Only the ‘Lord Almighty’ could force me to stop

By means of Mike Wendling in Madison, Wisconsin and Max Matza, BBC news

Getty Images Joe Biden speaks with George StephanopoulosGetty Images

Mr. Biden sat for a rare prime-time interview with ABC News on Friday

US President Joe Biden has said only the “Lord Almighty” can convince him to end his re-election campaign, during a rare prime-time interview aimed at calming Democratic concerns about his candidacy.

In an interview with ABC News on Friday, Biden also refused to take a cognitive test and release the results, seeking to convince voters he is fit to serve another term.

“I have a cognitive test every day. Every day I have that test – everything I do [is a test]”, he told George Stephanopoulos.

The 81-year-old has again resisted the idea, floated by some Democratic officials and donors, that he should step aside in favor of a younger alternative after his disastrous debate with Donald Trump last week.

During the interview, Mr Stephanopoulos urged the President about his ability to serve another term, asking Mr Biden if he was in denial about his health and his ability to win.

“I don’t think there’s anyone better qualified to be president or to win this race than me,” Biden said, blaming his poor performance last week on exhaustion and a “bad cold.” In the 22-minute interview, he also said:

  • Tried to allay Democrats’ fears that he had lost ground to Donald Trump since the debate, saying pollsters he had spoken to said the race was a “toss-up”
  • Rejected suggestions allies could ask him to step aside. “That’s not going to happen,” he said
  • Repeated questions about what would force him to leave the race were dismissed. “If the Lord Almighty came down and said, ‘Joe, get out of the race,’ I would get out of the race,” he said. “The Lord Almighty ain’t coming down”

The president answered questions more clearly than he had during last week’s debate, but his voice again sounded weak and occasionally hoarse.

It was a sharp contrast to his performance at a rally in Madison, Wis., on Friday, where an energetic Mr. Biden acknowledged his disastrous performance in last week’s CNN debate. “There’s been a lot of speculation since then. What’s Joe going to do?” he told the crowd.

“Here’s my answer. I’m in and I’m going to win again,” Biden said, as supporters in the crucial state cheered his name.

‘I’m in and I’m going to win again,’ Biden says

The interview and meeting come at a crucial time for his campaign, as donors and Democratic allies consider whether to back him.

According to various reports in the US media, the campaign team is aware that the coming days could make or break his re-election campaign, as Biden tries to regain ground lost to his Republican rival Donald Trump after the debate.

As he took the stage at the rally, Biden passed a voter holding a sign that read, “Pass the torch, Joe.” Another voter standing outside the venue held a sign that read, “Save your legacy, drop out!”

“I see all these stories that say I’m too old,” Biden said at the rally, before celebrating his record in the White House. “Was I too old to create 15 million jobs?” he said. “Was I too old to eliminate the student debt of five million Americans?”

“Do you think I’m too old to beat Donald Trump?” he asked, while the audience responded “no.”

Referring to Trump’s conviction in New York and other charges he has faced in separate cases, he called his rival a “one-man crime wave.”

Some voters at the Wisconsin rally tell the BBC they are open to change

Pressure on Biden to resign has only increased after the debate, during which he lost track several times and raised concerns about his age and mental fitness.

Some major Democratic donors have begun pushing for Biden’s resignation as the party’s candidate, publicly warning that funding would be withheld unless he was replaced.

His campaign is planning an aggressive comeback, with his wife, Jill Biden, and Vice President Kamala Harris planning a campaign blitz to travel to every swing state this month.

Biden, who is scheduled to speak at another rally in Pennsylvania on Sunday, thanked the vice president for her support, who has emerged as the most likely candidate to replace him on the Democratic ticket if he were to step down.

According to the Washington Post, Biden’s senior team is aware of the pressure from within the Democratic Party to make a decision on the future of his candidacy within a week.

Reports emerged on Friday that House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries had scheduled a meeting with top House Democrats on Sunday to discuss Biden’s candidacy.

Five Democrats in the House of Representatives have now called on him to withdraw from the race: Angie Craig of Minnesota, Lloyd Doggett of Texas, Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, Seth Boulton of Massachusetts and Mike Quigley of Illinois.

“I do not believe the President can campaign effectively and win against Donald Trump,” Congressman Craig said in a statement Saturday.

“This is not a decision I have taken lightly, but the stakes are simply too high to risk a second Donald Trump presidency. That is why I respectfully call on President Biden to step down as the Democratic nominee for a second term as president and allow a new generation of leaders to step forward.”

However, no leading Democratic party has called on him to resign, his campaign manager told reporters.

On Friday, reports emerged that Senator Mark Warner was attempting to form a group of Democratic senators to ask Biden to withdraw from the race. The reports, including one in the Washington Postsuggested that Mr Warner had serious concerns after the CNN debate.

Later on Friday, Biden told reporters that he understood Warner “is the only one considering this” and that no one else had called on him to resign.

That same day, Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey, a Democrat and Biden ally, issued a statement urging the president to “carefully evaluate” whether to remain the Democratic nominee.

“Whatever President Biden decides, I am committed to doing everything in my power to defeat Donald Trump,” she said.


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Some Democratic voters, too, have lost confidence in Biden’s ability to compete. In a Wall Street Journal poll released Friday, 86% of Democrats said they would support Biden, down from 93% in February.

During the meeting in Madison, several Biden supporters told BBC News that they supported his candidacy for re-election and were not concerned about the debate debacle.

“I’m not worried about his health. I think he’ll make it all the way to the election and beyond,” said elementary school teacher Susan Shotliff, 56.

Some said that as Biden struggled for words, more attention should be paid to his Republican rival. “During the debate, [Trump] told a bunch of lies. How is that worse than what Biden did?” said Greg Hovel, 67.

Others expressed more concern. “I wanted to see for myself what he’s like, his mannerisms, his energy,” said Thomas Leffler, a Madison-based health researcher. “I’m concerned about his ability to beat Trump.”

“As he gets older, I think it’s going to be more of an issue. But I’m voting blue either way,” he said.

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