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US: Biden returns to campaign trail after tough debate

June 28, 2024

US President Joe Biden took to the stage in North Carolina a day after his difficult debate against Donald Trump. "I don't debate as well as I used to," he conceded at one point, "But ... I know how to do this job."

US President Joe Biden in Raleigh, North Carolina
Despite the unfortunate debates with Donald Trump, Joe Biden refuses to give up the campaignImage: Evan Vucci/AP/dpa/picture alliance

Speaking before a rally in the battleground state of North Carolina on Friday, US President Joe Biden announced he was still in the race for the White House.

"I intend to win the elections," he told the crowd in Raleigh, which repeatedly interrupted the president with chants of "four more years."

"America itself is at stake," Biden reminded the audience. He spoke for 18 minutes, clearing his throat repeatedly and appearing more animated than the night before during the televised debate with Donald Trump.

He condemned Trump for his "lies" and his campaign of "revenge and retribution."

"Did you see Trump last night? My guess is he broke a new record for the number of lies told in a single presidential debate," Biden said.

"The choice in this election is simple," he said. "Donald Trump will destroy our democracy. I will defend it."

Jill Biden waves to the crowd, with Joe Biden standing next to her. Raleigh, North Carolina, June 28, 2024.
Jill Biden also spoke to the crowd, and also criticized Trump's 'lies' during Thursday's debateImage: Evan Vucci/AP/dpa/picture alliance

The US president also acknowledged the critical coverage of his own performance, saying that he was no longer "young."

"I don't walk as easy as I used to, I don't speak as smoothly as I used to, I don't debate as well as I used to," Biden admitted.

"But I know what I do know. I know how to tell the truth," he said. "I know right from wrong. I know how to do this job. I know how to get things done."

Biden also said that he, like millions of Americans, knew that "when you get knocked down, you get back up."

US-Democrats shocked by Biden's 'painful' debate performance

Approximately 48 million US viewers tuned in to watch the presidential debate on television, according to preliminary data from Nielsen. The online and international audience will be much larger and harder to quantify.

Debate sparks replacement talks

Biden's poor debate performance on Thursday night has some in his own party questioning whether he should be replaced on the ticket, even though it would be nearly impossible for Democrats to replace Biden unless he decides to step aside.

Democratic lawmakers on Friday acknowledged Biden's poor performance, but tried to quash talk of replacing him as their standard-bearer. House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries responded with a flat "no" when asked if Biden should step aside.

But he declined to answer directly when asked if he still had confidence in Biden at the top of the ticket. "I support the ticket. I support the Senate Democratic majority. We're going to do everything possible to take back the House in November," he told reporters. 

"I would be concerned if the president didn't have a record to run on, but the fact of the matter is this is a man who's passed historic legislation," Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock said after the debate.

And Democratic Representative Emanuel Cleaver said he could hardly sleep because of the number of telephone calls he got after Biden performed "horribly" in the debate, but he also warned that "overreacting is dangerous."

Meanwhile, former US President Barack Obama has admitted that Biden had a "poor" debate performance, but has maintained his support for Biden. 

"Bad debate nights happen. Trust me, I know," Obama said on X. "But this election is still a choice between someone who has fought for ordinary folks his entire life and someone who only cares about himself." 


Expert: Trump may have won over undecided voters in debate

Anxiety in Europe

Biden's debate performance also raised concerns among European allies. "American democracy killed before our eyes by gerontocracy!" Guy Verhofstadt, a member of the European parliament and a former prime minister of Belgium, said on X.

And Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski appeared to draw historical parallels with ancient Rome, albeit while carefully avoiding any direct mention of who or what he was talking about.

"Marcus Aurelius was a great emperor but he screwed up his succession by passing the baton to his feckless son Commodus... whose disastrous rule started Rome's decline. It's important to manage one's ride into the sunset," he wrote on X.

Meanwhile, German politician Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, a member of the Bundestag from the liberal FDP party, expressed concern about the prospects of Trump becoming the next US president. 

"The fact that a man like Trump could become president again because the Democrats are unable to put up a strong candidate against him would be a historic tragedy that the whole world would feel," she told the Rheinische Post paper.

dh/msh (AP, Reuters)