Biden insiders think there’s ‘no question’ Kamala Harris will move to top of ticket

Campaign staffers are preparing to shift their focus to elevating, then electing, Vice President Kamala Harris, sources have told The Independent, even as Joe Biden vehemently denies any intention to stand aside from the 2024 election race.

A steady stream of Democrats have begun calling for Biden to withdraw his candidacy after he spent the 90-minute face-off against former President Donald Trump delivering a number of rambling, nonsensical answers and appearing to lose his train of thought on multiple occasions, leaving supporters aghast at his condition.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre spent much of Wednesday’s press briefing telling reporters that it is Biden’s intention to stay in, and he reportedly told campaign staff on a conference call earlier in the day that he intends to remain on the ballot in this year’s election. A Biden campaign spokesperson, Seth Schuster, told The Independent that Biden is “absolutely not dropping out.”

Schuster also disputed reporting that the president was even considering doing so, calling it “categorically false.”

Biden spoke in his own defense on a call with campaign staff on Wednesday. According to a source familiar with the call, the president said: “I’m in this race to the end and we’re going to win because when Democrats unite, we will always win. Just as we beat Donald Trump in 2020, w’re going to beat him again in 2024.”

Harris, who was also on the call, echoed his comments, telling campaign aides: “We will not back down. We will follow our president’s lead. We will fight, and we will win.”

The president’s defiant stance came after Biden and his allies have spent the last week putting forth numerous shifting explanations for his poor performance, at first blaming a cold and then jet lag. Some insiders think it’s inevitable for the president to drop out of the race in favor of his running-mate.

One Democratic strategist who worked on Biden’s 2020 campaign and still speaks regularly to senior campaign officials told The Independent on Wednesday that there’s “no question” that Harris would soon be passed the torch and described it as not so much a matter of whether Biden will make the unprecedented decision, but when.

The strategist said campaign officials have been counseling prominent Democrats to refrain from explicitly calling for Biden to withdraw his candidacy in favor of letting him make the decision on his own.

“He doesn’t want to be pushed out. He wants to make the choice,” he said.

The Independent understands that Biden’s campaign staff and White House officials are set to participate in all-hands calls throughout Wednesday, during which leaders will attempt to reassure them that all is well and lay out the way forward.

But a second source close to the campaign says this weekend will likely see Biden make the decision on whether to withdraw and elevate Harris.

“Tomorrow [Thursday] is when Biden is going to sit down with the family. Like, that’s going to be the really big decision … it’s not even really a decision because I think we all know where it’s going,” they said.

The source added that right now, it’s “just about how it happens” and “how smoothly it happens.”

Biden has spent the last week hunkered down with top advisers in hopes that he could weather the firestorm that erupted within minutes of the primetime debate.

After initially acknowledging that he’d had “a bad night” and telling supporters the next day that he realizes that he does not debate as well as he once did, Biden debuted a new explanation for his troubles at a private fundraiser late Tuesday, telling donors he was fatigued from a taxing travel schedule.

“I decided to travel around the world a couple times, going through I don’t know how many time zones … in the couple of weeks before the debate,” he said. “And I didn’t listen to my staff. And I came back and I nearly fell asleep onstage.”

Biden has agreed to an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopolous to be taped on Friday for the network’s Sunday public affairs program, This Week. It is understood that clips from the longer show will be aired Friday night on David Muir’s World News Tonight.

The president has also committed to a press conference at next week’s NATO summit, which he is hosting in Washington.

But behind the scenes, he has privately told allies that his efforts at damage control may be all for naught. According to CNN, he told one confidante: “It’s not working,” and left the impression that he would stand down if polling does not improve and fundraising takes a toll following the ABC interview.