Biden interview fails to assuage Democrats’ fitness concerns

video caption, Clip of Joe Biden’s exclusive interview with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos

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

President Joe Biden’s TV interview Friday night appeared to prevent a revolt within his own party to end his campaign after his lackluster performance in a debate against Donald Trump.

The fifth House Democrat, Angie Craig of Minnesota, joined her colleagues on Saturday in calling on the president to step down, as reports indicate more could soon do so.

In his rare primetime interview with ABC News, Mr Biden dismissed his performance in the debate as just a “bad episode” and said only the “Almighty God” 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.

Although no senior party member has called on the president to resign, the uneasiness among Democrats is palpable.

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.

On Saturday, Congresswoman Craig, who is running in a competitive district in Minnesota, said she doesn’t believe the president “will be able to effectively campaign against Donald Trump and win.”

She said she respects the president’s decades of service, however she calls on Biden to step down as the Democratic nominee.

“This is not a decision I made lightly, but there is too much at stake to risk a second Donald Trump presidency,” he said in a statement.

Minutes after the ABC interview, Texas congressman Lloyd Doggett, the first House Democrat to call for Biden to drop out of the race, said on CNN that “the need for (Biden) to step down is more urgent tonight than it was when I first called 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 from the race. They were joined by Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva who on Wednesday called on the president to end his candidacy.

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.

That answer did not sit well with California Democratic Congresswoman Judy Chu, who told news outlet Politico that his response was “troubling and not particularly reassuring, so I will be watching him closely every day to see how he is doing, especially in sudden situations.”

image Source, Getty Images

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

During the 22-minute primetime interview, Mr Biden dismissed suggestions that aides might ask him to stand 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.

While the rest of the country was listening to Mr. Biden’s interview, Ms. Harris was boarding Air Force Two to New Orleans to attend the Essence Festival, an annual black cultural gathering.

Though Ms. Harris has spent the past week in close proximity to the president — flying from Los Angeles to attend a White House Fourth of July celebration and joining Mr. Biden’s meeting with governors as well as his talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — her aides believe it is business as usual for the vice president.

On Saturday, she had planned to sit down for a moderated conversation at the Essence Festival, the first in a series of events in July aimed at female Black voters, who are a key electorate for Democrats in November.

Though the event is focused on celebrating black culture and diversity, it will be hard to avoid questions about Mr Biden’s candidacy and Ms Harris’s chances of rising to the top.

Continuing her busy public schedule, Ms Harris will have to maintain the delicate balance of demonstrating explicit support for her boss while also tacitly proving she is ready for the job if Mr Biden secures the nomination.

She has walked a tightrope as Mr Biden’s deputy over the past three years, never seeming to overshadow the president or seem too eager to take his place.

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