Biden suggests to allies he might limit evening events to get more sleep

President Joe Biden suggested to Democratic governors that he might limit evening events after 8 p.m. so he can get more sleep, according to two sources familiar with the exchange.

Biden met with the governors Wednesday evening as he sought to assuage allies’ concerns after a disastrous debate performance left Democrats anxious about his ability to serve and campaign for re-election.

He also joked that while his health was fine, “it’s just my brain,” a source told NBC News.

“He was clearly making a joke and then said, ‘All kidding aside,’” Biden campaign chair Jen O’Malley Dillon said Thursday.

The remarks, first reported by The New York Times, are part of a stream of leaks about the contents of the meeting, which was not attended by staff members for the governors, the White House or the campaign. He also said he had seen a doctor after the debate, contradicting an earlier White House claim.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Biden surrogate who was on the call and is viewed as a potential future Democratic presidential candidate, said Biden’s 8 p.m. comment was not “literal.”

“It was more of a rhetorical framework of just being fit and rested because he was burning at both ends, you know, that last 10 or so days. And I think that was sort of what he was reflecting, is just a more steady focus on being his energetic self,” Newsom said.

A fourth person with knowledge of the meeting downplayed Biden’s comments about needing more sleep, adding that Biden acknowledged generally that he does need to be better at finding time to rest.

The campaign defended the remarks, saying presidents need a balanced schedule.

“President Bush went to bed at 9, and President Obama made dinner at 6:30. Normal presidents strike a balance, and so does Joe Biden,” campaign spokesman Kevin Munoz said in a statement. “Hardly the same rigor as Donald Trump who spends half of his day ranting on Truth Social about plans that would cause a recession and other half golfing.”

In the week since the debate, Democrats have expressed frustration over both Biden’s debate performance and how he and White House staffers have handled allies’ response to it.

Biden is expected to do damage control in an interview with ABC News on Friday morning that will air in the evening, but some doubt it will be enough.

“One interview is not going to fix this,” Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., said Thursday on MSNBC. “He’s got one thing to do, which is to get up and go out to prove to people that he can do the job, will do the job and has the stamina.”

Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., questioned Biden’s ability to win in November in an interview with a local CBS affiliate and said he was not sure he could support him at this point.

“The campaign has been very, I think, arrogant in its response,” he said, arguing it needed to turn around the numbers in swing states. “If they don’t have a plan, then I think we have to move in a different direction.”

But Peters and Dingell stopped short of calling for Biden to step aside as the nominee. Just two House Democrats have publicly said he should leave the race.

Some allies are maintaining staunch support.

Newsom hit the campaign trail in Michigan on Thursday, touting the governors’ meeting.

“I mean this with absolute conviction,” he said of the meeting. “That was the Joe Biden I remember from two weeks ago. That was the Joe Biden that I remember from two years ago. That’s the Joe Biden that I’m looking forward to re-electing President of the United States.”

CORRECTION (July 4, 2024, 2:13 p.m. ET): Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article misstated Jen O’Malley Dillon’s role on the Biden campaign. She is the Biden campaign chair, not campaign manager.

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