On Wednesday, U.S. President Joe Biden worked to reassure senior Democrats and his campaign staff following troubling reports suggesting he might be reconsidering

his candidacy after a disastrous debate with Donald Trump last week.

Biden held a closed-door lunch with Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House, amidst growing speculation that she could potentially replace him as the Democratic candidate for the upcoming November election. Following their meeting, they joined a broader Democratic campaign call where Biden reaffirmed his commitment to remain in the race, and Harris reiterated her support. "I'm the nominee of the Democratic Party. No one's pushing me out. I'm not leaving," Biden declared during the call, as reported by BBC News.

This message was echoed in a fundraising email sent out a few hours later by the Biden-Harris campaign. “Let me say this as clearly and simply as I can: I'm running,” Biden stated in the email, emphasizing his resolve to stay in the race until the end.

Speculation about the 81-year-old president's campaign viability surged after his debate with Trump, marked by verbal missteps, a frail voice, and some confusing responses. This performance has stirred concern within Democratic circles about his fitness for office and his ability to secure a win in the upcoming election.

In the days since the debate, pressure on Biden to withdraw has intensified as more polls indicate an expanding lead for his Republican rival. A New York Times poll published on Wednesday revealed Trump holding his largest lead yet at six points. Additionally, a separate poll by CBS News indicated a three-point lead for Trump in critical battleground states, with Trump also leading nationally.

The damaging polling has been compounded by some Democratic donors and lawmakers publicly urging Biden to step aside. Ramesh Kapur, an Indian-American industrialist from Massachusetts who has organized fundraisers for Democrats since 1988, told the BBC, “I think it’s time for him to pass the torch. I know he has the drive, but you can’t fight Mother Nature.”

Two Democrats in Congress also called for a change at the top of the party’s ticket. Representative Raul Grijalva of Arizona told the New York Times it was time for Democrats to “look elsewhere.”

Despite these growing calls, the White House and the Biden campaign have strongly denied reports that he is considering stepping down, insisting that he is committed to defeating Trump again on November 5th. Reports from the New York Times and CNN on Wednesday suggested Biden had told an unnamed ally he was evaluating his future, acknowledging that his re-election bid was at risk and that upcoming appearances, including an ABC News interview and a rally in Wisconsin, were crucial.

A spokesperson rejected these reports as “absolutely false,” shortly before White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre faced a barrage of questions about Biden’s commitment to the race. Jean-Pierre emphasized, “We asked the president [and] the president responded directly… and said ‘no, it is absolutely false’. That’s coming direct from him.”

On a call with White House staff on Wednesday, Chief of Staff Jeff Zients encouraged them to stay focused. "Get things done. Execution. Execution. Execution," he said. "There is so much to be proud of, and there is so much more we can do together under this President’s leadership.”

Later on Wednesday, Biden met with 20 Democratic governors, including California’s Gavin Newsom and Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, both of whom are seen as potential replacements should Biden step aside. Maryland Governor Wes Moore expressed strong support for Biden after the meeting, stating, "The president has always had our backs, we’re going to have his back as well." New York Governor Kathy Hochul also affirmed that the governors pledged their support, with Biden vowing he was "in it to win it."

Despite speculation, Vice President Harris remains the most likely replacement if Biden were to step down. Her support has grown among Democrats since the debate, even though she has been hampered by poor approval ratings. In an immediate post-debate interview on CNN, Harris projected calm and expressed full support for Biden. A source close to Harris told BBC News that she would continue to campaign actively. Jamal Simmons, Harris' former communications director, said, "She has always been mindful to be a good partner to the president. The people who ultimately will make the decision about who the nominee should be mostly are people who are pledged to him. Her best role is to be a partner to him."

Members of the Democratic National Committee, who will officially nominate the Democratic candidate at the August convention, are largely expected to support Biden if he remains in the race. An anonymous DNC member told the BBC that if Biden were to step down, Harris should be the nominee to avoid chaos that could hurt the party in November.

A report by the Washington Post indicated that Biden and his team are aware he must prove his fitness for office in the coming days. Biden appeared at a Medal of Honor ceremony on Wednesday and has planned trips to Wisconsin and Philadelphia later in the week. Photo by Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America, Wikimedia commons.