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Biden to Democrats calling for him to quit: ‘I’m staying in the race’

President acknowledges his age, mocks Donald Trump at Wisconsin rally

President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally in Madison, Wis., on Friday, vowing to continue his reelection bid.
President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally in Madison, Wis., on Friday, vowing to continue his reelection bid. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden on Friday vowed to continue his reelection bid and dismissed worries about his age from some fellow Democrats who he said are “trying to push me out.”

“There’s been a lot of speculation,” Biden told supporters in Wisconsin, referring to a poor debate showing that sparked calls for him to end his bid for a second term. “Here’s my answer: I am running and I am going to win again.”

Biden’s typical campaign rally speech got a facelift, with the usual laundry list of accomplishments repackaged to take on his Democratic critics while also acknowledging his age.

“I know I look 40,” the 81-year-old president said with a grin. “I keep seeing all those stories about being too old. Let me say something. I wasn’t too old to create over 15 million new jobs. To make sure 21 million Americans are insured under the Affordable Care Act. To beat Big Pharma, the first one to ever do that [by] lowering the cost of insulin to $35. 

“Was I too old to relieve student [loan] debt for 5 million Americans?” he said to cheers. “Too old to put the first Black woman on the Supreme Court of the United States of America? … Was I too old to sign the most significant gun safety law in 30 years?”

The president, speaking in Madison, was much sharper and more energetic than he appeared last week in his debate with former President Donald Trump. Biden repeatedly drew loud cheers Friday as he mocked and criticized Trump, the expected Republican nominee, at one point labeling the twice-impeached and once-convicted former president a “one-man crime wave,” and adding, “I can hardly wait” to again defeat Trump in November. 

Still, Biden did appear to mix up the 2020 election cycle and the current one, and he slurred some words and stopped thoughts mid-sentence, things Republicans and some Democrats have called signs of mental decline. As he was still on stage, The Washington Post alerted an article citing anonymous sources saying that Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, was looking to assemble a group of Democratic senators to ask Biden to step aside. 

Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary, told reporters on Air Force One on Friday that Biden is “staying in the race. He’s not going anywhere.” She jousted with reporters who pressed about Biden’s age and mental condition with pointed questions. Jean-Pierre said the 81-year-old president is planning to “strike a balance” with his schedule by doing less after 8 p.m., while also saying he “works around the clock.” She said Biden is “thinking clearly” and plans to do the job in a “full-throttle” mode.

The president was in Wisconsin for the rally and a sit-down interview with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos, a former communications director to President Bill Clinton. Some pundits said the unscripted sit-down — Biden spoke off a teleprompter at the campaign rally — would go a long way to deciding whether he can put down calls from within his party to drop out.

Three House Democrats, so far, have called on Biden to exit the race: Reps. Lloyd Doggett of Texas, Raul M. Grijalva of Arizona and Seth Moulton of Massachusetts. Others have publicly expressed concerns about his debate performance and signs of aging.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of the Badger State, which Biden won in 2020, edging Trump 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent.

A Marquette University Law School survey released June 26, the day before the debate showing, put the candidates tied among registered voters. But it gave Trump a narrow lead among likely voters, 51 percent to 49 percent.

A national poll from Siena College and The New York Times conducted after the debate and released Wednesday gave Trump a 3 percentage bump and a 49 percent to 43 percent lead. 

Biden on Friday vowed to win Wisconsin — and the general election. 

“I’ll beat Donald Trump. I’ll beat him again in 2020,” Biden said, then seemed to catch the gaffe immediately. “By the way, we’re going to do it again in 2024.”

Biden began his remarks by poking fun at a misstatement of American history Trump once uttered as president.

“If you wonder whether Trump has it all together, did you ever hear how he explained the Fourth of July when he was president? He said in his Fourth of July speech five years ago, he said George Washington’s army won the Revolution by taking control of the airports from the British.

“They talk about me misspeaking. … It’s true he is a ‘stable genius,’ this man,” Biden added, referring to how Trump once described himself amid Democrats’ questioning his mental state. 

‘Show me’

Biden’s selection of Wisconsin came as part of his ongoing efforts to rebuild the 2020 electoral map that put him in the White House, including the so-called “blue wall” battlegrounds of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. He is slated to hold a campaign event in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s largest city and media market, on Sunday.

“We still believe that Biden needs to carry all of the Blue Wall trio,” Kyle Kondik, an analyst with the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, wrote this week, “and he’s really no better than 50-50 in each of them at the moment.”

That is among the reasons why many Democratic lawmakers and strategists have spent the week urging Biden and his top aides to get him in front of voters pronto.

Sen. Peter Welch, D-Vt., told CNN on Wednesday that Biden talking to Democratic lawmakers and  governors — as he did on Wednesday — would do little to salvage his candidacy. That’s because he is not, to Welch, in a “tell me” situation, he’s in a “show me” situation.

Notably, Biden has kept Vice President Kamala Harris, who would be among those expected to seek the nomination should he step aside, close this week. She was with him Wednesday at a meeting with Democratic governors and again to view Independence Day fireworks at the White House.

“And today, as we celebrate freedom, as we celebrate the promise of America, we also celebrate and express our gratitude to our service members, to our veterans, to our military families,” she said to applause at the July Fourth event Thursday.

“And we give thanks to our commander in chief,” Harris said, appearing to almost refer to him as the vice president, a job he held for eight years, “the president of the United States, the extraordinary president of the United States, Joe Biden.”

Hours earlier, Biden delivered remarks to military personnel and at several points spoke in half-sentences, at one point seeming unable to finish an anecdote about the Declaration of Independence. But on Friday, he repeatedly dismissed calls to drop out.

“They’re trying to push me out of the race,” he said. “Well, let me say it as clearly as I can: I’m staying in the race.”