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Amid furor over reelection bid, Biden turns to his longtime backers: Democratic mayors

Joe Biden, wearing a navy blue suit, holding a microphone and addressing a crowd
President Biden speaks to supporters in Pennsylvania on Sunday.
(Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)
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Amid growing hand-wringing in Washington over his re-election bid, President Biden has turned to some of his most stalwart backers: Democratic mayors.

Biden joined a video call on Tuesday night hosted by the Democratic Mayors Assn., his campaign’s latest attempt to soothe key Democratic officials worried by the 81-year-old president’s stumbling debate performance last month. Biden spoke to nearly 200 mayors during the webinar, laying out his policy goals for a second term and drawing a contrast with former President Trump’s promises for his second term.

Mayors on the call said that Biden spoke for about 20 minutes. He acknowledged that his debate performance had been lackluster before he moved on to discussing policy issues, including abortion rights, housing, gun violence and infrastructure. Biden took questions from the mayors of Kansas City, Mo.; Madison, Wis.; and San Antonio, Texas, in a conversation moderated by Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego.

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Biden seemed confident and optimistic, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said, “in stark contrast to what we saw two weeks ago.” A California delegate at the Democratic National Convention, Gloria said he has “no doubts whatsoever” about casting his vote for Biden.

“This president showed up and helped cities, and that’s really in contrast to the other option,” Gloria said. “The questions were: ‘How can we help?’ It wasn’t really, ‘Hey, take a cognitive test,’ and it wasn’t, ‘Hey, we’ll see how you do after a couple more press conferences.’”

Other California mayors on the call included Karen Bass of Los Angeles, London Breed of San Francisco and Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento, their offices confirmed. Bass, in a prepared statement, said: “I’m supporting our nominee, President Biden.”

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“Like everybody, I watched the debate and was concerned,” Steinberg said in an interview Wednesday. “Last night, he certainly provided a lot of reassurance that he was on top of it.”

Steinberg said that he didn’t see the debate among Democrats over Biden’s fitness as a sign of weakness in the party, but an expression of how desperately the party wants to beat Trump in November. He said Democrats now have to choose between making Biden’s fitness for office a theme of the next few months, or focus on winning.

“He needs to continue to show the kind of energy that I saw last night,” Steinberg said. “You’re in a fight — fight. Show us you’re in the fight, in ways that uplift and inspire.”

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The Democratic Mayors Assn. endorsed Biden’s reelection bid after the meeting.

“As mayors, we have seen firsthand what it is like to lead a city under a Trump presidency,” the group said. “We can’t endure another four years of chaos and fear while he dismantles our fundamental freedoms and rights, threatens our diverse populations and disparages places we call our hometowns. Our cities deserve better.”

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