Biden, campaigning in Wisconsin, ignores calls to drop out: ‘I’m going to win again’

President Biden had a message Friday for Democrats and others who called on him to abandon his re-election bid after last week’s debate: “I’m going to run and I’m going to win again.”

In a speech to supporters in the crucial state of Wisconsin on Friday, the president reiterated that he will not be forced to step down as the Democratic presidential candidate, amid a chorus of criticism and concern that his surprising debate performanceAfter a week of trying to ease concerns about his fitness for a second term, Biden stood his ground.

“Now, you probably heard we had a little debate last week,” the president said after taking the stage in Madison. “I can’t say it was my best performance. But there’s been a lot of speculation since then. What’s Joe going to do? Is he going to stay in the race? Is he going to get out, what’s he going to do? Well, my answer is this: I’m going to run and I’m going to win again.”

The president was referring to the results of the primaries, which were strictly controlled by the Democratic Party and in which there were no serious opponents for his re-nomination.

“I am the nominee of the Democratic Party,” the president said. “You voted for me to be your nominee, nobody else. You, the voters, did that. And yet, some people don’t seem to care who you voted for. Well, guess what: They’re trying to push me out of the race. Well, let me say this as clearly as I can: I’m staying in the race.”

President Biden speaks during a campaign rally in Madison, Wisconsin, on July 5, 2024.

SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Despite his much stronger voice compared to last week’s debate, the president continued to stumble.

“I’m staying in the race. I’m beating Donald Trump. I’m beating him again in 2020,” the president said, before realizing his mistake and correcting himself by saying “2024.”

Behind the president, among the group of energetic supporters holding signs, sat a young man with a sign that read, “Pass the Torch, Joe.” Someone else in the gallery covered his sign, and the young man crumpled it up.

A crucial move for Biden

Biden’s public appearances are under renewed scrutiny following his lackluster debate performance against former President Donald Trump. The Wisconsin rally kicked off what could be a pivotal weekend for his hopes of convincing Democrats he can stay in the race.

In Wisconsin, Biden will tape an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that will air in full on Friday night. The president will also head to Philadelphia on Sunday for another campaign event, capping off the July 4 holiday weekend with a visit to a second centerpiece state.

Democrats who spoke in Madison for the president cited the challenging political climate.

“What a week,” said Ben Wikler, chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party. “What a week. Let’s first acknowledge it — a tough debate. One guy needed a diamond, the other guy needed a polygraph and a conscience and a reminder that he’s not running for dictator of North Korea.”

“It’s going to depend on a few states, and Wisconsin is one of those states,” said Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan. “And don’t think this is going to be easy. In the last week alone, some people say the snow globe of the election has been shaken. But you know what hasn’t been shaken? The resolve of the people.”

In two radio interviews aired Thursday, Biden admitted he had a “bad debate” and that he had “messed up.”

Biden’s campaign and the White House attempted to brush off concerns about his lackluster performance by claiming he had a cold and that the debate fiasco was just a “bad night.” As part of the effort to assuage concerns about Biden and his age, he and Vice President Kamala Harris have participated in a call with campaign staff on Wednesday, and they met 20 Democratic governors at the White House later that evening. Mr. Biden also met with House and Senate Democratic leaders, as well as other key allies on Capitol Hill.

One of the governors who attended the White House meeting, Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, praised Biden for his work over the past four years and reiterated her determination to defeat Trump in November. But Healey also urged the president to examine the path forward, but she stopped short of saying he should step aside.

“The best path forward now is a decision the president must make himself,” she said in a statement. “I urge him to spend the coming days listening to the American people and carefully evaluating whether he remains our best hope to defeat Donald Trump.”

According to participants, the president has repeated the same message throughout the campaign: he is in the race to beat Trump and will not be chased away.

“I learned from my father that when you get knocked down, you just get back up, get back up,” Biden told “The Earl Ingram Show,” which airs in Wisconsin, in a radio interview Thursday. “And you know we’re going to win this election, we’re going to beat Donald Trump.”

Amid these assurances, a handful of Democrats in the House of Representatives have openly Mr Biden called on to withdraw from the presidential race, including Reps. Lloyd Doggett of Texas and Raúl Grijalva of Arizona. Others, meanwhile, have publicly called on the president to take steps to prove to voters, elected Democrats and party donors that he is qualified for a second term in the White House.

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