Biden vows to stay in race ‘to the end’, as governors affirm support

Biden tells campaign team he will remain candidate despite dismal debate showing, growing pressure from some Democrats.

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US President Joe Biden is under mounting pressure to demonstrate his physical and mental fitness for office [Susan Walsh/AP]

United States President Joe Biden has pledged to continue his re-election campaign “to the end”, as the embattled Democrat fights to keep his candidacy alive amid growing alarm over his physical and mental fitness.

Biden, 81, on Wednesday insisted that he would keep running despite growing pressure from within his party to step aside following last week’s disastrous debate performance against his Republican challenger Donald Trump.

“Let me say this as clearly as I possibly can, as simply and straightforward as I can: I am running … no one’s pushing me out,” Biden said on a call with campaign staffers.

“I’m not leaving. I’m in this race to the end, and we’re going to win.”

Biden’s defiant remarks came after US media reports indicated that the president and his team have acknowledged that his candidacy is at risk of collapsing within days if he cannot convince the public of his fitness for office.

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre denied those reports, insisting Biden was “clear-eyed, and he is staying in the race”.

Concerns about Biden’s age and condition have boiled over since last Thursday’s debate, when the president gave several answers that meandered into incoherence.

While acknowledging that Biden performed poorly at the debate, his team has dismissed suggestions that he has dementia or is otherwise cognitively impaired.

White House officials initially blamed Biden’s poor performance on a cold.

Biden on Tuesday said he had been exhausted after making back-to-back trips to France and Italy, although he spent the week leading up to the debate behind closed doors at the presidential retreat, Camp David.

Raul Grijalva, a House representative from Arizona, on Wednesday became the second elected Democrat to call on Biden to step aside, following Texas Congressman Lloyd Doggett the previous day.

Several other elected Democrats have publicly questioned Biden’s condition or said they believe he will lose against Trump in November.

“The unfortunate reality is that the status quo will likely deliver us President Trump. When your current strategy isn’t working, it’s rarely the right decision to double down,” Seth Moulton, a Democratic representative from Massachusetts, said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that he was “taking time” to consider the best path forward for his party.

“President Biden is not going to get younger.”

Democrat disquiet

Late on Wednesday, Biden received a boost from a group of Democratic governors who reiterated their support for the president after a meeting with him and Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House.

“The president has always had our backs. We’re going to have his back as well,” Maryland Governor Wes Moore told reporters.

“The president is our nominee,” Moore said. “The president is our party leader.”

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who also attended the meeting, said Biden was “in it to win it and I support him.”

At 78, Biden was the oldest person ever sworn into the US presidency following his victory in the 2020 election over Trump. A second victory would see him leave office at the age of 86. If Trump were to win in November, he would also be 78 when he enters office for his second term.

Biden’s age has been a longstanding concern among voters, and his support among the public appears to have slipped substantially since his debate appearance.

In a New York Times/Siena College poll released on Wednesday, Trump led Biden 49 percent to 41 percent among registered voters, the highest margin since 2015.

Nearly three-quarters of voters, including a majority of Democrats, believe the president is too old to do a second term, a five-point rise since the debate, according to the poll.

In a CNN poll published earlier this week, three-quarters of registered voters said Democrats would have a better chance at winning the election with someone other than Biden on the ticket.

Voters also favoured Trump over Biden, 49 percent to 43 percent.

Harris did moderately better, gaining the support of 45 percent of voters compared with Trump’s 47 percent.

If Biden were to step aside, it would cast the race into uncharted territory. The US presidential primary season, when party members typically vote on who they want to be their candidate, has already ended, although the party’s candidate will not be finalised until the Democratic National Convention next month.

Harris, who has rallied behind her boss, is considered the most likely successor if Biden were to step aside.

Other names floated include Whitmer, California Governor Gavin Newsom, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, and Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies