of a brokered convention in Chicago—runs the risk not only of handing the election to Trump, but of damaging the party in the long term.

If Democrats aren’t careful, Wilson said, they could usher in a second Reagan Revolution—another decade and-a-half of Republican rule.

“I think the question that Democrats have to ask themselves is, one, do we want a repeat of 1980?” Wilson said, referring to Edward Kennedy’s primary challenge to President Jimmy Carter. “Do we wanna throw out our guy after one bad performance?”

Speaking before Obama’s tweet, Wilson explained why it was already unlikely that Biden’s former boss would be the one to sit him down and tell him to fall on his sword.

Obama had a similar conversation with Biden ahead of the 2016 election, when he told him that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s run would make it impossible to endorse his old vice president.

“I don’t know if Obama wants to do that same thing here,” Wilson said.

It turned out, he doesn’t.

Wilson said Harris might be able to improve the party’s standing in North Carolina. But he was not sure.

“The question is, is the country ready for a Black woman?” said Wilson, who is Black.

“They sure as hell weren’t ready for a white woman in 2016. So the question is, unfortunately, the party is ready for a Black woman, but will the country be ready?”

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