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US President Joe Biden with Bishop Ernest Morris, Sr. during a church service and campaign event at Mount Airy Church of God in Christ in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 7, 2024. Biden is back out on the campaign trail Sunday, desperate to salvage his re-election bid as senior Democrats meet to discuss growing calls that he quit the White House race. Image Credit: AFP

Washington: President Joe Biden faces a fresh round of hazards from members of his own party as he seeks to salvage his embattled reelection bid and fend off calls from Democratic lawmakers to step aside.

Biden, 81, remains defiant that he will continue his White House run against Donald Trump, despite a firestorm of concerns over his age and mental acuity sparked by his debate performance more than a week ago.

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But frank discussions scheduled among elected Democrats, including a meeting of House Representatives on Sunday afternoon, may pose new risks to the president’s political future.

“This week is going to be absolutely critical,” Senator Chris Murphy said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union. “The president needs to do more.”

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Biden during a church service and campaign event at Mount Airy Church of God in Christ in Philadelphia. Image Credit: AFP

Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, said Biden needs more “impromptu” and “unscripted” interactions with voters to convince them that he is up for four more years in the White House.

“If he can’t do that, then you know, of course, he’s going to have to make a decision about what’s best for the country and what’s best for the party,” Murphy said.

House and Senate lawmakers return to the Capitol Monday, the first time they’ll be together in person since the June 27 debate.

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That could trigger a new wave of calls from lawmakers urging Biden to step aside or reevaluate his candidacy. Five House Democrats have already called on Biden to end his campaign.

Biden, who said in an ABC News interview on Friday he would only step down if the “Lord Almighty” compelled him to, is stepping up campaign activities. The president travels to Pennsylvania on Sunday with stops at a Black church in Philadelphia, to meet with a key bloc of voters who helped revive his 2020 presidential bid, before attending a community event in Harrisburg.

The president won’t give a speech at a National Education Association meeting, as originally planned, after the union’s staff announced a strike and staunchly pro-labor Biden said he wouldn’t cross the picket line.

Congress confers

Concurrent with Biden’s campaign events, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries has scheduled a rare virtual on Sunday meeting for Democrats before lawmakers return to Washington on Monday.

Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, is also planning to hold talks this coming week to discuss whether to call on Biden to drop out.

Pressure is mounting on Biden and his team, and any sign of the president’s age interfering with his ability to do the job could be costly.

Biden on Saturday spoke with key campaign advisers, including Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Delaware Senator Chris Coons, Representative Jim Clyburn of South Carolina and Jeffrey Katzenberg, a liaison between the campaign and major donors, about the path forward.

Biden’s team faced criticism on Saturday when radio host Andrea Lawful-Sanders revealed to CNN that she was sent a list of questions to ask the president before she conducted a brief interview with him on Wednesday.

That came in the wake of fellow Democrats encouraging the campaign to put Biden in unscripted appearances, to build confidence in his mental sharpness.

The campaign going forward won’t offer suggested questions, a person familiar with the Biden booking operation said, asking not to be identified to discuss an internal decision.

The person added that interviewers have always been free to ask their desired questions.

Paul Tagliabue, a former National Football League Commissioner and Democratic donor who has joined Leadership Now Project’s call on Biden to step aside, said the president could assuage some fears if he would voluntarily release more health information.

“I think about professional athletes, before they’re signed to a four-year contract, they have thorough examinations,” Tagliabue, 83, said in an interview. “They know how critical and revealing that information can be.”

New polling

Several Biden campaign aides shared the latest Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll of swing-state voters on social media, which showed the president with his best showing against Trump since the survey was first conducted in October, but still trailing Trump by two percentage points.

The swing-state poll shows Biden trailing the most in Pennsylvania, where he was born, by seven points.

The president’s aides have attacked the press coverage of the debate fallout in recent days. “Beltway media: do what we say! Battleground state voters: nope,” wrote White House communications director Ben LaBolt on social media platform X, citing the latest survey.

The swing state poll results differ from national polls from CNN, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times/Siena College that showed Biden falling further behind Trump in the days since the debate, fuelling concern that the performance hurt him with persuadable and undecided voters.

Biden will face another tough audience this coming week when he will host Nato leaders starting on Tuesday at a summit in Washington. Foreign leaders and diplomats have been among some of the most vocal in expressing concern over his age and health. That event will also bring the scrutiny of a high-pressure press conference, putting Biden yet again in the spotlight.