Biden faces donor pressure as he digs in on re-election bid

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President Joe Biden is facing pressure from some major Democratic donors as he faces a critical few days in his campaign for re-election.

A number of donors are publicly warning they will withhold funds unless Mr Biden is replaced as the party’s candidate following his disastrous debate performance last week.

They include Abigail Disney, an heiress to the Disney family fortune, Hollywood producer Damon Lindelof, Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel, and philanthropist and entrepreneur Gideon Stein.

Mr Biden is seeking to shore up his candidacy this weekend, including with a rare primetime TV interview on Friday and a rally in Wisconsin.

Pressure on Mr Biden, 81, to step aside has grown following a debate marked by several instances where he lost his train of thought and was incomprehensible.

While he admitted that he “screwed up” that night, he has vowed to stay on as his party’s standard-bearer taking on Donald Trump in the November presidential election.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he said on Thursday at a White House gathering marking 4 July Independence Day in the US.

Ms Disney told the US business news channel CNBC that she did not believe that Mr Biden could win against Trump in November.

She said her intent to pull support was rooted in “realism, not disrespect”.

“Biden is a good man and has served his country admirably, but the stakes are far too high,” Ms Disney, who has supported a number of Democrats and Democratic causes over the years, said.

“If Biden does not step down the Democrats will lose. Of that I am absolutely certain. The consequences for the loss will be genuinely dire.”

With her warning, she joined a handful of other wealthy donors.

Mr Stein told the New York Times that his family was withholding $3.5m (£2.8m) to non-profit and political organisations active in the presidential race unless Mr Biden steps aside.

Mr Lindelof, who has donated more than $100,000 to Democrats this election cycle, wrote a public essay urging other donors to withhold their funds in what he dubbed an “DEMbargo”.

“When they text you asking for cash, text back that you’re not giving them a penny and you won’t change your mind until there’s change at the top of the ticket,” Mr Lindelof wrote in Deadline.

Mr Emanuel told a conference in Colorado that withholding funding was the key to ensuring Mr Biden’s exit from the race, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.

“The lifeblood to a campaign is money, and maybe the only way . . . is if the money starts drying up,” he said, according to the newspaper.

“You’ll see in the next couple weeks, if the money comes in . . . I talked to a bunch of big donors, and they’re moving all their money to Congress and the Senate.”

Some other major donors have not threatened to cut funding but are putting public pressure on the president to withdraw.

Reed Hastings, co-founder of Netflix and one of the biggest donors to the Democratic Party, told US media that Mr Biden “needs to step aside to allow a vigorous Democratic leader to beat Trump and keep us safe and prosperous”.

Others have expressed concerns about the possibility of a damaging and chaotic race to replace Mr Biden if he does leave.

A mega-donor the BBC spoke to this week, who declined to be named, said he planned to go ahead with a fundraiser for the president scheduled for later this month at his Virginia home.

“We all want to keep Donald Trump out of the White House, and probably that will keep us together,” he said.

The Biden campaign has said it raised $38m from debate day through the weekend – and a total of $127m in June alone.

The Biden team and the president have conceded he had a difficult debate but have said he is ready to show the public he has the stamina for the campaign.

On Friday, he is scheduled to sit down with ABC – the first television interview after the debate – to help quell concerns about his age and mental faculties.

He will also travel to Madison, Wisconsin to campaign with Governor Tony Evers.

But the president is facing a series of negative polls which suggest his Republican rival’s lead has widened in the wake of the Atlanta debate.

A New York Times poll published on Wednesday suggested Trump was now holding his biggest lead yet at six points.

And a separate poll published by the BBC’s US partner CBS News suggested Trump had a three-point lead over Mr Biden in the crucial battleground states.

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