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Biden is still weighing whether to stay in the race, Hawaii governor says

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden met Hawaii Gov. Josh Green in August 2023 after devastating wildfires struck Maui. Green was one of the Democratic governors who sat down with Biden on Friday to talk about the presidential campaign.
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AP
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden met Hawaii Gov. Josh Green in August 2023 after devastating wildfires struck Maui. Green was one of the Democratic governors who sat down with Biden on Friday to talk about the presidential campaign.

Hawaii's Democratic Gov. Josh Green says President Biden has yet to make a final decision about whether he will continue his bid for a second term.

"If the president doesn't think he can beat Donald Trump, he will hand it off to Kamala [Harris]," Green said during an interview on Thursday with NPR.

"The president has to make this decision with his life-long colleagues from the Senate and his wife. Jill Biden is a superstar. They'll make the right decision," Green added.

Green, a close Biden ally, said he still fully backs the president should he choose to continue his campaign. He said he thinks it's likely that Biden will stay in the race.

He spoke after a closed-door session with the president, which took place on Wednesday in the wake of Biden's disastrous debate performance.

Green was among 25 Democratic governors who met with Biden. Eleven were present in the room, while others, including Green, joined via video link.

The meeting came amid growing questions, in the media, from voters and voiced by some Democratic lawmakers about the future of Biden's candidacy.

Green acknowledged feeling alarmed after watching the debate, but said he was reassured by Biden during their meeting.

Noting that he is also a family physician, Green said, "I asked him the question, among our governor colleagues, 'Mr. President, are you OK? What happened on Thursday, the debate, was terrible and you weren't yourself.' "

Green said Biden responded by saying he had been "exhausted" and "under the weather" during his exchange with Trump.

In the June 27 debate, Biden struggled to speak clearly, appeared to lose his train of thought, and seemed unable to counter Trump's arguments, which fact-checkers later concluded were laced with false claims.

Biden: "It's just my brain"

Biden, 81, and his opponent, former President Trump, 78, are "elderly," Green said: "Biden and Trump are going to have moments when they're not totally clear. It's who they put around themselves, how they respond when they need to."

Green confirmed that during the meeting with governors, when asked about his health, Biden said that he was in good shape but then quipped, "It's just my brain."

Biden's campaign chair Jen O'Malley Dillon said in a statement: “He was clearly making a joke and then said, ‘All kidding aside.' "

Green also read the remark as Biden's effort at humor.

"It is difficult for a person to actually put together humor like that if they're not cognitively sound," Gov. Green said. "He was absolutely making a joke and I know America may not be in a joking mood right now."

Green said he hoped the media would also focus on Trump's mental acuity and character.

"If we're going to judge one gentleman ... we should judge the other," he said.

Biden is "in it to win it"

In public appearances and interviews in the days after the debate, Biden has acknowledged performing poorly on the stage, while saying he will remain in the race.

"I'm not leaving," Biden said on Wednesday in a fundraising email sent to supporters.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul listens as governors speak to reporters after meeting with President Joe Biden, Wednesday, July 3, 2024, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Jacquelyn Martin/AP / AP
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AP
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul listens as governors speak to reporters after meeting with President Joe Biden, Wednesday, July 3, 2024, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Three other Democratic governors spoke about their meeting with Biden on Wednesday during a press conference outside the White House.

All three Democrats signaled support for Biden.

"President Joe Biden is in it to win it," said New York Gov. Kathy Hochul. "All of us said we pledged our support to him because the stakes could not be higher."

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz acknowledged Biden turned in "a bad performance" in the debate, but added "it doesn’t impact what I believe: He’s delivered."

Walz said he believed Biden was “fit for office.”

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore called the conversation with Biden "candid" and "honest."

"We were honest about the feedback we were getting. We were honest about the concerns we were hearing from people," he said.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Brian Mann is NPR's first national addiction correspondent. He also covers breaking news in the U.S. and around the world.
Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.