Biden downplays debate performance in ABC interview: ‘No serious condition’

President Joe Biden, aiming to salvage his reelection campaign, called his poor debate performance last week a "bad episode" with "no indications of any serious condition" during a pivotal ABC interview on Friday, the Associated Press reported. 

"I didn’t listen to my instincts in terms of preparing," Biden told ABC's George Stephanopoulos in the interview, which aired Friday evening.

In the interview, Biden also rejected seeking an independent medical evaluation to show that he is fit to serve another term.

"Look, I have a cognitive test every single day," Biden told Stephanopoulos, referring to the tasks he faces daily in a rigorous job. "Every day, I’ve had tests. Everything I do."

He insisted that he was not more frail and that he was "still in good shape." He said he has an "ongoing assessment" by his personal doctors, and they "don't hesitate to tell me" if something is wrong.

Biden also dismissed repeated questions about his age, saying he's "most qualified" to lead Democrats against Trump.

Biden made it through the 22-minute interview without any major blunders that would inflict further damage to his imperiled candidacy, but it appeared unlikely to fully tamp down concerns about his age and fitness for another four years and his ability to defeat Trump in November.

Biden suggested that Trump’s disruptions — while standing just a few feet from him — had flustered him: "I realized that, even when I was answering a question and they turned his mic off, he was still shouting and I let it distract me. I’m not blaming it on that. But I realized that I just wasn’t in control."

Asked how he might turn the race around, Biden argued that one key would be large and energetic rallies like the one he held Friday in Wisconsin. When pressed that Trump routinely draws larger crowds, the president laid into his opponent.

"Trump is a pathological lair," Biden said, accusing Trump of bungling the federal response to the COVID pandemic and failing to create jobs. "You ever see something that Trump did that benefited someone else and not him?"

Biden also insisted he was the "most qualified" to lead Democrats against Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

Despite Biden's efforts to recover from the debate, internal party frustrations persist. One influential Democratic senator is beginning to push for the president to exit the race, while Democrats are quietly discussing their options if he stays or drops out.

Earlier, Biden reaffirmed his intention to stay in the presidential race amid growing calls for him to step aside after a disastrous debate performance. 

He made the announcement Friday on both X (formerly Twitter) and at a campaign rally in Wisconsin, a crucial battleground state for the 2024 rematch against former President Donald Trump. 

"I am running, and I'm going to win again," Biden told about 300 supporters at a Madison Middle School. 

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There’s broad agreement that Biden cannot afford to have another "bad day," but analysts say even a so-so performance may not be enough to ease concerns about his fitness to serve.

Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers, donors, and strategists are privately concerned after Biden’s poor debate performance but are waiting to see if he can regain confidence with his weekend activities and the Stephanopoulos interview airing Friday night.

Sen. Mark Warner has discussed with colleagues the possibility of asking Biden to exit the race, given Warner’s influential position and bipartisan relationships. The Washington Post first reported this effort.

While some House Democrats have openly called for Biden to step down, Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey stated that Biden needs to "listen to the American people" and evaluate his position.

Biden has faced calls to bow out of the campaign after his debate performance against Trump sparked concern that the 81-year-old Democrat is not up for the job for another four years.

"I had a bad night," Biden said in an interview on July 4 with radio host Earl Ingram. "And the fact of the matter is that, you know, I screwed up." 

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"I made a mistake," he told Ingram. "But I learned from my father, when you get knocked down, you just get back up."

US President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event in Madison, Wisconsin, on July 5, 2024. (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

Trump had a slight lead over Biden in two polls of voters conducted after last week’s debate. One poll, conducted by SSRS for CNN, found that three-quarters of voters — including more than half of Democratic voters — said the Democratic party has a better chance of winning the presidency in November with a candidate other than Biden.

About 7 in 10 voters, and 45% of Democrats, said Biden’s physical and mental ability is a reason to vote against him, according to the CNN/SSRS poll.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.