Biden, campaigning in Wisconsin, defies calls to drop out: "Completely ruling that out" (2024)

Politics

By Kathryn Watson, Melissa Quinn

/ CBS News

President Biden had a message on Friday for Democrats and others who are calling on him to drop his reelection bid after last week's debate: "I am going to run and I'm going to win again."

Speaking to supporters in the battleground state of Wisconsin on Friday, the president reiterated that he won't be forced out as the Democratic presidential nominee amid a chorus of criticism and concern sparked by hisstartling debate performance. After a week of working to assuage concerns about his fitness for a second term, Mr. Biden stood his ground.

"Now, you probably heard we had a little debate last week," the president said after taking the stage in Madison. "Can't say it was my best performance. But ever since then, there's been a lot of speculation. What's Joe going to do? Is he going to stay in the race? Is he going to drop out, what's he going to do? Well, here's my answer: I am going to run and I'm going to win again."

The president cited the results of the primary process, which was tightly controlled by the Democratic Party and featured no serious challengers to his renomination.

"I'm the nominee of the Democratic Party," the president said. "You voted for me to be your nominee, no one else. You, the voters, did that. And despite that, some folks don't seem to care who you voted for. Well, guess what: they're trying to push me out of the race. Well, let me say this as clearly as I can: I'm staying in the race."

Biden, campaigning in Wisconsin, defies calls to drop out: "Completely ruling that out" (1)

Despite his much stronger voice compared to last week's debate, the president still fumbled.

"I'm staying in the race. I'll beat Donald Trump. I will beat him again in 2020," the president said, before realizing his error and correcting himself to say "2024."

Behind the president, among the group of energetic supporters holding signs was one young man with a sign that read, "Pass the torch, Joe." Someone else in the stands covered up his sign, and the young man crumpled it.

At the airport following the speech, a reporter asked the president if he's still considering dropping out of the race, or if he's completely ruling that out.

"Completely ruling that out," Mr. Biden said, insisting the media class was "wrong" about politics in 2020, 2022 and 2023.

The president said he's spoken to "at least 20" members of Congress since the debate. He also told reporters he's "confident" he can serve another four years in office.

A crucial stretch for Biden

Mr. Biden's public appearances are under renewed scrutiny following his halting debate performance against former President Donald Trump, and the rally in Wisconsin kicked off what could be a critical weekend for his hopes to reassure Democrats that he can stay in the race.

In Wisconsin, Mr. Biden taped an interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, which aired in full Friday night. In the interview, Mr. Biden stressed his belief that he has the mental fitness to remain in the presidential race and lead the nation for four more years.

"Look, I have a cognitive test every single day," Mr. Biden said in response to whether he would undergo an independent cognitive or neurological assessment. "Every day, I have that test. Everything I do. You know, not only am I campaigning, but I'm running the world."

The president will also head to Philadelphia for another campaign event on Sunday, capping the July 4 holiday weekend with a visit to a second battleground state.

Democrats who spoke before the president in Madison alluded to the challenging political environment.

"What a week," said Ben Wikler, chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party. "What a week. First, let's acknowledge it — rough debate. One guy needed a lozenge, the other guy needed a lie detector and a conscience and a reminder that he's not running for dictator of North Korea."

"It's going to come down to a few states, and Wisconsin is one of those states," Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan said. "And don't think for a second that this is going to be easy. Just in the last week, some say that the snow globe of the election has been shaken. But you know what hasn't been shaken? The resolve of the people."

In a pair of radio interviews that aired Thursday, Mr. Biden admitted he had a "bad debate" and that he "screwed up."

Mr. Biden's campaign and the White House sought to brush off concerns about his lackluster performance by insisting he had a cold and that the debate fiasco was simply a "bad night." As part of efforts to quiet concerns about Mr. Biden and his age, he and Vice President Kamala Harris participated in a call with campaign staff on Wednesday, and theymet with 20 Democratic governors at the White House later that evening. Mr. Biden also spoke with the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate, as well as other key allies on Capitol Hill.

One of the governors who attended the White House meeting, Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, praised Mr. Biden for his work over the last four years and reiterated that she is committed to defeating Trump in November. But Healey also urged the president to examine the path forward, while stopping short of saying he should step aside.

"The best way forward right now is a decision for the president to make," she said in a statement. "Over the coming days, I urge him to listen to the American people and carefully evaluate whether he remains our best hope to defeat Donald Trump."

The president has maintained the same message throughout the outreach, according to participants: he is in the race to defeat Trump and will not be pushed out.

"I learned from my father, when you get knocked down, just get back up, get back up," Mr. Biden told "The Earl Ingram Show," which airs in Wisconsin, in the radio interview Thursday. "And you know we're going to win this election, we're going to just beat Donald Trump."

Amid the assurances, a handful of House Democrats have openly called on Mr. Biden to withdraw from the presidential race, including Reps. Lloyd Doggett, Raul Grijalva, Seth Moulton, Mike Quigley and Angie Craig. Others, meanwhile, have publicly urged the president to take steps to prove to voters, elected Democrats and party donors that he is fit for a second term in the White House.

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia has been speaking with Democratic colleagues about finding ways to convince Mr. Biden to step aside and let others seek the nomination, a senator who has been contacted by Warner told CBS News Thursday.

The senator says Warner's outreach "is nothing formal. There's no formal plan, at least not yet."

When asked by Stephanopoulos about that report Friday, Mr. Biden responded that Warner "is a good man" who previously "tried to get the nomination," but that "Mark and I have a different perspective. I respect him."

Kathryn Watson

Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital, based in Washington, D.C.

Biden, campaigning in Wisconsin, defies calls to drop out: "Completely ruling that out" (2024)
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