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Inside a despondent White House: Aides gripped by unease as Biden’s political future remains uncertain [CNN]



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As President Joe Biden’s political future hangs in the balance, many inside the White House – still rattled by the president’s disastrous debate performance last month – are now gripped with anxiety and unease about whether Biden will continue his reelection campaign.

The mood since Biden’s dismal showing at CNN’s presidential debate on June 27 has been somber, multiple sources inside and outside the White House tell CNN, as staffers ranging from younger junior aides to more seasoned officials have struggled to make sense of Biden’s halting 90-plus minutes on the debate stage.

Inside the White House, where TV screens are always on and set to four cable news channels – CNN, MSNBC, Fox and CNBC – the devastating headlines casting doubt on Biden’s political future have been unavoidable. The latest blow came Sunday, when more than a handful of House Democratic ranking members told Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries in a call that Biden needs to step aside, according to sources familiar.

In the tumultuous days since the debate, many senior administration officials have had check-ins with their teams and individual direct reports, sources said. These conversations have been intended to offer staff emotional support and encourage aides to keep their heads down and continue the Biden administration’s work.

Group texts among administration officials have been buzzing – rapid-fire exchanges trading the latest gossip and headlines about the president’s future.

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Over the weekend, there was one widely discussed topic of intrigue: the identity of one “senior White House official” who anonymously told The New York Times that they do not believe the president should continue to seek reelection. That person was described as having worked with Biden during his presidency, vice presidency and 2020 campaign.

When asked about that person, one senior White House official gave CNN a brusque response: “They shouldn’t be in the White House. Period.”

This official also insisted they had not heard anything in the building resembling the suggestion that the president should abandon the race.

Multiple sources said that for now, support for the president’s candidacy appears to remain largely intact among the senior ranks at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. – even if it all feels tenuous.

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“They’re just kind of: ‘He’s in.’ They’re not veering off that, because once that cracks, that cracks hard,” one senior Democrat in close contact with both White House and campaign officials said.

Biden’s chief of staff, Jeff Zients, held an all-staff call last week rallying the team to tune out the chatter and press ahead with their work.

Keep your “heads down, get things done, execution, execution, execution. Second, heads up – there’s so much to be proud of, and there’s so much more we will do together under this president’s leadership,” Zients said, according to a source.

Despite those efforts, nerves are running high inside the White House heading into what many Democrats believe could be a consequential week for Biden, as he is expected to learn whether he will confront a full revolt from lawmakers in his own party.

One source said the single best word to capture the mood heading into this week is simply “uneasiness.”

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