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Congressional Democrats admit Biden stumbled in the debate but stand by him for 2024

A debate performance by President Joe Biden that set off a five-alarm fire within his party Thursday gave way to a more measured public reaction the next morning from congressional Democrats, who acknowledged he did poorly but didn't agree with those who called on him to drop out of the presidential race.

“It was a terrible debate. Joe Biden couldn’t communicate and Donald Trump lied every time he opened his mouth,” said Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., who represents a competitive district.

But when asked if Biden should step aside from the 2024 race, Craig said she’s focused on her district.

Privately, many Democrats — including some lawmakers — said that they are worried. But publicly, they're putting on a brave face and downplaying the impact of a single debate.

“I thought he had a poor performance,” said Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the former House majority whip and an influential figure within the party who is credited with being a crucial part of Biden's victory in the 2020 Democratic primary.

But, he said, it’s a long road to the November election and “one debate does not a campaign make.”

“On substance, there is absolutely nothing he needs to do but keep doing what he’s doing,” Clyburn said. “On style, Joe Biden’s not a show horse. Joe Biden’s a workhorse.”

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said: “He got off to a bad start. I thought he came through OK on the issues later.”

The Biden campaign worked to calm Democrats' nerves after the debate. A congressional aide said they distributed talking points to lawmakers and allies that largely featured interviews by surrogates — primarily Vice President Kamala Harris, as well as California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro — all of whom have

Read more on nbcnews.com