White House doing damage control as Biden set to meet with governors

White House doing damage control as Biden set to meet with governors
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(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden will begin his post-debate outreach in earnest Wednesday when he meets with Democratic lawmakers amid the party’s mounting concerns about the 2024 election and Biden’s ability to carry out his campaign.

The huddle comes nearly a week after Biden’s shaky showdown with Donald Trump, during which Biden’s hoarse voice and meandering answers left Democrats in a panic about their presumptive nominee.

Some allies have wondered why Biden didn’t immediately move with more force to publicly quell worries not only with fellow Democrats but with voters.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, who is attending Wednesday’s White House meeting with Democrats and is viewed as a possible replacement if Biden should step aside, told CNN the president “needs to communicate more” if he plans to rectify his poor debate performance.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre faced that question and many more in her first press briefing at the podium on Tuesday since the CNN debate. There, she acknowledged Biden had a “bad night” but that their focus now was on turning the page with several campaign events and a television interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on Friday.

She will certainly face more hard questions about new reports and comments from Democrats at Wednesday’s briefing.

The day after the debate, a more fiery Biden spoke at a rally in North Carolina and he held campaign fundraisers in New York and New Jersey.

After that, he spent the rest of the weekend in Delaware behind closed doors with family and advisers. Since returning to Washington on Monday, Biden’s delivered brief remarks on the Supreme Court’s immunity ruling and about extreme heat but often spoke with teleprompters and took no questions from the press.

In the meantime, pressure grew within the Democratic Party on Biden, reaching an apex on Tuesday when Texas Rep. Lloyd Doggett became the first member of Congress to call on the president to withdraw from the race.

In the past 24 hours, in damage control mode, Biden’s spoken to House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democratic Rep. James Clyburn and Sen. Chris Coons, ABC New has learned.

A top Biden aide told ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Selina Wang the president’s message to those congressional leaders is that he still has a path to victory, that the race hasn’t changed much, and that his campaign still has the money and organization.

In addition to Biden’s outreach, chief of staff Jeff Zients held an all-staff call on Wednesday on the “importance of us all to keep doing the work and executing on the mission together as a team,” according to a White House official.

Sources on the call described it to ABC News as a “straightforward pep talk” with a message that the focus should be on “execution of the president’s vision and continuing the work serving the country.”

The sources reported Zients said there is going to be a lot of chatter in the coming days, but advised staff to “tune it out” and focus on supporting one another and the meaningful work they have to do. They said Zients was the only person to speak and took no questions.

The Biden campaign is also seeking to tamp down internal party concerns about the president’s standing in the race after his debate performance.

A campaign memo sent to congressional allies obtained by ABC News cited internal campaign polling before and after Biden’s debate with Trump showing a tight race between the two candidates, within the margin of error.

“This tracks with the vast majority of public polls since the debate: The President maintained his support among his 2020 voters and voters’ opinions were not changed,” the campaign wrote.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris also called into an all-staff campaign meeting on Wednesday to give a pep talk, according to multiple source familiar with the discussion.

All this before Biden meets with lawmakers at the White House. Among those who will be in attendance are Pritzker, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

ABC News’ Oren Oppenheim, Rachel Scott, Katherine Faulders, Molly Nagle, Allison Pecorin and Brittany Shepherd contributed to this report.

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