After poor debate, Biden campaign believes there's still "no indication" anyone but Biden can beat Trump

After poor debate, Biden campaign believes there’s still “no indication” anyone but Biden can beat Trump

President Biden’s campaign has concluded that there’s “no indication” anyone but Mr. Biden can beat Donald Trump, indirectly admitting that it has conducted polling that puts Vice President Kamala Harris atop the ticket amid concerns about Mr. Biden’s fitness to run that arose after his poor debate performance.

According to a memo obtained by CBS News, the campaign does not see Harris winning as the presidential candidate, a finding that flies in the face of public polling suggesting she would fare slightly better than Mr. Biden. 

The campaign acknowledged that he’s slipped in polls against Trump but does not believe it’s lethal to his chances this November. It is counting on winning the Blue Wall states, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and sees them as the “clearest pathway” to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the election, though the campaign also thinks the Sunbelt States are not unwinnable. 

CBS News’ battleground state polling, which is regularly updated, does not show the president leading in any of those states right now. As of Thursday, the polling estimates Mr. Biden and Trump are tied in Michigan and Nevada at 50%. The president trails Trump by 2 points in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia and Arizona — all within the margin of error.

By late July 2020, CBS News polling found Mr. Biden leading Trump by 6 points in Michigan. In early August, he was also leading in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by 6 points.

There are seven battleground states at this point in the campaign, giving Mr. Biden a series of routes to 270 electoral votes. He won six of those states in 2020 — Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — on his way to winning 306 electoral votes across the country.

Each 2024 route comes with clear hurdles for him. In a situation where Mr. Biden wins every state that he won in 2020 and takes 3 of Maine’s 4 electoral votes, but loses Arizona, Nevada and Georgia, simply winning Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin would not deliver him another term. In this hypothetical, Trump also holds on to all the states that he won in 2020 and four of Nebraska’s five electoral votes, as he did four years ago.

That scenario would put Mr. Biden at 269 electoral votes — one shy of staying in the White House for another four years. To get to 270, he would have to win a congressional district in Nebraska that includes the city of Omaha. The state awards some of its electoral votes by congressional district, and winning Nebraska’s Omaha-based district that Mr. Biden captured in 2020 but Trump held in 2016, would give Mr. Biden a second term.

In their memo, campaign aides implored Democrats to stop the public infighting and instead refocus on defeating Trump, noting that the Republican National Convention next week “will be a key moment.”

The surest way to help Donald Trump is to spend his convention talking about our nominating process instead of the MAGA extremism that will be on stage in Milwaukee,” the memo said. 

“No one is denying that the debate was a setback,” it concludes. But Joe Biden and this campaign have made it through setbacks before.

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