Biden interview fails to assuage Democrats' fitness concerns


video caption, Joe Biden interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News

  • Author, Rachel Luker and Courtney Subramanian
  • Role, BBC News, Washington

President Joe Biden's TV interview Friday night appeared to put an end to the revolt within his own party that has sought to end his reelection campaign after a dismal performance in a debate against Donald Trump.

Fifth House Democrat Angie Craig of Minnesota joined her colleagues on Saturday in calling on the president to step down, and reports suggest more may do the same.

In his rare prime-time interview with ABC News, Mr Biden dismissed his performance in the debate as just a “bad episode” and said only “God Almighty” could convince him to end his bid for re-election.

Mr Biden, 81, is spending Saturday at his family home in Delaware ahead of two public events on Sunday.

There is growing disquiet among Democrats, though no senior party member has called on him to resign.

Some polls show Mr Trump's lead over Mr Biden growing, and many worry that if he stays ahead he will lose the presidency and House seats as well as the Senate majority.

Ms Craig, who is running in a competitive district in Minnesota, said on Saturday she did not believe Mr Biden would be able to “campaign effectively and win against Donald Trump”.

She said that though she respected his decades of service, “there is too much at stake to risk a second Donald Trump presidency.”

Minutes after the ABC interview, Texas Congressman Lloyd Doggett, the first House Democrat to call on Mr. Biden to step down, said on CNN that “the need is more urgent tonight than it was when I first asked for it.”

He said the longer it took for Mr Biden to decide to withdraw, “the harder it will be for someone new to come forward who can defeat Donald Trump”.

Other House Democrats, including Congressmen Mike Quigley of Illinois and Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, on Friday called on Mr. Biden to withdraw the nomination.

He will be joined on the call by Arizona's Raul Grijalva on Wednesday.

In his interview, Mr Biden refused to take a cognitive test and make the results public, to prove he is fit for another term.

“Every day I have a cognitive test. Every day I have that test — no matter what I do [is a test]he told George Stephanopoulos.

The response did not sit well with California Democratic Congresswoman Judy Chu, who told Politico that his response was “troubling and not particularly reassuring” and that she would be “watching it closely … especially in sudden situations.”

image Source, Getty Images

image Caption, Biden will address a rally in Wisconsin on July 5

During the 22-minute ABC interview, Mr Biden rejected suggestions that aides might ask him to step aside, saying “that's not going to happen”.

Mr. Stephanopoulos pressed the president on his ability to serve another term.

“I don't think there's anybody more qualified than me to be president or to win this race,” Mr Biden said.

Mr Biden, who is scheduled to address a rally in Pennsylvania on Sunday, thanked Vice President Kamala Harris for her support during an ABC News interview.

Ms Harris has emerged as a top contender to replace him if he steps down.

The vice president is scheduled to attend the Essence Festival, an annual Black cultural gathering, in New Orleans on Saturday.

It's the first of several events in July that appear to target female Black voters, a key voter turnout for Democrats in November.

However, it will be difficult to avoid questions about Mr Biden's candidacy and the possibility of Ms Harris replacing him.

Ms. Harris has spent time close to the president over the past week, flying from Los Angeles to attend the July 4 celebration at the White House, meeting with governors and Mr. Biden, and taking part in his talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Vice presidents have to strike a delicate balance of showing overt support for their boss while also tacitly proving they are ready for the top job. This is even more important for Ms Harris as questions swirl about Mr Biden's re-election bid.


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