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Biden’s Team Sent Hill Democrats Post-Debate Talking Points. They Don’t Address Him Dropping Out.

NOTUS got a look at an internal memo sent to some prominent Democratic elected officials. The overarching message: Move on.

Joe Biden Debate AP-24180088615393
The talking points NOTUS obtained did not address how to respond to questions about Biden dropping out. Gerald Herbert/AP

The most difficult job in politics on Friday was trying to put Biden’s debate performance in the past. The president’s campaign is trying, though.

NOTUS got a look at internal Biden talking points sent to some prominent Democratic elected officials on the Hill Friday in the aftermath of the debate after agreeing not to quote from them directly or reprint them. The e-mailed memo reflected public statements made by campaign officials and surrogates in the hours since the debate ended: Biden got off to a “slow start” and was fighting a slight illness (Biden told reporters Thursday night he had “a sore throat”). Former President Donald Trump’s rhetoric didn’t veer from his more divisive positions, the talking points note — though they ignore that the vast majority of pundits thought Trump won the night handily.

There was a notable omission: The talking points NOTUS obtained did not address how to respond to questions about Biden dropping out.

The central message of the talking points was for Democrats to, above all, move on. It said to reject debate panic and instructed lawmakers to focus on Biden’s upcoming campaign stops and strong grassroots fundraising, which totaled $14 million “on debate day and the morning after,” per a campaign press release.

Democrats have done little to stop a growing tide of pundits and political operatives now ready to at least entertain the idea of replacing Biden on the ticket, even as they dutifully repeated messages like “it’s the difference between a bad initial debate and a very bad presidency, which is what Donald Trump can claim,” as Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed told a reporter Friday.

When Reed was asked if Biden should leave the ticket, he did not offer a flat no. “It’s his decision what he wants to do moving forward,” the senator said, an unusual answer for a sitting Democratic senator referring to a Democratic presidential nominee.

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Other Democrats have had to swallow hard and find any possible way to explain away a bad debate performance. Al Gore spun President Barack Obama’s face-plant in his first 2012 debate with Mitt Romney as partially due to Obama not being acclimated to host city Denver’s high altitude. Whether that one worked or not, Democrats eventually moved on from the panic of the first debate, and Obama went on to win the election.

This time is different. Multiple Democrats with crisis communications experience expressed compassion for Biden’s staff. They said Biden’s team is doing its best but still hasn’t found a way to put the debate in the back of voters’ minds.

One, asked if they could imagine crafting more effective spin for Biden after the debate, summarized the sentiments of the others. “Dude, I really can’t,” they texted.

Evan McMorris-Santoro is a reporter at NOTUS.