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Biden meets with Democratic governors as questions swirl around the viability of his candidacy

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

President Biden says he's staying in the race for President and will not be pushed out.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

He's working to convince Democrats that he can defeat former President Donald Trump in November. Last night, Biden met with 25 Democratic governors. The group included several who have been mentioned as possible replacements if Biden were to drop out. Maryland Governor Wes Moore spoke after the meeting.

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WES MOORE: And I think we came in and we were honest about the feedback that we were getting. We were honest about the concerns that we were hearing from people. 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 that we would stand with him.

INSKEEP: NPR senior White House correspondent Tamara Keith has been following all of this. Good morning, Tam.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: OK. Did the president convince these 25 governors that he has what it takes?

KEITH: Wes Moore, who you heard, is a top surrogate for Biden on the campaign trail, and he was pretty effusive. He said, Biden is in it to win it, and essentially said, let's stop hand wringing and get to work. But others were a bit more circumspect. Tim Walz from Minnesota said they all agreed that victory in November is the top priority. But he left something else conspicuously unstated. He didn't say keeping Joe Biden at the top of the ticket was the key to that victory, though, when he was asked by reporters, Walz was firm that Biden is fit to serve.

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TIM WALZ: What we saw in there today was a guy who was the guy that all of us believed in the first time who could beat Donald Trump and did beat Don Trump.

KEITH: Only three of the 25 or so governors who met with Biden came out to talk to reporters. Many joined virtually. Others left out the back. I would say that the message from the governors we've heard from is that Biden is the nominee. Former President Trump is a threat and needs to be stopped, but they didn't get into hypotheticals about whether Biden is still the best person to take on Trump.

INSKEEP: What is Biden doing to reassure people about his condition after that disastrous debate?

KEITH: Biden has been in touch with congressional leaders, donors, lots of calls. Based on conversations my colleagues are having with members of Congress, anxiety is extremely high. They are worried that a beleaguered Biden could affect their races as well and even control of the House. And the thing is that what last week was contained to whispers and group chats is now spilling out in the open. Some say Biden needs to get out now so the party can settle on a more vigorous nominee in time for the convention. Some say that that is way too dangerous a gamble. Biden has beaten Trump once before, and Democratic Party chaos would only help the former president. Some think Biden is fine, and he has what it takes, and all the speculation and worry needs to stop so everyone can get to work on winning.

INSKEEP: I'm noticing that former President Trump has been unusually quiet the last several days. He doesn't have to say anything because Democrats have this disaster unfolding in front of them. So what can the current president do to try to show millions of people who saw that debate that he's OK?

KEITH: Yeah. Trump has finally announced a couple of rallies next week. Biden is holding a campaign rally in Madison, Wis. on Friday. More significantly, while he's there, the president will sit down for an interview with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos. This is a pretty rare thing for Biden, certainly compared to past presidents. An unscripted interview is another high-profile test of his cognitive abilities, and depending on how it goes, the interview could quiet the calls for Biden to step aside or make them grow louder.

INSKEEP: Tam, thanks so much.

KEITH: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Tamara Keith. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.