Biden Faces New Calls From Democrats to Step Aside After Interview (2024)

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Neil Vigdor

With his candidacy on the line, Biden will visit Pennsylvania.

President Biden will campaign in Pennsylvania on Sunday, his second trip to a battleground state in recent days as part of a crucible for his candidacy that featured his first television interview since his rocky debate performance a week ago.

Mr. Biden’s cleanup effort comes as a growing number of Democrats have called for him to step aside, the latest coming on Saturday from Representative Angie Craig, a House member from a swing district in Minnesota. A number of donors have also vowed to withhold money from his campaign until Mr. Biden passes the torch.

Mr. Biden struck a defiant tone about his path forward during an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News that aired Friday night, which was recorded while he traveled to Wisconsin for a rally.

He insisted that his showing in the June 27 debate against former President Donald J. Trump was an aberration, the result of a grueling travel schedule in the period leading up to it and his having a cold.

The president tried to make a similar case about his viability as a candidate during his event in Madison, Wis., where he argued that people were trying to “push” him out of the race.

“I’m not letting one 90-minute debate wipe out three-and-a-half years of work,” Mr. Biden argued.

Here is the latest in the campaign:

  • Mr. Biden will visit Philadelphia and Harrisburg on Sunday for campaign events in Pennsylvania, the state where he was born and one that helped deliver him the presidency in 2020.

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom, the California Democrat who has been the subject of speculation that he could be a replacement for Mr. Biden, campaigned for the president in Bucks County, Pa., on Saturday. Mr. Newsom visited Michigan on Thursday in support of Mr. Biden.

  • Mr. Trump, who has kept a low profile to let Mr. Biden dominate the headlines, is not scheduled to hold any events this week. His next rally is planned for Tuesday at his golf club in Doral, Fla., amid intrigue over when he will name his running mate.

July 6, 2024, 8:33 p.m. ET

July 6, 2024, 8:33 p.m. ET

Jazmine Ulloa

In New Orleans, Harris jabs at Trump and avoids talk of Biden bowing out.

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Vice President Kamala Harris typically spends the Fourth of July weekend with her husband, Doug Emhoff, at their home in Los Angeles, grilling hot dogs for their Secret Service agents. But as concerns over President Biden’s age and mental acuity have continued to simmer in recent days, Ms. Harris has been on the road, relentlessly defending his record in interviews and before crowds of supporters.

On Saturday, in an appearance at the Essence Festival of Culture in New Orleans, neither Ms. Harris nor her interviewer, Caroline A. Wanga, the chief executive of Essence, mentioned Mr. Biden’s teetering campaign for re-election or the high-stakes interview he gave to ABC News on Friday.

Instead, in a roughly 30-minute conversation onstage, Ms. Harris spoke of her biography, jabbed sharply at former President Donald J. Trump and promoted the Biden administration’s achievements on issues like Black maternal health, student debt and housing.

“Understand what we all know,” she said. “In 122 days, we each have the power to decide what kind of country we want.”

She warned of Mr. Trump’s open praise for dictators, his promise of retribution against his political enemies and the new latitudes of immunity that the Supreme Court had granted him.

These are pivotal moments for Ms. Harris. The intense scrutiny that has befallen Mr. Biden as pressure mounts on him to step aside has begun to make its way to his most likely successor. She had made an early and surprise appearance at the Essence festival on Friday night, walking in to Beyoncé’s “Freedom” after being introduced by the comedian Punkie Johnson.

“Let us always celebrate the diversity, the depth and the beauty of our culture,” Ms. Harris had said to resounding cheers.

Leaders with several progressive organizations and women’s advocacy groups said on Friday that they were working to raise Ms. Harris’s profile and highlight her achievements, regardless of whether Mr. Biden chooses to step aside.

The vice president remains largely undefined in the public, according to their polling, though she and the issues in her portfolio — such as reproductive rights and gun violence — are highly popular with the groups that Mr. Biden seeks to shore up, including women, young people and voters of color.

Mr. Trump and his Republican allies have also escalated their criticisms of Ms. Harris. On his social media site, Truth Social, Mr. Trump described her as his “potentially new Democrat Challenger” and called her “Laffin’ Kamala Harris,” an apparent reference to her laugh.

Leaders with UltraViolet, Emily’s List and other women’s groups released a joint statement denouncing Mr. Trump’s attacks on Ms. Harris, saying that he could not stand to see a Black woman who was smarter, tougher and more respected than he was “getting the praise she deserves for her leadership.”

Ms. Harris’s appearance in New Orleans was part of her efforts to energize Black voters, a constituency vital to Democrats’ success in November. Before she was interviewed onstage, Ms. Harris took photos with members of the Congressional Black Caucus at a booth set up by national Democratic groups to register voters and raise awareness of the Biden administration’s accomplishments.

Despite their high praise for Ms. Harris, some attendees said they hoped the party would stick with Mr. Biden as its presidential nominee.

“I think that he still has a heart to lead this country,” Jeanetta Hawkins, 62, a small-business owner in St. Louis, said of Mr. Biden.

Tiffany Altman, 36, brought along a copy of Ms. Harris’s book “The Truths We Hold” in hopes of getting it signed. Watching Mr. Biden during the presidential debate had been “painful,” she said. But she was crushed when Hillary Clinton lost to Mr. Trump in 2016, and she doubted that the United States was ready for a Black woman in the White House.

The sentiment was a common one, though recent studies have shown that female and nonwhite candidates are winning races at rates that equal or exceed those of their white male counterparts.

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July 6, 2024, 6:48 p.m. ET

July 6, 2024, 6:48 p.m. ET

Jazmine Ulloa

In a roughly 30-minute interview at Essence Fest in New Orleans, Vice President Kamala Harris spoke of her biography, jabbed sharply at former President Donald J. Trump and promoted the Biden administration’s achievements on issues like Black maternal health, student debt and housing. President Biden, his teetering campaign for re-election and the high-stakes interview he gave to ABC News on Friday went completely unmentioned.

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July 6, 2024, 6:13 p.m. ET

July 6, 2024, 6:13 p.m. ET

Jazmine Ulloa

There’s wild applause for Vice President Kamala Harris as she walks into Essence Fest to Beyoncé’s “Freedom.” First question of the night: Who is Kamala Harris? “The vice president of the United States of America,” Harris says to cheers. She also calls herself a wife, a good cook and a “fighter for the people.”

July 6, 2024, 5:41 p.m. ET

July 6, 2024, 5:41 p.m. ET

Jazmine Ulloa

About an hour before Harris is set to take the stage in New Orleans, Representative Maxine Waters is drawing resounding applause from the audience at the Essence festival as she denounced former President Donald J. Trump for spurring racial division and the “invasion” on the U.S. Capitol. She also poured cold water on recent criticism of President Biden, saying “Hell, I’m older than he is.” “No matter what anybody says, it ain’t gonna be no other Democratic candidate,” she said to cheers.

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July 6, 2024, 5:22 p.m. ET

July 6, 2024, 5:22 p.m. ET

Jazmine Ulloa

Vice President Kamala Harris has arrived at the Essence festival in New Orleans for her interview with Caroline Wanga, the president and chief executive of Essence magazine. She took photos with members of the Congressional Black Caucus and shook hands with supporters at a booth set up by national Democrats to register voters and raise awareness of the Biden administration’s accomplishments. If these days are critical for President Biden, so too are they for Harris, who has stepped up to defend the president, as well as to quiet her skeptics.

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July 6, 2024, 4:46 p.m. ET

July 6, 2024, 4:46 p.m. ET

Kate Selig

Reporting from Doylestown, Pa.

At a Pennsylvania rally with Newsom, Democrats double down on support for Biden.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom of California continued his show of support for President Biden on Saturday, praising the Biden administration’s track record in front of an enthusiastic crowd of Pennsylvania Democrats who appeared to remain firmly behind the president despite rising calls for him to leave the race.

Mr. Newsom’s optimism and his message of Mr. Biden’s proven success were welcomed by the crowd in Doylestown, Pa. Many in attendance said they were tired of the discussion over whether the president should continue his campaign — even staunch supporters of Mr. Newsom, who is considered a potential replacement for Mr. Biden atop the ticket, largely insisted that Mr. Biden should stay in the race.

One of the president’s most committed campaign surrogates, Mr. Newsom has taken to the road in an attempt to shore up support in swing states after Mr. Biden’s rocky debate performance last week led some party members to question his capacity to be re-elected. Mr. Newsom, who has insisted that he has no interest in replacing Mr. Biden on the ticket, stumped for the president in Michigan on the Fourth of July and in Pittsburgh on Friday.

His message for Democrats has been consistent: The party needs to keep its chin up and rally around the president.

“If Donald Trump succeeds, God help us,” Mr. Newsom said at the rally in Doylestown, a suburb in Bucks County north of Philadelphia. “We will roll back the last half-century. It’s America in reverse.”

Bucks County, viewed as one of Pennsylvania’s most contested battlegrounds, could prove critical in November. Mr. Biden won the county by roughly 4.5 points in 2020, and Gov. Josh Shapiro and Senator John Fetterman, both Democrats, won it in 2022. Mr. Biden flipped Pennsylvania in 2020, though most polls show Mr. Trump with a slight lead there.

“This county is like a mood ring,” said Stuart Krzywonos, 63, who lives Langhorne Manor, Pa. “The way Bucks County goes, so does the nation.”

Mr. Newsom’s supporters were aglow after the rally. Some said they were excited to see Mr. Newsom run for president — just not this year.

“He’s the future of the Democratic Party,” said Denise Glick, 71, of Doylestown, referring to Mr. Newsom. “Hopefully, there will still be a democracy where he can run.”

But Mr. Newsom was not welcomed by all. About 50 Trump supporters gathered outside the rally to protest the California governor, holding signs that read, “Joe, Gavin is running for your job” and “Newsom too left 4 Bucks.”

Still, they were heavily outnumbered by Democratic voters, with about 200 attending the outdoor event, despite temperatures in the 90s.

Those voters reiterated Mr. Biden’s message that he should be judged by his record, not by a 90-minute debate. They also took issue with George Stephanopoulos, who asked the president pointed questions about his health and mental acuity during an ABC News interview that aired on Friday evening. Some attendees said Mr. Stephanopoulos had gone too far in pressing the president on his age instead of on his policies.

“He kept going after him,” said Linda Szwedo, 70, a resident of New Hope, Pa. “Biden answered the question. Move on.”

Supporters also expressed frustration that discussions over Mr. Biden’s candidacy have overshadowed what they see as the real issue: Mr. Trump’s lies and the threat they said he poses to democracy.

“Democrats have to back Biden the way Republicans back Trump,” said Barbara Gignoux, 74, who also lives in New Hope. “They have got to support him unequivocally and with unbridled fervor.”

July 6, 2024, 4:17 p.m. ET

July 6, 2024, 4:17 p.m. ET

Jazmine Ulloa

Representative Sydney Kamlager-Dove of California was subtle in her nods to President Biden’s troubles on a Congressional Black Caucus PAC panel during the Essence festival in New Orleans Saturday afternoon. She likened the Democratic Party to a sports team, saying its wins did not solely depend on the coach. “We also have to remind ourselves that we have a Black woman as vice president of this United States of America, and we need to continue to protect her as she is point and part of the ticket that still sees us when Republicans don’t,” she said.

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Biden Faces New Calls From Democrats to Step Aside After Interview (9)

July 6, 2024, 1:55 p.m. ET

July 6, 2024, 1:55 p.m. ET

Katie Glueck,Nicholas Nehamas and Lisa Lerer

Biden faces more calls to quit the race from within his party.

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Numerous officials, lawmakers and strategists in President Biden’s own party increasingly see his candidacy as unsustainable — and their private anxieties are slowly but steadily spilling into public view, interviews with more than 50 Democrats this week showed.

Growing swaths of Democrats now believe that by remaining on the ticket, the president is jeopardizing their ability to maintain the White House and threatening other candidates up and down the ballot. The moment is setting up an extraordinary clash between a defiant president of the United States who insists he is not abandoning his re-election campaign and members of his party who are beginning to suggest that he should.

“I have less and less confidence in this campaign’s ability to win this race,” Representative Scott Peters, Democrat of California, said in an interview. “If we know we’re going to lose, we would be foolish not to look at another course.”

Representative Angie Craig, Democrat of Minnesota, urged Mr. Biden on Saturday to step aside as the Democratic nominee. “I do not believe that the president can effectively campaign and win against Donald Trump,” she said in a statement.

Lawmakers say they have been deluged with concerns about Mr. Biden’s candidacy from donors and constituents. Among members of the Democratic National Committee, essentially the political arm of the White House, many said that they remained supportive, but even there, fissures are emerging.

And a Democratic member of Congress, a former high-ranking Obama administration official and a senior aide to a prominent Democratic governor all privately used the same word in separate interviews on Friday to describe Mr. Biden’s standing in the campaign: “untenable.”

“It would be good for him to realize that no one is irreplaceable,” said Mark LaChey, the former first vice chair of the Michigan Democratic Party who encouraged Mr. Biden to step out of the race, which is effectively the only way at this point to begin the process of changing the nominee. “A lot of people would be very enthused with someone else running on the Democratic ticket as president. And I think there’s an enthusiasm gap presently, and I think that gap is getting worse.”

Which Democrats Have Called for Biden to Drop Out of the Race?A small but vocal faction of party members are urging the president to withdraw from the race or consider doing so in time for a replacement to be chosen.

Certainly, many leading Democrats have publicly expressed support for the president, or remained quiet about any misgivings. One senior White House official, however, who has worked with Mr. Biden during his presidency, vice presidency and 2020 campaign, said in an interview on Saturday morning that Mr. Biden should not seek re-election.

After watching Mr. Biden in private, in public and while traveling with him, the official said they no longer believed the president had what it took to campaign in a vigorous way and defeat Donald J. Trump. The official, who insisted on anonymity in order to continue serving, said Mr. Biden had steadily showed more signs of his age in recent months, including speaking more slowly, haltingly and quietly, as well as appearing more fatigued in private.

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Andrew Bates, a White House spokesman, pointed to Mr. Biden’s comments from an interview on Friday with ABC News, in which he vowed to stay in the race.

In that interview, Mr. Biden also defended his sharpness and ability to serve.

For years, Democratic officials have largely limited their concerns about Mr. Biden’s age and abilities to quiet conversations, though many voters have loudly expressed their reservations about nominating someone who would be 86 by the end of a second term. But in the days since the first presidential debate in June and what some Democrats have described as the campaign’s weak attempt at damage control, the whispered anxieties are turning into a whirlwind of action, though where it will all lead is an open question.

Many Democrats who believe Mr. Biden should exit the race stress their personal affection and respect for him, describing a sense of genuine sadness.

Still, donors are funding private polling to assess how alternatives to Mr. Biden would fare. Other lawmakers are discussing whether and when to break publicly from the president, with one Democratic strategist close to moderate members of Congress predicting that “the dam is about to break” when lawmakers return to Washington next week.

And at least one recent endorser is expressing open misgivings.

Geoff Duncan, a Republican who is a former lieutenant governor of Georgia, campaigned for Mr. Biden the day before the debate, as part of his opposition to Mr. Trump.

But the “debate was a huge eye-opener for me about the physical and mental well-being of President Biden,” Mr. Duncan said on Friday. “It will take a significant amount of counterevidence to unwind what I saw and heard during that debate. That seems like an unlikely scenario at this point.”

There is also a new effort underway to organize delegates ahead of the convention in August to show that rank-and-file Democrats want a different candidate, said an organizer who insisted on anonymity to discuss a nascent campaign.

It will be conducted through a new group, Pass the Torch, which is also promoting a petition for Democrats more broadly, urging Mr. Biden to step aside. A man standing near the president before he spoke at a rally in Wisconsin on Friday held a sign bearing the slogan “Pass the torch, Joe.”

Mr. Biden said he had no intention of doing that.

During his Wisconsin speech, the president struck a defiant tone, saying that no one could “push” him to drop out. “Let me say this as clear as I can: I’m staying in the race,” he proclaimed.

He echoed those comments in his Friday interview with ABC News, and on Sunday he plans to campaign in Pennsylvania.

“President Biden knows better than anyone that campaigns are all about earning voters’ trust and support,” Kevin Munoz, a spokesman for Mr. Biden, said in a statement. “He’s out on the campaign trail doing that — and in the states with the voters who will decide this election. There are a lot of days between now and Election Day, and the hard work of earning every single vote is far from over.”

Mr. Biden’s family holds great influence in his decision-making, and after the debate, they urged him to stay in the race. The decision is effectively his alone: If he stepped aside, he would almost certainly have to release his own delegates, freeing them up to support another nominee.

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Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, a longtime Biden ally, said that the president joined a call with his campaign co-chairs on Saturday and that what was scheduled for a 15-minute check-in turned into an 75-minute discussion led by the president. Mr. Biden spent the time soliciting feedback from them about his performance during the debate, his rally in Wisconsin and the ABC News interview.

“There is nobody among the co-chairs who is recommending anything other than we keep going,” Mr. Coons said. He said that the group shared messages with Mr. Biden from supporters who wanted him to keep going but also messages from supporters urging him to drop out.

“He was told that we have members of the Senate and the House and governors, and especially donors, who have unanswered questions and were unsettled and who have concerns,” Mr. Coons said.

Mr. Biden told the group that he understood the concerns and wanted to do more interviews and unscripted appearances in the future.

Some of Mr. Biden’s advisers have suggested that the focus on the president’s age and debate performance is only of interest to donors, the news media and pundits. They said the campaign’s small-dollar fund-raising remained strong, and noted that many Democratic elected officials had publicly stressed their support for Mr. Biden and continued to campaign for him.

But polls show that a strong majority of voters believe Mr. Biden is too old to serve another term as president, including one survey conducted after the debate by The New York Times and Siena College.

State Representative Ruwa Romman of Georgia urged Democrats to pay attention.

“It’s really worrying me because I don’t think people are listening,” she said, stopping short of calling on Mr. Biden to step aside. “It’s just worth thinking about and talking about and really exploring and making sure that we did our due diligence so that come November, we can honestly say we did all that we could.”

In interviews with dozens of D.N.C. members, key party activists, many said that Mr. Biden had their full support. In their view, the election remains a choice between Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump, and they have no interest in reassessing their options.

“I am happy to have President Biden at the top of the ticket,” said Virgie M. Rollins, the chair of the D.N.C.’s Black caucus. “I will take President Biden in a wheelchair before I take the convicted felon.”

Jonathan Saidel, a committee member from Philadelphia, said he thought that Mr. Biden’s ABC News interview had gone better than the debate. But even if it had gone poorly, he said, he would have remained committed to Mr. Biden, arguing that the election was more about convincing voters of the dangers of Mr. Trump than the merits of the current president.

“What I tell people is that they don’t have Jesus and Moses on the ticket,” Mr. Saidel said. “No one is perfect.”

Other Democrats expressed wariness about diving into an unpredictable, messy process of finding a new nominee less than four months before Election Day. There is also no unanimity, in these hypothetical scenarios, about whether the party should immediately unite behind Vice President Kamala Harris or pursue an open nominating process if Mr. Biden steps aside, tensions that may move to the fore in the coming weeks.

A few D.N.C. members mentioned a proposal circulated by James Zogby, a longtime committee member, to establish a more open nomination process in that scenario. It was evidence that even within the most supportive party apparatus, some are openly thinking through other contingencies.

“If it ends up that President Biden steps down, I hope and assume any process to replace the top of the ticket will be fully transparent while empowering our grass-roots base,” Jeri D. Shepherd, a committee member from Colorado, said.

David Walters, a former governor of Oklahoma and a D.N.C. member, has been raising concerns since the debate, citing Mr. Biden’s polling.

“There is only one relevant issue,” he wrote in an email to The New York Times on the Fourth of July. “Who is the best candidate to stop Donald Trump.”

He praised Mr. Biden’s record of legislative accomplishments and his foreign policy acumen, and said that if the president stepped down, “he would receive the accolades of the world for his personal sacrifice for the good of his nation.”

“In politics and campaigns, perception is greater than reality,” Mr. Walters said. “He may be operating at 100 percent capacity. But 14 months into this 18-month campaign, the campaign is losing this argument.”

Reid J. Epstein and Katie Rogers contributed reporting.

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July 6, 2024, 1:49 p.m. ET

July 6, 2024, 1:49 p.m. ET

Jazmine Ulloa

At the Essence festival in New Orleans, where Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to deliver remarks on Saturday, some attendees have told me the party should stick with President Biden, though they have high admiration for Harris. “I don’t think it should be Kamala Harris, because, as much as I would love that to be the case, I think this country is too sexist and racist to elect her,” said Kerri Grant, 46, a screenwriter in Los Angeles, summing up a commonly held view.

July 6, 2024, 1:23 p.m. ET

July 6, 2024, 1:23 p.m. ET

Neil Vigdor

President Biden in a fund-raising email on Saturday tried to hammer home the narrative that he has consistently been written off and that he has long defied naysayers. He pointed to his 2020 election win and to his averting of a red wave in 2022. “I understand you can’t turn on the television or get on the internet without seeing some pundit talking about how I need to drop out of the race,” he wrote. “Nonsense.”

Biden Faces New Calls From Democrats to Step Aside After Interview (13)

July 6, 2024, 1:05 p.m. ET

July 6, 2024, 1:05 p.m. ET

Michael Grynbaum

About 8.1 million people watched President Biden’s interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC, according to early Nielsen data. It’s a respectably high number given that it aired on Friday night on a holiday weekend. For comparison, the viewership beat out NBC’s “Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks” special on Thursday, which drew 7.6 million viewers.

July 6, 2024, 1:04 p.m. ET

July 6, 2024, 1:04 p.m. ET

Neil Vigdor

Meghan McCain, John McCain’s daughter and a Never Trumper whom Joe Biden famously consoled during her father’s cancer battle, bristled at those criticizing her for now calling on Biden to step aside. “The hysterical Biden defenders are exactly the same as the hysterical Trump defenders and frankly this cult worship of our presidents is really scary,” she wrote Saturday on X. She added: “These men aren’t kings.”

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July 6, 2024, 1:03 p.m. ET

July 6, 2024, 1:03 p.m. ET

Kate Selig

In a press conference after his Pennsylvania rally on Saturday, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California praised the president’s public appearances on Friday. “The vast majority of the caucus remains solidly behind the president,” he said. “President Biden made that point very effectively yesterday in the interview. I thought his speech in Wisconsin was very, very good.”

July 6, 2024, 11:48 a.m. ET

July 6, 2024, 11:48 a.m. ET

Michael Gold

Donald Trump, in a post on Truth Social, suggested what advisers have been saying for days: that he wants Biden to stay in the race because he thinks it gives him a better shot in November. “Crooked Joe Biden should ignore his many critics and move forward,” he wrote, calling Biden’s campaign one of “American destruction” and saying the president was trying to “make China great again.”

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July 6, 2024, 11:47 a.m. ET

July 6, 2024, 11:47 a.m. ET

Kate Selig

The Democrats I’ve spoken to after the rally were very happy with Mr. Newsom’s performance. But that doesn’t mean they want to see Mr. Biden replaced. “He’s the future of the Democratic Party,” said Denise Glick, 71, of Doylestown. “Hopefully, there will still be a democracy where he can run.” John Doyle, 62, of Princeton, N.J., said the purpose of events like these was to build on the enthusiasm that the Biden-Harris campaign had generated — not to seek a replacement for the president. “At this point, Biden’s our best bet,” Mr. Doyle said.

July 6, 2024, 11:40 a.m. ET

July 6, 2024, 11:40 a.m. ET

Kate Selig

Mr. Newsom’s speech in Pennsylvania was short, under 10 minutes, but he highlighted the current administration’s accomplishments and statistics that some Democrats wish Mr. Biden would bring to the campaign trail. Among other numbers, Mr. Newsom touted the latest jobs report, which showed a gain of more than 200,000 jobs in June, and he highlighted that inflation was slowing.

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July 6, 2024, 11:22 a.m. ET

July 6, 2024, 11:22 a.m. ET

Kate Selig

At his Bucks County rally, Newsom is sticking to his message of trumpeting the Biden administration’s achievements and calling on Democrats to keep their chins up. “It’s about daylight and darkness,” he said of the election. “It’s about liberalism versus illiberalism.”

July 6, 2024, 11:21 a.m. ET

July 6, 2024, 11:21 a.m. ET

Kate Selig

Many of the Democrats at Newsom’s rally who watched the president’s ABC News interview on Friday said George Stephanopoulos had gone too far in pressing the president on his age instead of on his policies. “He kept going after him,” said Linda Szwedo, 70, a resident of New Hope. “Biden answered the question. Move on.”

July 6, 2024, 11:06 a.m. ET

July 6, 2024, 11:06 a.m. ET

Michael D. Shear

Reporting from Washington

Biden aides provided questions in advance for his radio interviews after the debate.

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The questions asked of President Biden by two radio interviewers this week were provided in advance to the hosts by members of Mr. Biden’s team, one of the hosts said Saturday morning on CNN.

Andrea Lawful-Sanders, the host of “The Source” on WURD in Philadelphia, said Biden officials had provided her with a list of eight questions ahead of the interview on Wednesday.

“The questions were sent to me for approval; I approved of them,” she told Victor Blackwell, the host of “First of All” on CNN. Asked if it was the White House that had sent the questions to her in advance, she said it was.

“I got several questions — eight of them,” she said. “And the four that were chosen were the ones that I approved.”

Lauren Hitt, a spokeswoman for the Biden campaign, said it was actually campaign aides, not White House officials, who had sent the list of questions. She said it is “not uncommon” for the campaign to share preferred topics, but added that campaign officials “do not condition interviews on acceptance of these questions” by the interviewer.

“Hosts are always free to ask the questions they think will best inform their listeners,” she said.

Later on Saturday, a person familiar with the campaign’s booking operation, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters, said that policy had changed, and that while interview hosts have always been free to ask whatever questions they please, the campaign would no longer offer suggested questions to hosts.

Ms. Lawful-Sanders said Saturday that she “never once felt pressured to ask certain questions” from the campaign.

“I chose questions that were most important to the Black and brown communities we serve in Philadelphia,” she said. “Those questions proved to be exactly what Black and brown communities desired.”

The campaign had scheduled interviews with the hosts of two radio programs with large Black followings as part of a broader effort to reassure Americans of his mental fitness after the debate last month raised deep concerns among many Democrats about his ability to win in November.

Mr. Biden’s campaign remained defiant on Saturday, insisting that he would stay in the race as Mr. Biden hunkered down at his home in Delaware ahead of two Sunday events in Pennsylvania.

After several defections this week, two more Democratic lawmakers, Representatives Angie Craig of Minnesota and Scott Peters of California, voiced their doubts that Mr. Biden should be the candidate.

But some prominent Democrats appeared ready to stick by the president’s side. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the California Democrat who has been the subject of speculation as a possible replacement for Mr. Biden, campaigned for the president in Bucks County in Pennsylvania on Saturday.

The president made no public appearances on Saturday. But his campaign released an online video that used footage from a rally Mr. Biden held in Wisconsin on Friday.

“So let me ask you, what do you think?” Mr. Biden asks the crowd in the video. “Do you think I’m too old to restore Roe v. Wade as the law of the land? Do you think I’m too old to ban assault weapons again? Do you think I’m too old to beat Donald Trump?”

The enthusiastic crowd shouts: “No!”

In an interview with ABC News on Friday, the president appeared to refer to his exchanges with the Black radio hosts as among the evidence that he could handle the rigors of the campaign, citing what he said were “10 major events in a row” that he had participated in since the debate.

No one in the president’s re-election campaign or at the White House revealed that the questions had been provided to the Black hosts, a practice that is widely rejected as inappropriate by journalists, especially in coverage of a politician. And yet, despite knowing the questions in advance, Mr. Biden still stumbled over some of them.

In the interview with Ms. Lawful-Sanders, Mr. Biden stumbled over his words, at one point saying that he was proud to have been “the first Black woman to serve with a Black president.”

During his appearance on “The Earl Ingram Show,” which broadcasts on WAUK in Waukesha, Wis., Mr. Biden responded to a question about why voting matters with a halting and sometimes confusing answer.

“That’s where we always — we gave Donald Trump executive — a power to, to use a system — and it’s just never contemplated by our founders because of the people he appointed to the court,” he said, appearing to stutter several times, a condition he has struggled with since he was a child. “It’s just presidential immunity. He can say that I did this in my capacity as an executive, it may have been wrong, but I did it. But that’s going to hold — because I — and this is the same guy who says that he wants to enact revenge.”

Mr. Blackwell, interviewing the two radio hosts Saturday morning, appeared surprised by the answer about the preapproved questions.

He had asked Ms. Lawful-Sanders about her four questions because he said he had noticed that they were almost identical to the four that Mr. Ingram had asked in his interview with Mr. Biden the same day.

Mr. Ingram, who was on Mr. Blackwell’s show with Ms. Lawful-Sanders, did not dispute her description of how the questions were selected.

“The reason I ask is not a criticism of either of you,” Mr. Blackwell told the two anchors. “It’s just that if the White House is trying now to prove the vim, vigor, acuity of the president, I don’t know how they do that by sending questions first, before the interviews, so that the president knows what’s coming.”

Aides have said two smaller-scale events in Pennsylvania on Sunday — in Philadelphia and outside Harrisburg — are part of efforts to show the president can demonstrate energy and enthusiasm following his listless and meandering performance at the debate.

A correction was made on

July 6, 2024

:

An earlier version of this article misstated a radio station on which “The Earl Ingram Show” is broadcast. It is syndicated on WAUK in Waukesha, Wis., and other networks, not the defunct Milwaukee station WMCS.

How we handle corrections

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July 6, 2024, 10:59 a.m. ET

July 6, 2024, 10:59 a.m. ET

Kate Selig

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California is campaigning for President Biden in Pennsylvania today, and will speak at a rally in Bucks County. The county, northeast of Philadelphia, is viewed as one of the state’s most contested battlegrounds in the 2024 election, making it a potential bellwether for the state. “This county is like a mood ring,” said Stuart Krzywonos, 63, a resident of Langhorne Manor. “The way Bucks County goes, so does the nation, generally speaking.”

July 6, 2024, 9:51 a.m. ET

July 6, 2024, 9:51 a.m. ET

Katie Glueck

Representative Angie Craig, a Minnesota Democrat, is joining the small but growing ranks of elected officials urging Biden not to seek re-election, becoming the first House member from a more competitive district to do so. "Given what I saw and heard from the president during last week’s debate in Atlanta, coupled with the lack of a forceful response from the president himself following that debate, I do not believe that the president can effectively campaign and win against Donald Trump," she said in a statement Saturday morning.

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July 6, 2024, 9:50 a.m. ET

July 6, 2024, 9:50 a.m. ET

Jazmine Ulloa

Vice President Kamala Harris made a surprise appearance onstage at the Essence Festival concert in New Orleans on Friday night. “Let us always celebrate the diversity, the depth and the beauty of our culture,” she said as the audience cheered. She arrived at Caesars Superdome as Busta Rhymes was performing. There was no word from her team on whether she had watched President Biden’s interview on ABC News.

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July 6, 2024, 9:49 a.m. ET

July 6, 2024, 9:49 a.m. ET

Nicholas Nehamas

President Biden will appear at two campaign events in the key swing state of Pennsylvania on Sunday, one in Philadelphia and one in Harrisburg, his campaign said. The stops are part of a continuing rescue effort for his re-election bid.

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July 5, 2024, 11:55 p.m. ET

July 5, 2024, 11:55 p.m. ET

Chris Cameron

Reporting from Washington

Interview appears to change few Democratic officials’ views on Biden.

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President Biden had planned to use his first televised interview since his poor debate performance to reassure supporters and quiet the voices within the Democratic Party calling for him to drop out.

But many Democrats who spoke out after the interview, which aired on ABC News on Friday night, signaled that it had done little to shift their stances, regardless of whether they thought Mr. Biden should remain in the race or drop out.

A handful of current and former Democratic officials who had called on Mr. Biden to end his re-election campaign said the interview had done little, or even nothing, to address their concerns. Reliable supporters of the president’s re-election campaign similarly fanned out to television networks, declaring once more that they were sticking with Mr. Biden.

Other Democrats who had raised concerns about the president’s performance, but had not gone as far as to call for Mr. Biden to drop out, said the interview did not significantly change their views of his candidacy.

The president’s critics among the Democrats, including those asking him to step aside, said Mr. Biden appeared to be out of touch or in denial about his prospects for re-election.

Representative Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat who was the first House Democrat to call for President Biden to drop out of the race, said in an interview on CNN shortly after the ABC broadcast that “the need for him to step aside is more urgent tonight than when I first called for it on Tuesday.” He added that Mr. Biden “does not want his legacy to be that he’s the one who turned over our country to a tyrant.”

Representative Mike Quigley, Democrat of Illinois, also said Mr. Biden should step aside, telling CNN that he found points in the interview “disturbing” and that it was clear “the president of the United States doesn’t have the vigor necessary to overcome the deficit here.”

“He felt as long as he gave it his best effort, that’s all that really matters,” Mr. Quigley said, recounting Mr. Biden’s description of how he would feel if he lost to former President Donald J. Trump. “With the greatest respect: No.”

A handful of Democratic lawmakers who have consistently supported Mr. Biden said soon after the interview that they would stick with the president. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, a chair of the Biden campaign, and Representative Robert Garcia of California said they were ready to help the president win re-election in November.

Senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, who has repeatedly sought to rally Democrats behind the president with expletive-laden posts on social media, said, “Democrats need to get a spine or grow a set — one or the other,” adding, “Joe Biden is our guy.”

Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, a longtime ally of Mr. Biden, said on social media on Friday night that “Joe Biden is who our country needs.”

And Representative Nanette Barragán, Democrat of California and the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus who had backed Mr. Biden, told CNN earlier on Friday that Democrats “shouldn’t be talking about” replacing him. Later in the evening, Ms. Barragán continued to defend Mr. Biden.

“Sounds like everyone is looking for concerns — I don’t see them,” she said. “He’s quick to respond. He’s on point. He clearly understands the questions and the topics and responds accordingly. It’s a tough interview, and I think he handled it well.”

Representative Ro Khanna, Democrat of California and a Biden surrogate, said in a statement that he expected more from Mr. Biden to earn the trust of voters — and “that requires more than one interview.”

“I expect complete transparency from the White House about this issue,” Mr. Khanna said, “and a willingness to answer many legitimate questions from the media and voters about his capabilities.”

Julián Castro, the former Democratic presidential candidate who has called for Mr. Biden to drop out, criticized the president after the interview, telling MSNBC that Mr. Biden had been “steadier” in the interview but was in “denial about the decline that people can clearly see.”

Former Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio, who also has said that Mr. Biden should step aside, said after the interview, “I don’t think he moved the needle at all.”

“I don’t think he energized anybody,” Mr. Ryan said on MSNBC. “I think there was a level of him being out of touch with reality on the ground.”

“I’m worried,” he continued, with a nervous chuckle. “I’m worried, like, I think a lot of people are, that he is just not the person to be able to get this done for us.”

Mark Buell, a prominent donor for Mr. Biden and the Democratic Party who had raised questions about the president’s performance at the debate, said in a text message that “Biden is on a slide that he is trying to curb. If he isn’t successful, he may soon become a verb.”

Maya C. Miller, Robert Jimison and Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed reporting from Washington. Simon J. Levien contributed reporting from Massachusetts.

July 5, 2024, 10:39 p.m. ET

July 5, 2024, 10:39 p.m. ET

Michael M. Grynbaum

Michael Grynbaum covers the intersection of media and politics.

Media Memo

Respectfully but firmly, Stephanopoulos pressed Biden on his fitness for a second term.

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It was, in the end, an interview as personal as it was political, a cross-examination more focused on the psyche and the inescapable reality of aging than on any points of policy or governance.

Respectfully but firmly, the ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos on Friday pressed President Biden, again and again, on the basic questions that Americans had asked themselves over the past eight days, since 51 million people saw a diminished Mr. Biden struggle to perform on the debate stage.

“Are you more frail?”

“Have there been more lapses?”

“Have you had a neurologist, a specialist, do an examination?”

And as Mr. Biden dismissed all those concerns one by one — flicking away the cascading worries about his health, his electability, his capacity to serve in his office for four additional years — Mr. Stephanopoulos zeroed in on the matters of pride, dignity and self-worth swirling beneath the surface.

“Are you sure,” the anchor asked, “you’re being honest with yourself?”

At 81, Mr. Biden is 18 years older than his interlocutor. The president arrived at the ABC interview on Friday tanned and tieless, his top two shirt buttons undone, making every effort to project youth and vitality. Yet a viewer could not help but imagine the mop-haired Mr. Stephanopoulos in the role of an adult son, guiding an elderly parent toward a conclusion that may be difficult, and deeply painful, to accept.

It is too soon to say if their 22-minute encounter on Friday, taped in the library of a Wisconsin middle school and broadcast by ABC in prime time, will count among the most consequential interviews in presidential history. But it carried some of the highest stakes.

Democrats’ confidence in Mr. Biden’s ability to defeat his Republican opponent, former President Donald J. Trump, plummeted in the aftermath of last week’s debate. The president’s soft voice, extended pauses and slurred words — once viewed by supporters as an unsettling, if benign, fact of his public appearances — had taken on far darker implications.

Mr. Biden evinced many of those traits again on Friday, his voice turning hoarse and hesitant at times. His answers occasionally meandered. He was much improved from the shaky president who stood across from Mr. Trump last Thursday, but neither was he in the fighting form of his 2020 debates.

When Mr. Stephanopoulos jumped straight to the point — “You and your team have said you had a bad night” — Mr. Biden bared his teeth in a smile.

“Sure did,” he replied, equal parts humility and nonchalance. Hey. It happens.

But then the anchor began to press. Nancy Pelosi, the former House speaker and an ally of the president, wondered if Mr. Biden had more serious health issues. Mr. Biden blamed jet lag, but he had been back from Europe for more than a week. Did he realize, onstage, how badly he was doing?

The president, who has interacted with Mr. Stephanopoulos for decades, including when the anchor served in the Clinton White House, tried to parry with some humor. “You’ve had some bad interviews once in a while,” he teased.

“I’ve had plenty,” Mr. Stephanopoulos replied. But, he pointed out, millions of people watched a debate that seemed to confirm fears about the president’s age.

When Mr. Biden blamed the press for amplifying the concerns of Democratic leaders, the anchor said he had heard from dozens of supporters who “want you to go with grace.” And when Mr. Biden tried to deflect by ticking off achievements of his administration, Mr. Stephanopoulos countered, “What has all that work over the last three and a half years cost you physically, mentally, emotionally?”

As the interview neared its end, Mr. Stephanopoulos pivoted back to realpolitik. “If you stay in, and Trump is elected, and everything you’re warning about comes to pass,” he asked, “how will you feel in January?”

“I’ll feel as long as I gave it my all and I did the good as job as I know I can do, that’s what this is about,” Mr. Biden said. (The original ABC transcript rendered the quote as “I’ll feel as long as I gave it my all and I did the goodest job as I know I can do, that’s what this is about.”)

At one point, Mr. Stephanopoulos posed a series of scenarios to Mr. Biden, about how he would react if top Democratic leaders called on him to withdraw. The president smiled and laughed.

“I mean, these hypotheticals, George,” he began.

The anchor interjected.

“It’s not that hypothetical anymore.”

The Times revised Mr. Biden’s quote in this article about how he would feel if he loses the election after White House officials and several news organizations contacted ABC on Friday about whether Mr. Biden had said “goodest” or “good as.” ABC’s standards team listened again to the audio and made the change. Mr. Biden’s actual words at that point in the interview were difficult to make out and open to interpretation.

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Biden Faces New Calls From Democrats to Step Aside After Interview (28)

July 5, 2024, 10:32 p.m. ET

July 5, 2024, 10:32 p.m. ET

The New York Times

Here is the full transcript of the president’s ABC News interview.

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ABC News taped its interview with President Biden on Friday afternoon and aired it at 8 p.m. Eastern time. Following is ABC’s official transcript of the interview, which lasted about 20 minutes, between George Stephanopoulos and the president.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. President, thank you for doing this.

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Thank you for having me.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s start with the debate. eh, You and your team said, have said you had a bad night. But your —

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Sure did.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But your friend Nancy Pelosi actually framed the question that I think is on the minds of millions of Americans. Was this a bad episode or the sign of a more serious condition?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: It was a bad episode. No indication of any serious condition. I was exhausted. I didn’t listen to my instincts in terms of preparing and — and a bad night.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, you say you were exhausted. And — and I know you’ve said that before as well, but you came — and you did have a tough month. But you came home from Europe about 11 or 12 days before the debate, spent six days in Camp David. Why wasn’t that enough rest time, enough recovery time?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Because I was sick. I was feeling terrible. Matter of fact, the docs with me. I asked if they did a COVID test because they’re trying to figure out what was wrong. They did a test to see whether or not I had some infection, you know, a virus. I didn’t. I just had a really bad cold.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And — did you ever watch the debate afterwards?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: I don’t think I did, no.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, what I’m try — what I want to get at is, what were you experiencing as you were going through the debate? Did you know how badly it was going?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Yeah, look. The whole way I prepared, nobody’s fault, mine. Nobody’s fault but mine. I, uh — I prepared what I usually would do sittin’ down as I did come back with foreign leaders or National Security Council for explicit detail. And I realized — bout partway through that, you know, all — I get quoted the New York Times had me down, at ten points before the debate, nine now, or whatever the hell it is. The fact of the matter is, what I looked at is that he also lied 28 times. I couldn’t — I mean, the way the debate ran, not — my fault, no one else’s fault, no one else’s fault.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But it seemed like you were having trouble from the first question in, even before he spoke.

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, I just had a bad night. You’ve had some bad interviews once in a while. I — I can’t remember any, but I’m sure you did.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I’ve had plenty. I guess the question of — the problem is here for a lot of Americans watching is, you’ve said going back to 2020, “Watch me,” to people who are concerned about your age. And, you know, 50 million Americans watched that debate. It seemed to confirm fears they already had.

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, look. After that debate, I did ten major events in a row, including until 2:00 in the morning after the debate. I did events in North Carolina. I did events in — in in Georgia, did events like this today, large crowds, overwhelming response, no — no — no slipping. And so, I just had a bad night. I don’t know why.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And — how — how quickly did it — did it come to you that you were having that bad night?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, it came to me I was havin’ a bad night when I realized that even when I was answering a question, even though they turned his mic off, he was still shouting. And I— I let it distract me. I— I’m not blaming it on that, but I realized that I just wasn’t in control.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Part of the other concern is that — this seems to fit into a pattern of decline that has been reported on recently. New York Times had a headline on July 2nd, “Biden’s lapses are said to be increasingly common and worrisome.” Here’s what they wrote.

“People who’ve spent time with President Biden over the last few months or so said the lapses appear to have grown more frequent, more pronounced, and after Thursday d— Thursday’s debate, more worrisome. By many accounts, as evidenced by video footage, observation, and interviews, Mr. Biden is not the same today as he was even when he took office three-and-a-half years ago.” Similar reporting in The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. Are you the same man today that you were when you took office three-and-a-half years ago?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: In terms of successes, yes. I also was the guy who put together a peace plan for the Middle East that may be comin’ to fruition. I was also the guy that expanded NATO. I was also the guy that grew the economy. All the individual things that were done were ideas I had or I fulfilled. I moved on.

And so, for example, you know, “We-Well, that was true then, what’s Biden done lately?” Di-you-just just see today, just announced 200,000 new jobs. We’re movin’ in the direction that no one’s ever taken on. I know you know this from days in — in — in the — in the government.

I took on big pharma. I beat them. No one said I could beat them. I took on all the things we said we got done, were told we couldn’t get done. And part of it is what I said when I ran was I wanted to do three things: Restore some decency to the office, restore some support for the middle class instead of trickle down economics both from the middle out and the bottom up the way the wealthy still do fine, everyone does better, and unite the country.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But what has all that work over the last three-and-a-half years cost you physically, mentally, emotionally?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, I— I— I just think it cost me a really bad night, bad run, but, you know, I— George. I have— I’m optimistic about this country. I don’t think we’re a country of losers that he points out. I don’t think America’s in tough shape. I think America is on the cusp of breaking through in so many incredible opportunities.

In this next term, I’m gonna make sure we gotta — straighten out the tax system. I’m gonna make sure we’re in a situation where we have healthcare for all people, where we’re in a position where we have — have childcare and eldercare, free up — and all these things.

One thing I’m proudest of is, remember when my economic plan was put forward? A lot of the mainstream economists said, “This is not gonna work.” Guess what? We now have 16 Nobel laureates, 16 of ‘em in economics saying that “Biden’s next term would be a sig— enor— based on what he wants to do, enormous success.” Trump’s plan would cause a recession and signif— gi— increase inflation. I’ve made great progress, and that’s what I plan on doin’. And we can do this.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I — I— I understand that, and I’m not disputing that. What I’m asking you is — about your personal situation. Do you dispute that there have been more lapses, especially in the last several months?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Can I run the 100 in 10 flat? No. But I’m still in good shape.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you more frail?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: No.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Come keep my schedule. (LAUGH)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you spoke with your doctor after the debate. What did he say?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: He said he — just looked at me and said, “You’re exhausted.” That’s it. I have medical doctors travel with me everywhere. Every President does, as you know. Medical doctors, some of the best in the world travel with me everywhere I go. I have an ongoing assessment of what I’m doin’, and they don’t hesitate to tell me if they think there’s something wrong.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you said you have an ongoing assessment. Have you had a full neurological and cognitive evaluation?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: I’ve had — I get a full neurological test everyday with me. And I’ve had a full physical. I had, you know, I mean, I— I’ve been at Walter Reed for my physicals. I mean — uhm yes, the answer.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I— I know your doctor said he consulted with a neurologist. I— I guess I’m asking — a slightly different question. Have you had the specific cognitive tests, and have you had a neurologist, a specialist, do an examination?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: No. No one said I had to. No one said. They said I’m good.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Would you be willing to undergo an independent medical evaluation that included neurological and cognit— cognitive tests and release the results to the American people?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Look. I have a cognitive test every single day. Every day I have that test. Everything I do. You know, not only am I campaigning, but I’m running the world. Not — and that’s not hi — sounds like hyperbole, but we are the essential nation of the world ...

Madeleine Albright was right. And every single day, for example, today before I came out here, I’m on the phone with — with the prime minister of— well, anyway, I shouldn’t get into detail, but with Netanyahu. I’m on the phone with the new prime minister of England.

I’m workin’ on what we were doin’ with regard to — in Europe with regard to expansion of NATO and whether it’s gonna stick. I’m takin’ on Putin. I mean, every day there’s no day I go through there not those decisions I have to make every single day.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And you have been doing that and the American people have been watching, yet their concerns about your age and your health are growing. So that’s why I’m asking — to reassure them, would you be willing to have the independent medical evaluation?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Watch me between — there’s a lotta time left in this campaign. There’s over 125 days.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So the answer —

PRESIDENT BIDEN: They’ll make a decision.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Right — the answer right now is, no, you — you don’t want to do that right now.

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, I’ve already done it.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You talked a lot about your successes in — at the beginning of this interview. And — and I don’t want to dispute that, I don’t want to debate that. But — as you know, elections are about the future, not the past. They’re about tomorrow, not yesterday. And the question on so many people’s minds right now is, “Can you serve effectively for the next four years?”

PRESIDENT BIDEN: George. I’m the guy that put NATO together, the future. No one thought I could expand it. I’m the guy that shut Putin down. No one thought could happen. I’m the guy that put together a South Pacific initiative with AUKUS. I’m the guy that got 50 nations out — not only in Europe, outside of Europe as well to help Ukraine.

I’m the guy that got Japanese to expand their budget. I’m the — so I mean, these — and, for example, when I decided we used to have 40% of computer chips. We invented the chip, the little chip, the computer chip. It’s in everything from cell phone to weapons.

And so, we used to have 40%, and we’re down to virtually nothing. So I get in the plane, against the advice of everybody, and I fly to South Korea. I convince them to invest in the United States billions of dollars. Now we have tens of billions of dollars being invested in the United States making us back in a position we’re gonna own that industry again. We have, I mean, I— I just — anyway. I’m — I don’t wanna take too much credit. I have a great staff.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But hold on. My— I guess my point is, all that takes a toll. Do you have the mental and physical capacity to do it for another four years?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: I believes so, I wouldn’t be runnin’ if I didn’t think I did. Look, I’m runnin’ again because I think I understand best what has to be done to take this nation to a completely new new level. We’re on our way. We’re on our way. And, look. The decision recently made by the Supreme Court on immunity, you know, the next President of the United States, it’s not just about whether he or she knows what they’re doin’.

It’s — it’s — it’s not — not about a con — a conglomerate of people making decisions. It’s about the character of the President. The character of the President’s gonna determine whether or not this Constitution is employed the right way.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask you a tougher, more personal question. Are you sure you’re being honest with yourself when you say you have the mental and physical capacity to serve another four years?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Yes, I am, because, George, the last thing I want to do is not be able to meet that. I think, as some of senior economist and senior foreign policy specialists say, if I stop now, I’d go down in history as a pretty successful President. No one thought I could get done what we got done.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But are you being with honest — with yourself as well about your ability to defeat Donald Trump right now?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You say that, and let me challenge you.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Sure.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Because you were close but behind going into the debate. You’re further behind now by— by any measure. It’s been a two-man race for several months. Inflation has come down. In those last few months, he’s become a convicted felon. Yet, you’re still falling further behind.

PRESIDENT BIDEN: You guys keep saying that. George, do you— look, you know polling better than anybody. Do you think polling data as accurate as it used to be?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I don’t think so, but I think when you look at all the polling data right now, it shows that he’s certainly ahead in the popular vote, probably even more ahead in the battleground states. And one of the other key factors there is, it shows that in many of the battleground states, the Democrats who are running for Senate and the House are doing better than you are.

PRESIDENT BIDEN: That’s not unusual in some states. I carried an awful lotta Democrats last time I ran in 2020. Look, I remember them tellin’ me the same thing in 2020. “I can’t win. The polls show I can’t win.” Remember 2024 — 2020, the red wave was coming.

Before the vote, I said, “That’s not gonna happen. We’re gonna win.” We did better in an off-year than almost any incumbent President ever has done. They said in 2023, (STATIC) all the tough (UNINTEL) we’re not gonna win. I went into all those areas and all those — all those districts, and we won.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: All that is true, but 2020 was a close race. And your approval rating has dropped significantly since then. I think the last poll I saw was at about 36%.

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Woah, woah, woah

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: The number of Americans who think you’re too old to serve has doubled since 2020. Wouldn’t a clear-eyed political calculus tell you that it’s gonna be much tougher to win in 2024?.

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Not when you’re running against a pathological liar. Not when he hadn’t been challenged in a way that he’s about to be challenged. Not when people —

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You’ve had months to challenge him.

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Oh, sure, I had months, but I was also doin’ a hell of a lot of other things, like wars around the world, like keeping NATO together, like working — anyway. But look.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you really believe you’re not behind right now?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: I think it’s in — all the pollsters I talk to tell me it’s a tossup. It’s a tossup. And when I’m behind, there’s only one poll I’m really far behind, CBS Poll and NBC, I mean, excuse me. And — uh —

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: New York— New York Times and NBC both have — have you about six points behind in the popular vote.

PRESIDENT BIDEN: That’s exactly right. New York Times had me behind before, anything having to do with this race — had me hind — behind ten points. Ten points they had me behind. Nothing’s changed substantially since the debate in the New York Times poll.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Just when you look at the reality, though, Mr. President, I mean, you won the popular vote — in — in 2020, but it was still deadly close in the electoral college —

PRESIDENT BIDEN: By 7 million votes.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes. But you’re behind now in the popular vote.

PRESIDENT BIDEN: I don’t— I don’t buy that.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Is it worth the risk?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: I don’t think anybody’s more qualified to be President or win this race than me.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, the heart of your case against Donald Trump is that he’s only out for himself, putting his personal interests ahead of the national interest. How do you respond to critics who say that by staying in the race, you’re doing the same thing?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Oh, come on. Well, I don’t think those critics know what they’re talkin’ about.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: They’re just wrong?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: They’re just wrong. Look, Trump is a pathological liar. Trump is— he is— you ever seen anything Trump did that benefited sa— somebody else and not him? You can’t answer, I know.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I’ve— I’ve questioned him and his allies as persistently as any journalist has.

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Oh, I know you have. I’m not being critical. I’m not being critical, but look, I mean, the man is a congenital liar. As I said, they pointed out in that debate, he lied 27— 28 times— times, whatever number, over 20 times. Talk about how good his economy was, how he brought down inflation, how— this is a guy who unlike— only other President oth— other than him is Hoover who lost more jobs than he created.

This is a guy who told us to put bleach in our arms to deal with COVID, with a million— over a million people died. This is a guy who talks about wantin’ to get rid of the healthcare provision we put in place. This is a guy who wants to give the power back to big pharma to be able to charge exorbitant prices for drugs. This is a guy who wants to undo every single thing I’ve done, every single— every single thing.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I understand that. I understand that’s why you want to stay in the race, but have you convinced yourself that only you can defeat him?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: I convinced myself of two things. I’m the most qualified person to beat him, and I know how to get things done.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: If you can be convinced that you cannot defeat Donald Trump, will you stand down?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: (LAUGH)- It depends on— on if the Lord Almighty comes down and tells me that, I might do that.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, if — I mean, on a more practical level, The Washington Post just reported in the last hour that Senator Mark Warner is — is assembling a group of Senators together to try and convince you to stand down, because they don’t think you can win.

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, Mark is a good man. We’ve never had (UNINTEL). He also tried to get the nomination too. Mark’s not — Mark and I have a different perspective. I respect him.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And if Chuck Schumer and Hakeem Jeffries and Nancy Pelosi come down and say, “We’re worried that if you stay in the race, we’re gonna lose the House and the Senate,” how will you respond?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: I— I’d go into detail with them. I’ve speaken (PH) to all of them in detail including Jim Clyburn, every one of ‘em. They all said I should stay in the race — stay in the race. No one said — none of the people said I should leave.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But if they do?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, it’s, like, (LAUGH) they’re not gonna do that.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You’re sure?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, Yeah, I’m sure. Look. I mean, if the Lord Almighty came down and said, “Joe, get outta the race,” I’d get outta the race. The Lord Almighty’s not comin’ down. I mean, these hypotheticals, George, if, I mean, it’s all —

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But — but it’s — it’s — it’s not that hypothetical anymore. I — I — I — I grant that the — they have not k— requested a meeting, but it’s been reported —

PRESIDENT BIDEN: But they — I met with them. I met with a lotta these people. I talk with them regularly. I had an hour conversation with Hakeem. I had more time (UNITEL)with Jim Clyburn. I spent time with many hours off and on in the last little bit with Chuck Schumer. It’s not like— I had all the governors — all the governors.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I agree that the Lord Almighty’s not gonna come down, but if — if — if you are told reliably from your allies, from your friends and supporters in the Democratic Party in the House and the Senate that they’re concerned you’re gonna lose the House and the Senate if you stay in, what will you do?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: I’m not gonna answer that question. It’s not gonna happen.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: What’s your plan to turn the campaign around?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: You saw it today. How many — how many people draw crowds like I did today? Find me more enthusiastic than today? Huh?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I mean, have — I don’t think you wanna play the crowd game. Donald Trump can draw big crowds. There’s no question about that.

PRESIDENT BIDEN: He can draw a big crowd, but what does he say? Who — who does he have? I’m the guy supposedly in trouble. We raised $38 million within four days after this. Over — we have over a million individual contributors, individual contributors. That — that’s less than 200 bucks. We have — I mean, I’m not seen what you’re — you’re proposing.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You haven’t seen the — the fall-off in the polls? You haven’t seen the reports of discontent in the Democratic Party, House Democrats, Senate Democrats?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: I’ve seen it from the press.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, I’ve heard from dozens of your supporters over the last few days, and a variety of views, I grant you that. But the prevailing sentiment is this. They love you, and they will be forever grateful to you for defeating Donald Trump in 2020.

They think you’ve done a great job as President, a lot of the successes you outlined. But they are worried about you and the country. And they don’t think you can win. They want you to go with grace, and they will cheer you if you do. What do you say to that?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: I say the vast majority are not where that — those folks are. I don’t doubt there are some folks there. Have you ever seen a group — ta— time when elected officials running for office aren’t little worried? Have you ever seen that? I’ve not. Same thing happened in 2020. “Oh, Biden, I don’t know. Man, what’s he gonna do? He may bring me down, he may (PH).”

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. President, I’ve never seen a President 36% approval get reelected.

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, I don’t believe that’s my approval rating. That’s not what our polls show.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And if you stay in and Trump is elected and everything you’re warning about comes to pass, how will you feel in January?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: I’ll feel as long as I gave it my all and I did the good as job as I know I can do, that’s what this is about. Look, George. Think of it this way. You’ve heard me say this before. I think the United States and the world is at an inflection point when the things that happen in the next several years are gonna determine what the next six, seven decades are gonna be like.

And who’s gonna be able to hold NATO together like me? Who’s gonna be able to be in a position where I’m able to keep the Pacific Basin in a position where we’re — we’re at least checkmating China now? Who’s gonna — who’s gonna do that? Who has that reach? Who has — who knows all these pe…? We’re gonna have, I guess a good way to judge me, is you’re gonna have now the NATO conference here in the United States next week. Come listen. See what they say.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. President, thanks for your time.

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Thank you. Appreciate it.

July 5, 2024, 10:29 p.m. ET

July 5, 2024, 10:29 p.m. ET

Zolan Kanno-Youngs

Biden says he has not had a cognitive test and doesn’t need one.

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President Biden said in an interview on Friday that he has not undergone a cognitive exam, but argued that his record as president should be proof enough that he is mentally fit to lead the nation.

He was repeatedly pressed about his cognitive abilities in his first major interview since his disastrous debate performance set off calls for him to drop out of the race. George Stephanopoulos of ABC News asked him pointedly if he would be willing to undergo a neurological and cognitive test.

“I have a cognitive test every single day. Every day I have that test. Everything I do. You know, not only am I campaigning, but I’m running the world,” Mr. Biden told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

EXCLUSIVE: Pres. Biden would not commit to an independent cognitive test when pressed in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos.https://t.co/hlL4FaVp80 pic.twitter.com/Jg2SepN8bN

— ABC News (@ABC) July 6, 2024

The line of questioning came after Mr. Biden was criticized for his debate performance that was often meandering and during which he was faltering in his speech. Several current and former officials have also expressed concern that moments in which Mr. Biden appears confused or listless have become more frequent.

The White House has said Mr. Biden was suffering from a cold on the night of the debate. Mr. Biden has blamed himself and his travel schedule ahead of the debate. But an increasing number of Democrats and voters have expressed concern over whether Mr. Biden has the mental acuity to not only beat Mr. Trump, but to serve for another four years.

“Have you had the specific cognitive tests, and have you had a neurologist, a specialist, do an examination?” Mr. Stephanopoulos asked Mr. Biden.

“No. No one said I had to,” Mr. Biden said. “They said I’m good.”

Mr. Biden added that like every president, a White House doctor does travel with him. His doctor, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, said Mr. Biden was “fit for duty” after undergoing a physical earlier this year, adding that he had undergone an “extremely detailed” neurological exam that did not turn up evidence of stroke, neurological disorders or Parkinson’s disease.

After the debate, Mr. Biden said his doctor looked at him and said, “you’re exhausted.”

Mr. Biden also did not commit to taking a cognitive test in the future to assure voters. Instead, he issued a challenge to those concerned about his mental state. “Watch me.”

“There’s a lot of time left in this campaign,” Mr. Biden said.

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July 5, 2024, 10:19 p.m. ET

July 5, 2024, 10:19 p.m. ET

Shane Goldmacher

It was a high-stakes interview for Biden. How did he do?

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Follow live updates on the 2024 election here.

He downplayed. He denied. He dismissed.

President Biden’s first television interview since his poor debate performance last week was billed as a prime-time opportunity to reassure the American people that he still has what it takes to run for, win and hold the nation’s highest office.

But Mr. Biden, with more than a hint of hoarseness in his voice, spent much of the 22 minutes resisting a range of questions that George Stephanopoulos of ABC News had posed — about his competence, about taking a cognitive test, about his standing in the polls.

The president on Friday did not struggle to complete his thoughts the way he did at the debate. But at the same time he was not the smooth-talking senator of his youth, or even the same elder statesman whom the party entrusted four years ago to defeat former President Donald J. Trump.

Instead, it was a high-stakes interview with an 81-year-old president whose own party is increasingly doubting him yet who sounded little like a man with any doubts about himself.

Here are four takeaways:

Biden downplays the debate as a one-time flub.

The interview was Mr. Biden’s longest unscripted appearance in public since his faltering debate performance. The delay has had his allies on Capitol Hill and beyond confused about what was keeping the president cloistered behind closed doors — or depending upon teleprompters — for so long.

The eight-day lag has seen the first members of Congress call for him to step aside and donors demand that the party consider switching candidates. It also heightened the scrutiny of every word Mr. Biden said.

He was in a defensive posture throughout, arguing that his past performance should be proof enough about his capacity in the future.

It was a bad episode,” the president said. “No indication of any serious condition.”

He blamed exhaustion but also being so sick ahead of the debate that his doctors tested him for Covid-19. But what he would not agree to was any kind of neurological examination.

“Look, I have a cognitive test every single day. Every day, I have that test,” Mr. Biden said, suggesting that the job of the presidency was its own type of test. He declined repeatedly to sit for an independent exam.

Mr. Biden’s challenge is that there is little he can say in a single interview to solve the fallout of a stumbling performance that tens of millions of Americans watched live.

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Biden did better than the debate. But will that be enough?

Some of Mr. Biden’s answers were neither compelling nor cohesive.

He paused for multiple seconds early in the interview after Mr. Stephanopoulos asked what had gone wrong a week earlier.

“The whole way I prepared, nobody’s fault mine. Nobody’s fault but mine,” Mr. Biden eventually said. “I, uh, prepared what I usually would do, sitting down as I did, come back with foreign leaders or National Security Council for explicit detail. And I realized about partway through that, you know, I quoted The New York Times had me down 10 points before the debate, 9 now or whatever the hell it is. The fact of the matter is that what I looked at is that he also lied 28 times. I couldn’t, I mean, the way the debate ran, not — my fault, no one else’s fault — no one else’s fault.”

The answer was meandering and circular, even if it was not as bad as his worst moments at the debate in Atlanta. But it was hardly a crisp and concise reassurance for members of his party squinting to imagine what a second debate with Mr. Trump might look like in September.

Mr. Biden did make some arguments against Mr. Trump and for himself.

But on the central question at hand — his debate performance and what it projected about the future — Mr. Biden did not have much more to say, other than a brief aside that Mr. Trump was “still shouting” even after his microphone had been turned off and that he had let it distract him.

“I just had a bad night” was about the totality of Mr. Biden’s explanation. “I don’t know why.”

The interview was just the first, and far from the last, of tests.

The reality that some of the president’s allies have come to accept is that nearly every Biden interview, public appearance or utterance for the foreseeable future is going to come under a harsh new spotlight.

Roughly three-quarters of voters now see Mr. Biden as too old to be an effective president, according to a post-debate poll by The New York Times and Siena College.

Mr. Biden, though, is a believer in his own story as a man who takes on adversity — “America’s comeback kid,” Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey called him at a fund-raiser two days after the debate.

Mr. Biden and people close to him still hold a chip on their shoulders about how he won the 2020 presidential nomination after months of being written off.

“Look, I remember them telling me the same thing in 2020,” he said, quoting his critics. “‘I can’t win. The polls show I can’t win.’”

Four years ago, the Democratic Party did rally behind Mr. Biden with remarkable speed when he appeared the strongest candidate to take on Mr. Trump. But polling today paints a murkier picture on that critical question.

What was clear is that Mr. Biden is already thinking about himself in the pantheon of past presidents. He cited the opinion of an unnamed group of economists and foreign policy experts to render this flattering judgment:

“If I stop now, I’d go down in history as a pretty successful president.”

Biden isn’t going anywhere without the ‘Lord Almighty’ intervening.

Mr. Biden set an awfully high bar for what it would take for him to step aside.

“If the Lord Almighty comes down and tells me that, I might do that,” he said.

Mr. Biden repeatedly waved off polling that Mr. Stephanopoulos cited to show Mr. Biden’s weakness, including a 36 percent approval rating. “That’s not what our polls show,” Mr. Biden snapped. He said “all the pollsters” whom he speaks with tell him the race is a “tossup.”

It was not the words of a man ready to exit the stage.

As Mr. Biden said earlier in the day at a rally in Madison, Wis., “They’re trying to push me out of the race. Let me say this as clearly as I can: I’m staying in the race.”

When Mr. Stephanopoulos pressed him about the burbling discontent among Democratic elected officials, Mr. Biden shrugged it off. “I’ve seen it from the press,” he said.

Perhaps the most revealing answer came when Mr. Biden was asked about how he would feel if Mr. Trump were being sworn in as president in January.

“I’ll feel as long as I gave it my all and I did the good as job as I know I can do, that’s what this is about,” Mr. Biden said. (The original ABC transcript rendered the quote as “I’ll feel as long as I gave it my all and I did the goodest job as I know I can do, that’s what this is about.”)

Of course, for a Democratic Party warning that Mr. Trump is an existential threat to the nation, the race is about something much simpler: winning.

The Times revised Mr. Biden’s quote in this article about how he would feel if he loses the election after White House officials and several news organizations contacted ABC on Friday about whether Mr. Biden had said “goodest” or “good as.” ABC’s standards team listened again to the audio and made the change. Mr. Biden’s actual words at that point in the interview were difficult to make out and open to interpretation.

July 5, 2024, 10:12 p.m. ET

July 5, 2024, 10:12 p.m. ET

Jack Healy

Loyal Democratic voters react with relief, and despair.

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At least it wasn’t as bad as the debate.

That was the verdict from some devoted Democratic voters who nervously tuned in to watch President Biden’s interview with ABC News on Friday. They were anxious to see the president respond to concerns about his age and cognitive abilities, and show wavering voters that he could serve another four years.

“I think he showed in this interview he’s cognitively there,” said Jayden D’Onofrio, 19, chairman of the Florida Future Leaders PAC, which represents high-school and college Democrats in the state. “He was very straightforward about the fact that, yes, he is older. We have to recognize that.”

But John Avalos, a progressive Democrat and former member of the San Francisco board of supervisors, said the interview made him weep. He was frustrated that Mr. Biden would not submit to a cognitive test, and said Mr. Biden’s doubling down on his refusal to leave the race could spell electoral doom for Democrats.

“Biden is not demonstrating the traits that generate much confidence,” Mr. Avalos said. “There are 300 million people who rely on his cognitive abilities, and he’s unwilling to take a test because of his pride?”

Other Democratic voters said they thought Mr. Biden made clearer and more cogent arguments against former President Donald J. Trump than he had during the debate last week, and said Mr. Biden seemed more at ease.

“I tell you, he looked a whole lot better than the debate,” said William Davis, a precinct delegate in Detroit and retired water treatment plant worker. “I think he did well. I’m a little nervous that he’s not going to be able to keep it up.”

Mr. Davis said he was still unsure whether the president should stay in the race, despite Mr. Biden’s insistence on Friday that only the “Lord almighty” would cause him to leave the campaign.

“I’m 67,” Mr. Davis said. “I’m not the same person I was two years ago. I’m confident in him, but — and there is that but — he should think about the country and the world. I think another Democrat could come in and beat Trump.”

In Nebraska, Mo Neal, 73, who runs a social media page for Lancaster County Democrats, said that Mr. Biden seemed “gentlemanly and sedate” and that his demeanor compared favorably with Mr. Trump’s angry hectoring speeches.

“I’m solidly behind Biden,” she said. “Even now.”

Biden Faces New Calls From Democrats to Step Aside After Interview (2024)

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