Washington – A weekend meeting hosted by Vice President Kamala Harris with battleground state governors included no conversation about removing President Biden from the Democratic Party ticket, but plenty of discussion about how to discreditand campaign more aggressively on issues such as abortion rights and immigration.
The first gathering of its kind, at least for this administration, took place over three hours around the dining room table of the vice president’s residence in northwest Washington, where she served coffee and light snacks, and later, cocktails, according to several people familiar with the meeting. She shared upcoming campaign plans and told governors she considered them critical to victory in their battleground states and the key districts they represent.
It was described by people familiar with the exchange as an intimate listening session, during which governors who have overseen their large states during the COVID-19 pandemic, have won tough re-election fights and could a day face the vice president in future blank election bids. House expressed his concerns to Harris and his close aides.
Biggest concern? “The lack of creativity and agility that comes from the West Wing,” according to a person familiar with the exchange.
The president “needs to be more aggressive,” this person added. “He needs to challenge the GOP more on immigration. And Biden’s language on abortion needs to change.”
There appears to have been no disagreement around the table, according to sources.
These concerns were raised just days after the Republican success.a bipartisan proposal to overhaul southern border security and immigration policy that had been developed over several months with the president’s encouragement, which responded to Republican demands to address the record number of border crossings between United States and Mexico.
And the meeting took place as the president’s language on abortion rights changed slightly. At a private fundraiser last week, he said, “I’m a practicing Catholic. I don’t want abortion on demand, but I thought Roe v. Wade was right.”
It’s a more succinct acknowledgment of his devout Catholic faith, but his Democratic colleagues have demanded that he strongly defend abortion rights. The president spent most of his public life opposed to federal funding for abortion services, but changed course during his 2020 campaign. Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022, he has struggled to convey the urgent concerns of his party members about the future of abortion access, rarely addressing the issue and allowing it to become a major priority for Harris, who has traveled the country recently. months to discuss the issue with individual students.
In a recent interview onMichigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer suggested that “more direct language” from the president on abortion rights “would be helpful.”
Whitmer was among the governors in attendance Saturday. There too: the governors. Tim Walz of Minnesota; JB Pritzker of Illinois; Tony Evers of Wisconsin; Roy Cooper of North Carolina; Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania; and Wes Moore of Maryland, all of whom were invited to bring their chiefs of staff.
Walz is president of the Democratic Governors Association. All except Shapiro and Moore were elected in 2018 and re-elected in 2022 and served with the same chief of staff for their entire terms. Midwestern governors have frequently collaborated regionally during the pandemic amid concerns that the Trump administration may have mismanaged the response and punished Democratic-controlled states.
“This is a group of seasoned governors who came in during COVID, knew how to do the right thing and had the expertise to help and wanted to do it,” a person familiar with the matter told CBS News the meeting.
Another person described it as “a group of governors who know how to win. They know how to be administrators and win. It’s something truly unique.”
Shapiro and Moore won key elections in 2022 and frequently campaigned alongside the president. They are also considered future presidential hopefuls.
The vice president was accompanied by her vice presidential chief of staff, Lorraine Voles; Sheila Nix, his campaign chief of staff; and Louisa Terrell, a former White House official who now serves at the Democratic National Committee as a gubernatorial liaison.
In a sign of how detail-oriented the vice president was with the governors, she told them that Terrell was designated as a liaison to the campaign and that he should be contacted with any questions regarding campaign travel, potential hires campaign staff or ensuring that key supporters get a photo taken with the president or vice president at fundraisers or rallies.
Despite ongoing discussions within the wider party and polls showing a sustained desire to see other candidates run instead, there has been no discussion of removing the president from the party list , according to people familiar with the meeting.
“People around this table understand he’s not going anywhere,” one person said.
But the vice-president once again strongly criticizedin its investigation into Mr. Biden’s alleged mishandling of classified documents. In one of her strongest defenses of the president on Friday, she called the report “clearly politically motivated” and cited her own career as a prosecutor to call it “gratuitous, inaccurate and inappropriate.”
She did it again Saturday and credited Pritzker, who told Illinois reporters Friday: “It was extremely unfair for a Trump appointee, originally at the Justice Department, to offer his own opinions on the mental acuity or age of the Illinois president. UNITED STATES.”
Harris and the governors agreed that was the strategy to take: question Hur’s partisan motivations and focus instead on worrying about Donald Trump’s possible return to the White House.
Harris also laid out her plans for a major election campaign after the March 7 State of the Union address. She said she and the president would travel to highlight “issues that they still want to accomplish and won’t cooperate on.” year,” said a person familiar with the meeting, who declined to elaborate on the issues.
If governors get their way, it will mean focusing particularly on abortion rights and immigration.
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