Joe Biden is continuing his re-election bid despite growing calls from Democrats for him to withdraw after a disastrous debate performance against Donald Trump.

The US president told supporters at a campaign rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Friday that he was there for “one reason, because I intend to win this state in November”. The crowd responded with chants of “four more years”.

In comments seeking to address his poor performance in Thursday’s debate, Biden said: “I know I’m not young, to put it bluntly. I don’t walk as easily as I used to… I don’t debate as well as I used to.”

He added: “But I know what I know, I know how to tell the truth… I know how to do this job… When you get knocked down, you get back up.”

The president’s comments came as Democrats reported growing panic in the party on Friday after a “disastrous” debate performance, with supporters concluding that Biden would struggle to defeat Trump at the polls in November.

“The only way it could have been more disastrous is if he had fallen off the stage. Big donors are saying he has to go,” one Democratic operative said. “If Biden stays, we’ll have to watch him on the trapeze until November.”

Top Democratic lawmakers, donors and party insiders were shaken Thursday night after the president frequently stumbled over his words in the debate, gave incoherent answers and in some cases appeared to lose his train of thought.

The debate, which CNN said was watched by 48 million viewers and broadcast to another 30 million, was seen as a crucial opportunity for Biden to turn around his faltering reelection campaign, which has been dogged by concerns about his age and the cost of living. He trails Trump in most national and swing-state opinion polls.

Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden. ‘Ultimately, it will be Jill who decides’ whether he stays in the race, a Democratic donor said © AFP via Getty Images

Ahead of Thursday’s debate, predictive polling models predicted a tight race, with FiveThirtyEight describing it as a “coin flip.” However, political betting markets shifted dramatically against Biden during and after the debate, and an average of Real Clear Politics betting odds on Friday showed Biden with just a 19% chance of winning the presidency.

On Friday night, a Morning Consult poll conducted after the debate showed that while Biden had not lost ground to Trump, three in five voters surveyed, including a plurality of Democrats, believed he should be replaced as the party’s presidential nominee.

One Democratic operative said the easiest path for the party would be if Biden’s wife, Jill, or other longtime political advisers in his inner circle could convince him to drop out. Other Democrats have quietly appealed to former President Barack Obama or former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, the former Democratic presidential nominee, to persuade Biden to step aside.

Obama, however, dismissed suggestions that Biden should step aside on Friday, in a statement posted on social media. “Bad debate nights happen. Trust me, I know. But this election is still a choice between someone who has fought for ordinary people his entire life and someone who only cares about himself,” Obama said. “Last night didn’t change that.”

Behind closed doors, however, many others remained skeptical. “There’s a lot of dark humor among Democratic members this morning. The conversation about Biden continuing is wide open,” one Democratic lawmaker told the Financial Times on Friday morning. “We need a new nominee,” said another Democratic lawmaker.

A major New York financier said a small number of influential donors have contacted Ron Klain and Mike Donilon, two of Biden’s closest longtime advisers, urging the president to do “the right thing for the party and the country.” “Ultimately, it will be Jill [Biden] “She’s the one who’s going to make the decision,” said another major funder. “She’s the voice of reason and I can’t imagine she wants to spend four months like this… Joe will listen to her.”

Biden’s team sought to project confidence on Friday, saying the president raised $14 million on Thursday morning and Friday. They said the hour after the debate was the best grassroots, or small-dollar, fundraising since Biden launched his reelection bid.

After his North Carolina rally on Friday, the president is scheduled to hold several closed-door meetings with wealthy donors, including a campaign event on Friday night in Manhattan and two on Saturday in the Hamptons and New Jersey.

Trump is due to hold his own rally on Friday afternoon in Virginia, a state he lost to Biden by 10 points in 2020 but where the latest opinion polls show the two men in a statistical tie.

Via Financial Times.


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