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Kamala Harris, At L.A. Fundraiser, Addresses Joe Biden’s Debate Performance As Campaign Tries To Assuage Donor Fears


Kamala Harris, At L.A. Fundraiser, Addresses Joe Biden’s Debate Performance As Campaign Tries To Assuage Donor Fears

Joe Biden and his presidential campaign continued to try to assuage fretful donors following the president’s dismal performance at the debate on Thursday.

At a Pride month fundraiser at the home of Rob and Michele Reiner, Vice President Kamala Harris addressed the “elephant in the room,” acknowledging that Biden did not have his “finest” hour but insisting that he still was about to show a contrast with Donald Trump.

Calling Trump a “threat to democracy,” Harris said that the former president admires dictators and would weaponize the Justice Department against his opponents, per a pool report.

She also repeated a line that the Biden campaign has told other supporters to try to calm their nerves, noting the high stakes of the election. “None of that changed because of a day in June,” Harris said.

But the fallout from the debate is still reverberating. On Thursday, the president struggled to finish sentences and spoke in a raspy voice, while he missed opportunities to call out Trump on some of his biggest falsehoods. Earlier on Saturday, The New Yorker editor David Remnick called on Biden to step aside, adding to a chorus of pundits and media columnists as well as The New York Times editorial page.

One fundraiser attending Harris’ event today said that the talk of Biden standing down continues among donors. “Our risk is that this just causes people not to vote,” the fundraiser said.

That said, “after the debate there was 24 hours of panic and everyone is rebounding quickly,” the fundraiser added.


Kamala Harris

The campaign has sent out memos from top officials, including one from a Southern California finance official, who insisted that post-debate,  “voters’ opinions were not changed in any significant way.”

Biden himself was on an East Coast fundraising swing today, and ignored reporters’ questions about whether he would drop out.

At one event, at the East Hampton home of Barry and Lizanne Rosenstein, he addressed The New York Times editorial, published on Friday, that called for him to exit the race.

“I understand the concern about the debate — I get it,” he said, per a pool report. “I didn’t have a great night.”

“Voters had a different reaction,” Biden said. “Since the debate, the polls show a little movement, moved us up actually.”


Idina Menzel

“We converted more undecided voters than Trump did especially on January 6, who’s fighting for the working class, the middle class,” he said. “And by the way, The Times had their editorial and guess what? They also point out he lied 28 times in a matter of 90 minutes. It’s pretty good. The big takeaway were his lies. People remembered how bad things were during his presidency, how much they disliked him.”

There was some talk at the Harris event of it being like a kind of “group therapy” following the debate, but there was also a feeling of “just having to move forward and make sure it’s not Trump,” according to one attendee, who described Harris’ speech as “invigorating.”

The Harris event was tied to Pride and the anniversary of the end of Proposition 8, the California measure that banned same-sex marriage. Among the co-hosts were Chad Griffin, who led the effort to challenge Proposition 8 in the courts, as well two of the plaintiffs in the case, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier. After a 2013 Supreme Court decision ended the same-sex marriage ban, Harris married the couple. Also at the event were the two other plaintiffs in the case, Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo.

Another co-host of the fundraiser was Ted Boutrous, part of the legal team challenging Prop 8. Reiner also helped fund the legal effort and was part of the campaign to overturn the marriage ban, and others co-hosts also were part of the effort, including screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, along with husband Tom Daley, and Adam Umhoefer.

Others at the event included Sen. Laphonza Butler (D-CA) and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), along with producer Danny Rose, screenwriter John August, actress Yeardley Smith and activist Mary Fisher. Idina Menzel performed.

In her 22 minutes of remarks, Harris framed the election as a fight for American principles, and compared it to the effort to overturn Prop 8.

“Because we’ve been in this fight before, I say with full confidence, we will win,” she said. “We will know what we stand for, so we know what to fight for.”

Harris has been a key defender of the president post-debate, as she appeared on CNN and MSNBC in the hours after the event, as donors and supporters were in a bit of shell shock and TV commentators were openly speculating on her role should Biden step aside. In a sometimes testy interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Harris acknowledged that Biden started off slow, before she went into campaign themes. “Neither person on that stage tonight made the argument as coherently as you just did,” Cooper told her.

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