Biden says only the 'Lord Almighty' could oust him from race in ABC News interview


By Andrea Shalal, Stephanie Kelly and Kanishka Singh

MADISON, Wisconsin (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden remained resolute in a closely-watched interview with ABC News on Friday that he was the candidate to beat Republican opponent Donald Trump in November’s election, but did little to temper Democrats’ concerns.

Biden in the interview again called his shaky CNN debate performance on June 27 against Trump “a bad episode.”

“No indication of any serious condition. I was exhausted. I didn’t listen to my instincts in terms of preparing and — and a bad night,” Biden, 81, told ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos in a taped interview in Madison, Wisconsin.

“I just had a bad night. I don’t know why,” Biden added in a hoarse voice, stumbling occasionally over his words.

Biden was gently but repeatedly probed by Stephanopoulos about whether he was being realistic in his belief that he could beat Trump, given widening polls between the two and growing concern from elected Democrats.

“I don’t think anyone is more qualified,” Biden told Stephanopoulos in the interview. The polls, he said, were inaccurate.

Asked whether he would drop out if fellow Democrats in Congress said he was hurting their re-election chances in November, Biden said: “If the Lord Almighty comes out and tells me that I might do that.”

The 22-minute interview, which Stephanopoulos said was not cut or edited, was being scrutinized by Democrats concerned about the president’s ability to serve another four years, or beat Trump, 78, in the election, after his faltering debate performance.

If he stays in the race, and Trump wins, how will he feel, Stephanopoulos asked. “I’ll feel as long as I gave it my all and I did as good a job as I know I can do, that’s what this is about,” Biden said.

‘THIS IS BAD’

U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett told CNN after the interview, “Every day he (Biden) delays makes it more difficult for a new person to come on board to defeat Donald Trump.”

Doggett had already called for Biden to step aside.

“This is bad,” one House of Representatives Democratic aide, who declined to be named, told Reuters. “This interview did nothing but confirm the serious concerns we’re all having.”

Even before ABC News aired the full interview, some had already made up their mind about the interview’s impact.

“I don’t see how he (Biden) lasts the week as the nominee,” a senior House Democratic aide told Reuters after watching a short clip ABC News released before the interview.

However, a senior official with the Democratic National Committee said Biden’s performance was “better” than the one he gave at the debate.

“It’s pretty clear that he’s not going anywhere unless there’s a major revolt on the hill,” the official told Reuters.

Earlier on Friday, Biden told a crowd in a fiery speech in Madison that some Democrats were trying to push him out of the race in the wake of the debate with Trump. But he said during the ABC News interview that senior Democrats would not ask him to step aside.

He said he spoke for an hour with House Speaker Hakeem Jeffries from New York and longer with Representative Jim Clyburn from South Carolina.

During the interview, Biden highlighted his record in office, saying that he expanded NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization), grew the economy and has a peace plan for the Middle East. He talked about expanding healthcare and making changes to the tax system if he won a second term.

It didn’t win over some critics.

“I’ve seen enough,” Ron Fournier, senior adviser with communications agency Truscott Rossman and former White House correspondent, said on social media platform X. “It hard to imagine this good man beating Trump and serving four more years in the most demanding job on earth.”

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh, Richard Cowen, Andrea Shalal, Nandita Bose and Stephanie Kelly; editing by Rami Ayyub, Heather Timmons, Rosalba O’Brien and Diane Craft)



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