Biden Concedes Missteps, Vows to Press on Despite Calls to Quit

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden said he is committed to winning the November election, brushing aside mounting calls from prominent Democrats to step aside following his disastrous debate against Republican Donald Trump.

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Biden, 81, on Friday acknowledged limitations caused by his age and his sputtering performance the day prior against Trump. But he declared he was up to the task of serving another four years in the White House.

“I give you my word: I would not be running again if I didn’t believe with all my heart and soul I can do this job,” the president said at a campaign rally in North Carolina. “I intend to win this state in November.”

The president told supporters “I know I’m not a young man, to state the obvious,” leading the crowd to cheer in support of him.

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“I don’t walk as easy as I used to. I don’t speak as smoothly as I used to. I don’t debate as well as I used to,” he continued. “But I know what I do know — I know how to tell the truth, I know right from wrong and I know how to do this job.”

At a political fundraiser later Friday at an LGBTQ gala in Manhattan, Biden again defended his candidacy.

“I know how to get things done, and I know what millions of Americans know — when you get knocked down you get back up,” the president said.

Several Democratic lawmakers and donors — as well as some of Biden’s favorite television hosts and columnists — have said publicly and privately that the oldest president in US history should exit the race after delivering a debate performance that cemented public perceptions that he is not capable of handling the rigors of a second term as commander-in-chief.

Trump attempted to harness momentum following the debate with his own rally in Virginia, ridiculing Biden’s debate performance.

“Despite the fact that Crooked Joe Biden spent the entire week at Camp David resting, working, studying — he studied very hard. He studied so hard that he didn’t know what the hell he was doing,” the former president said. “Many people are saying that after last night’s performance that Joe Biden is leaving the race. But the fact is, I don’t really believe that because he does better in polls than any of the Democrats they’re talking about.”

Biden’s comments, however, made it clear he will not accede to pressure to make way for another Democratic nominee. His comments also signaled he is unlikely to drastically change his campaign’s approach, despite committing one of the biggest missteps in modern political history at Thursday’s debate.

Former President Barack Obama, who discouraged Biden from running for president after the death of his son in 2015, on Friday offered his full backing to his onetime No. 2. Obama, among the most popular Democrats, has campaigned for Biden in the last two elections.

“Bad debate nights happen. Trust me, I know,” Obama said in a statement, referring to his shaky first debate in 2012. “This election is still a choice between someone who has fought for ordinary folks his entire life and someone who only cares about himself.”

First lady Jill Biden, speaking at a fundraiser in Greenwich Village hosted by author Adriana Trigiani, acknowledged the debate was on the minds of attendees — but relayed the private support she had offered her husband.

“As Joe said earlier today, he’s not a young man. And you know, after last night’s debate, he said, ‘You know, Jill, I don’t know what happened. I didn’t feel that great.’ And I said, ‘Look, Joe, we are not going to let 90 minutes define the four years that you’ve been president,’” the first lady said.

The president displayed more energy on Friday, though bouts of coughing interrupted his speech — the result of what people familiar with the matter said was a cold. Biden seized on opportunities he missed during the debate to land punches against Trump on abortion rights, the former president’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election and his felony conviction in a New York hush-money case.

“I thought to myself Donald Trump isn’t just a convicted felon, Donald Trump is a one-man crime wave,” Biden said.

The president said “America itself is at stake” in the November election, citing Trump’s pledge to carry out retribution on his political enemies if he wins another term.

“Donald Trump will destroy democracy. I will defend it,” Biden said.

Both Biden and Trump chose to campaign after the debate in states that are stretches to win, signaling they want to expand the map of competitive areas this fall. No Democratic presidential nominee has won North Carolina since 2008 and a Republican hasn’t prevailed in Virginia in two decades.

“If we win here, we win the election,” Biden said.

--With assistance from Hadriana Lowenkron and Josh Wingrove.

(Updates throughout with president, first lady’s remarks at New York fundraisers.)

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