All eyes on Biden's July 4th party, ABC interview as Democrats consider his future


By Steve Holland, Andrea Shalal and Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -As President Joe Biden resists pressure to abandon his re-election campaign after a poor showing in his debate with Donald Trump, he will face close scrutiny in public events in coming days that could determine his political future.

With calls growing from some of his own Democrats to step aside, and support coalescing around the idea of Vice President Kamala Harris taking his place in the November election, Biden’s allies believe he can demonstrate stamina and mental acuity to voters and donors.

Biden will host families at the annual July 4 Independence Day festivities at the White House on Thursday, be interviewed on ABC News on Friday, and travel to Wisconsin the same day for a campaign rally with hundreds of supporters.

On Sunday, Biden and his wife Jill speak to thousands at the National Education Association in Pennsylvania. Next week he hosts dozens of world leaders at the NATO summit in Washington, and holds a rare solo news conference. He has also done several radio interviews.

Dozens of House Democrats are watching closely, prepared to ask Biden to step aside if he falters in the ABC interview that will be broadcast Friday evening, a source told Reuters.

The list of closely watched events show there is a new reality for Biden since last week’s debate – even if he doesn’t falter verbally or physically, serious concerns about his viability as a candidate are likely to linger. And if he does mangle words or look unfocused or confused, he will face renewed pressure to depart.

Biden is 81 and would be 86 when his second term ends. He is being asked by some former supporters to step aside to preserve his legacy and lessen the chances of a second Trump presidency. With just four months to go before the election, a decision needs to be made soon, they say.

The president and his top officials have held a series of calls with campaign and White House staff in recent days, hoping to increase morale and drive home the message that he’s not leaving.

But Democrats, including top allies, have left the door open to having Harris at the top of the Democratic ticket.

The White House has repeatedly said the president was suffering from a cold and jet lag on the night of the debate. Biden saw a doctor after the debate, spokesperson Andrew Bates said on Thursday. “Several days later, the president was seen to check on his cold and was recovering well,” he said.

TRUMP VIDEO

Trump, 78, who made multiple false statements from the debate stage in Atlanta, falsely claimed in a video that was filmed from his golf course and circulated on social media on Thursday that he had driven Biden out of the race. He made disparaging comments about Harris in the same video, which the Trump campaign stood by.

In a radio interview with WURD that aired on Thursday morning, Biden spoke about his record delivering for Black Americans as president. He stuttered occasionally.

Asked whether there was any reason for the American people to be concerned after his halting performance in last week’s debate with Trump, Biden demurred.

“No, I had a bad debate,” he said, adding that this should not erase what he’s done as president for three and a half years.

He recited multiple statistics on issues ranging from funding for historically Black colleges and universities to student loan relief. He reiterated his case against Trump.

“The guy I’m running against is a convicted felon who is, said he wants to be a dictator on Day One. Not a joke, he means it,” Biden said.

Biden’s already shaky standing in opinion polls against Trump took a slight hit after the debate in Atlanta, but a new Reuters/Ipsos poll showed the president pulled even with Trump this week, a sign the contest remains close.

Trump and Biden each had 40% support among registered voters in the two-day poll that concluded on Tuesday. A prior Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted June 11-12 showed Trump with a marginal 2 percentage point lead, 41% to 39%.

‘MADE A MISTAKIE’

In an interview with Earl Ingram of “The Earl Ingram Show” radio program on Wednesday, Biden said he would fight on.

“I screwed up, I made a mistake. That’s 90 minutes on stage. Look what I’ve done for the last three and a half years,” he said.

Biden met with a group of Democratic governors on Wednesday at the White House to make his case. Some told reporters afterward they were sticking by his side.

“President Joe Biden is in it to win it,” New York Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul told reporters after the talks.

Maryland Democratic Governor Wes Moore said: “We know that we have work to do. It’s going to take all of us to make it happen.” Gavin Newsom, the California governor whose name is often floated as an alternative to Biden, said on X, formerly Twitter, he was “all in” for Biden.

Arizona’s Raul Grijalva called for Biden to drop out of the race while Representative Seth Moulton from Massachusetts called Biden’s age a liability.

“The unfortunate reality is that the status quo will likely deliver us President Trump,” Moulton said in a statement. “President Biden is not going to get younger.”

(Reporting by Steve Holland, Andrea Shalal and Jeff MasonEditing by Heather Timmons, Stephen Coates and Frances Kerry)



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