‘I am running’: Biden dismisses calls to step aside

Andrea Shalal, Steve Holland and Jeff Mason |

US President Joe Biden told a rally he’s running for re-election and he’s ‘gonna win again’.
US President Joe Biden told a rally he’s running for re-election and he’s ‘gonna win again’.

US President Joe Biden has mocked and criticised Donald Trump at a rally in a spirited speech meant to mute calls for him to quit the race because of his age.

Biden travelled to Wisconsin, a political battleground state, to rally voters and sit for a television interview that will be closely watched after his debate with Trump prompted some Democrats and donors to question whether he can handle a second four-year term.

“We had a little debate last week. Can’t say it was my best performance. But ever since then there’s been a lot of speculation. ‘What’s Joe gonna do? Is he gonna stay in the race? Is he gonna drop out?” Biden said. 

“Well here’s my answer: I am running and gonna win again.”

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris
Some say its time for Biden to stand aside and let Vice President Kamala Harris run for the top job. (AP PHOTO)

Biden said he was thankful for the support of his vice president, Kamala Harris, who has emerged as a top choice to replace him were he to step aside as the Democratic Party’s standard-bearer.

Biden knocked Trump’s intelligence and called him a liar, delivering stinging attacks that were absent when he appeared on the Atlanta debate stage.

He referenced a comment in which Trump mistakenly said George Washington’s revolutionary army had taken over British airports in 1776. 

“He is a ‘stable genius’,” Biden said.

But he had sharper words for those in his party who have raised doubts about his ability to lead them to victory over Trump in the November 5 election.

“I’m the nominee of this party,” Biden said. “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!”

The president faced a potential new hurdle from within the party ranks, however. 

Senator Mark Warner, a well-respected moderate Democrat, is inviting Democratic senators to a meeting on Monday to discuss Biden’s campaign, a source told Reuters. 

The Washington Post reported Warner was seeking to ask the group to press Biden to exit the race.

While in Wisconsin, Biden will be interviewed by ABC News, part of a flurry of events over the next week aimed at showing Americans he still has the stamina to run against Trump.

Biden is under pressure from some Democrats to step aside and open a path for the 59-year-old Harris to lead from the top of the ticket.

A handful of donors and business leaders are making their displeasure known loudly, halting funding or looking at possible Democratic alternatives. 

Even some of Biden’s closest political allies, including former speaker Nancy Pelosi, have raised questions about his health.

Joe Biden at the Wisconsin rally
Biden has a host of events lined up in the next week in a bid to counter perceptions he’s too old. (AP PHOTO)

Massachusetts governor Maura Healey issued a statement on Friday in which she asked Biden to weigh the decision carefully. Healey was one of the few Democratic governors who have not issued a statement of support in recent days.

“President Biden saved our democracy in 2020 and has done an outstanding job over the last four years,” she said. 

“The best way forward right now is a decision for the president to make. 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.”

Some public opinion polls have shown Trump widening a lead since the debate, while a Reuters/Ipsos poll found one in three Democrats want Biden to quit the race.

The Biden campaign announced it would spend $50 million on a media blitz for July, “including strategic investments around key events that draw in large and politically diverse audiences like the 2024 Olympic Games and the Republican National Convention”.

Trump, 78, who made multiple false statements during the debate in Atlanta, falsely claimed in a video that was circulated on social media 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.