The next steps Biden loyalists want to see: From the Politics Desk

Welcome to the online version of From the Politics Desk, an evening newsletter that brings you the NBC News Politics team’s latest reporting and analysis from the campaign trail, the White House and Capitol Hill.

In today’s edition, White House correspondent Mike Memoli lays out what President Joe Biden’s allies want him to do to recover from last week’s debate. Plus, national political correspondent Steve Kornacki breaks down the polls that have been released since last Thursday’s showdown.

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The next steps Biden loyalists want to see

By Mike Memoli

President Joe Biden’s campaign is in crisis mode — and Democrats are looking for signals that his team grasps the severity of the moment.

Since Thursday’s disastrous debate, Biden is largely keeping any counsel in-house, among his family and a small but loyal cadre of advisers. Even some longtime allies and friends have yet to have direct conversations with the president.

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White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday that Biden planned to speak with Democratic governors and party leaders in Congress this week.

NBC News spoke with several people who consider themselves Biden loyalists about what he can do to restore confidence in his candidacy. Here’s what we heard:

Get back up (and out on the road): Democrats almost unanimously felt his North Carolina rally the day after the debate was an important first step, especially as he invoked one of his favorite family mantras: “When you get knocked down, you get back up.” Now, they want to see more of that.

The president will sit for an interview with ABC News on Friday, part of a trip to Madison, Wisconsin. He then heads to Philadelphia on Sunday. But then he will be anchored in Washington again for days, as he hosts a summit of NATO leaders to mark the alliance’s 75th anniversary.

“I want to see Biden do something, anything, that can credibly serve as rubber sheets for the bedwetting,” one ally said.

Pierce the bubble: Among Biden’s closest advisers, there has often been an acknowledgment that the president is at his best when he is off the cuff and unscripted. Some of his strongest moments at the last two State of the Union addresses, for instance, were when he was sparring with Republican critics in the House chamber rather than reading from a teleprompter.

But when pressed on why he isn’t in those settings more often, they often point fingers at one another, suggesting it’s a different set of advisers shielding him from scrutiny or fearful of putting him in settings where he might make missteps. It’s led allies to raise the question of whether the fear of a gaffe has kept Biden overly protected and insulated, or if that kind of bubble wrap over a longer period of time has made him less adept in those settings than he used to be.

Even when Biden has been on the road, the trips have more often than not been anchored by speeches from a teleprompter in a rally setting. Allies suggest what advisers have long promised to do more: get him face-to-face with voters in retail settings. “This risk is at the podium,” one ally said. “The risk at the Dairy Queen is de minimis.”

Embrace the bench: Weeks after Biden launched his bid for his second term, the campaign unveiled a list of dozens of elected officials that comprised what they call their National Advisory Board. That group has been holding events across the country for months, but allies say the campaign should do more to showcase the deep bench of Democratic talent.

One pointed to Biden’s comment at a campaign rally in 2020, when then-Sen. Kamala Harris endorsed him at a Detroit rally with Sen. Cory Booker and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Biden talked about himself then as a “bridge” to the next generation of Democrats. Biden now could acknowledge his age and limitations as he did in North Carolina last week, but note that many like-minded leaders are helping implement his vision across the country in contrast with a Republican Party dominated by former President Donald Trump.

Return to “home base”: Biden has often invoked the way his late son, Beau, would counsel him in key moments with a simple admonition: “Remember: home base.” It’s meant to anchor him in his core political philosophy rather than getting bogged down in the details, a problem many allies saw during the debate.

“He didn’t need 8 million facts; he needed one clear message,” one ally said.

Another added: “Noun, verb, Dobbs. Noun, verb, bipartisan. Noun, verb, infrastructure.”

What the early post-debate polls tell us about Biden’s standing

By Steve Kornacki

The polls the political world has anxiously awaited to gauge the impact of President Joe Biden’s debate performance are starting to roll in — and they won’t do much to calm Democratic nerves.

A CNN poll conducted entirely after the debate and released this afternoon shows former President Donald Trump with a 6-point advantage over Biden among registered voters, 49% to 43%. There are two ways to look at this result.

On the one hand, it’s unchanged from CNN’s previous poll in late April, which also put Trump ahead by 6 points. Other polls around the same time showed a much tighter race, so Democrats largely dismissed CNN’s as an outlier. Perhaps, as more surveys are released, CNN’s latest numbers will be regarded similarly.

On the other hand, if that April finding was the product of the kind of random sampling error that will periodically generate outlier results, you would expect it not to happen again the next time. That raises the possibility that, while the results are identical, this new CNN poll more accurately captures the state of the race than April’s.

Notably, CNN’s new poll also tested four other Democrats against Trump in this poll, and all of them fared better than Biden. Vice President Kamala Harris did the best, trailing Trump by only 2 points, 47% to 45%.

Meanwhile, a post-debate poll released today from USA Today and Suffolk University finds Trump leading Biden by 3 points among registered voters, 41% to 38%, a net 3-point shift from the tie at 37% in the previous survey. (USA Today and Suffolk offered respondents a host of third-party options, accounting for the relatively low numbers for both Biden and Trump.)

There’s also a new statewide poll from New Hampshire. Conducted by St. Anselm College in the two days following the debate, it puts Trump ahead by 2 points, 44% to 42%, in a state Biden carried by nearly 8 points in 2020.

There hasn’t been much Biden-Trump polling in the Granite State this year, but three previous surveys since January had shown the president leading by between 3 and 6 points. And St. Anselm’s last poll of the race in December showed Biden with a 10-point edge.

A definitive assessment of where the race now stands can’t be made from just these three polls. The picture should clarify more as others come out in the next week or so. And with some notable Democratic voices continuing to question whether Biden should stay in the race, public opinion may still be shifting as we speak.

Still, taken together, this trio of post-debate surveys is anything but reassuring for the Biden campaign and the Democratic Party. That the CNN poll remains unchanged from April isn’t much of a silver lining, with Biden still behind. And the other two polls suggest a weakening of the president’s position.

Given how precarious that position already was, any slippage at all for Biden may be too much.

That’s all from the Politics Desk for now. If you have feedback — likes or dislikes — email us at

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