Biden urges supporters to ‘stick together’ amid growing calls for him to drop out of presidential race

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — President Joe Biden urged his supporters to stand united behind him during a rousing black church service on Sunday, where the preacher referenced biblical teachings in declaring, “never count Joseph out,” and blamed jealousy for increasing pressure by some Democrats to abandon his re-election efforts.

Speaking from a podium flanked by sunshine through a pair of stained-glass windows at the Mount Airy Church of God in Christ in Northwest Philadelphia, the 81-year-old Biden laughed off concerns about his age, joking, “I know I look 40,” but “I’ve been doing this a long time.”

“I, honestly, have never been more optimistic about the future of America if we stick together,” Biden said. He did not use a teleprompter, which has become increasingly common since his disastrous debate performance last month, but spoke from a prepared speech.

His comments followed the comparison of Reverend Louis Felton to Biden and the Biblical story of his “coat of many colors.” Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt by his jealous brothers, but eventually rose to a high position in Pharaoh’s kingdom, and his brothers begged him for help, without initially recognizing him.

“Don’t ever count Joseph out,” Felton implored. Then, referring to Democrats who have called on Biden to step aside, he said: “That’s what’s happening, Mr. President. People are jealous of you. Jealous of your tenacity, jealous of your favor. Jealous of God’s hand on your life.”

Biden planned to meet later in Harrisburg, the capital of battleground Pennsylvania, with union members and local Democrats before returning to Washington, where leaders of NATO countries were to gather for a three day summit from Tuesday on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the military alliance.

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The dual appearances followed Biden’s participation in a Saturday call with campaign surrogates, during which he reiterated that he has no plans to step aside. He listened to concerns and feedback but also pledged to campaign harder and get out on the road more often in the future, according to two people who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

However, the president’s political situation remains precarious.

Five Democratic lawmakers have already called on him to abandon his re-election bids for Novemberand more could do so in the coming days, when Congress reconvenes. Gathering in person will give congressional Democrats a chance to discuss concerns about Biden’s ability to weather the remaining four months of the campaign — not to mention another four years in the White House — and the real prospects of defeating the former Republican former president Donald Trump.

Alan Clendenin, a Democratic Tampa city councilman and member of the Democratic National Committee, said Sunday: “I believe it is in the best interest of our country and the world for President Joe Biden to step aside and allow Vice President Kamala Harris to continue his agenda as our Democratic nominee.”

And director Rob Reiner, a Hollywood veteran who has helped raise money for Biden, posted on X: “It’s time for Joe Biden to resign.”

Biden’s campaign team is quietly preparing for the chorus of calls for him to leave the presidential race to grow in the coming days — by talking to surrogates and calling and texting lawmakers to try to head off more potential desertions. A weekend boost came for the president, however, from other key Democrats who had previously raised questions but now moved to support himled by Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi and Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina.

As the Democratic convention rapidly approaches approachingThe short term is especially crucial. Since the debate, donors, strategists, lawmakers and their constituents have been calling on Democrats to replace him at the top of the ticket before, they say, it is too late.

Biden’s Friday interview with ABC hasn’t convinced some who remain skeptical that he can revive his campaign. That’s one reason he went out to the friendly crowd in Mount Airy, where he walked in to applause and a chant of “Let him know we’re with him!” that drew a “Hallelujah!”

“There is no election we can’t win,” Felton told the crowd. “We’re together because we love our president.”

“He’s a fighter. He’s a champion. He’s a winner. Hallelujah!” the pastor said of Biden, before leading a prayer in which he said, “Our president is getting discouraged. But today, by your holy spirit, renew his spirit, renew his body. He’s the body that we need in these terrible times.”

The visit gave Biden a chance to motivate African-American voters, who make up the Democrats’ largest and most loyal base of support. It also could send a message to members of the Congressional Black Caucus, whose support the president needs as he works to quell potential uprisings on Capitol Hill.

At the Essence Festival of Culture in New Orleans on Saturday, Biden received enthusiastic support from four members of the caucus, including 85-year-old California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, who drew a standing ovation after declaring, “People say Joe Biden is too old. Hell, I’m older than Biden!”

“There will be no other Democratic candidate,” Waters said, “and we need to know that.”

Others are not yet completely convinced.

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut told CNN that Biden “needs to answer voters’ questions,” but added: “If he does that this week, I think he’ll be in a very good position and we can get back to what this campaign needs.”

During his interview on Friday, Biden refused to take independent cognitive tests, arguing that the day-to-day rigors of the presidency were evidence enough of his mental acuity. But California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff told NBC on Sunday that he would be “happy to see both the president and Donald Trump take a cognitive test.”

Schiff added that the president’s choice to stay in the race “depends on what Joe Biden thinks is best” and that he can “run hard” to defeat Trump or “if his decision is to pass the torch, then the president should do everything he can to make that other candidate successful.”

Schiff warned that Biden should consider how he risks dragging Democrats down the ballot: “Look, there are concerns about the impact on the lower ballot box if the president doesn’t do well.”

“You can only outperform the president so much,” he said.

Like some Democrats, Schiff also took aim at Biden when he suggested during the ABC interview that losing to Trump would be acceptable “as long as I do everything I can.”

“This is not just about whether he did his best in college,” Schiff said, “but rather whether he made the right decision to run for office or to pass the torch.”


Weissert reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Zeke Miller in Washington, Michelle Price in New York, Meg Kinnard in Chapin, South Carolina, and Bill Barrow in New Orleans contributed to this report.

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