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Biden: ‘No one’s pushing me out’

President Joe Biden unexpectedly joined a Zoom call with campaign and Democratic National Committee staff on Wednesday, mounting a new push to preserve the viability of his embattled candidacy, according to two people on the call.

Amid reports that Biden is privately acknowledging to allies that his candidacy is hanging in the balance, the president stated that he’s in the race for the long haul, though he conceded that the days since last week’s debate with former President Donald Trump have been damaging, according to two people on the call who were granted anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter.

“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. I’m not leaving. I’m in this race to the end and we’re going to win,” Biden said on the call.

Biden’s forcefulness and resolve, especially compared to how he came across during last week’s debate, was as reassuring to several attendees, who discussed the call afterward via text message, as what he said.

Vice President Kamala Harris, whose profile has risen in recent days as Democrats focus on her with new seriousness as a possible replacement atop the ticket, was seated beside Biden on the video call.

“We will not back down,” Harris said. “We will follow our president’s lead. We will fight, and we will win.”

The president thanked everyone working on his campaign and reminded them of what’s at stake. “There is no one I’d rather be in this battle with than all of you,” Biden said. “So let’s link arms. Let’s get this done. You, me, the vice president. Together.”

The Biden campaign has been trying to reassure staffers, donors and allies in recent days that the president’s campaign is not doomed after his disastrous debate performance. The president joined that Wednesday call amid reports of plummeting staff morale in the White House as well as his Wilmington campaign headquarters. He phoned top Democrats in Congress earlier Wednesday, and he was also scheduled to meet in the evening with Democratic governors — some of whom have traveled from across the country to attend the gathering in person rather than virtually.

Although most Democrats are still standing behind him, there have been some cracks in Biden’s support. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) called on Biden to drop out of the race on Tuesday, and Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), a key ally of the president, said in an interview with MSNBC that he would back Harris if Biden steps aside.

On Wednesday afternoon, chief of staff Jeff Zients also held a call with White House staffers and urged them to tune out the “chatter” and “noise,” according to a recording shared with POLITICO. Zients argued that “there have been countless times that the president has been counted out,” but that he has “always seen it through.”

Some staffers had grumbled in recent days about the president’s senior team having not convened such a call earlier. Zients, in addressing the staff, said he’s eager to hear from anyone in the building when they have concerns or feedback.

Minutes after Biden and Zients wrapped their calls, The New York Times and Siena College published their much anticipated post-debate survey, which found that Trump now leads Biden 49 percent to 43 percent among likely voters nationally — a 3-point shift from before the debate.

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