Biden tells ABC News his debate was a "bad episode," says he was "exhausted"


President Biden on Friday called his poor debate performance a “bad episode” in which he was “feeling terrible,” saying he hasn’t watched the debate on screen himself. 

In his first interview since the debate, Mr. Biden told ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos there is “no indication” that his obvious struggle in the debate is indicative of a broader health issue. 

“It’s a bad episode,” the president said. “No indication of any serious condition. I was exhausted, I didn’t listen to my instincts in terms of preparing, and a bad night.”

Stephanopoulos pointed out that the president returned from rigorous travel in Europe a week and a half before the debate, and spent six days at Camp David resting and preparing. So why did he still perform so poorly? 

“Because I was sick, I was feeling terrible,” Mr. Biden said. “…I just had a really bad cold.” 

Stephanopoulos asked Mr. Biden if he’s gone back and watched his performance, a performance that sent the Democratic Party into crisis mode

“I don’t think I did, no,” he responded. 

The ABC News anchor pointed out that the president seemed to struggle from the moment the debate began. 

“Well, I just had a bad night,” Mr. Biden said, repeating a line that many of his defenders and his press secretary have frequently used in the last week. 

In the debate, which was viewed by over 50 million Americans, Mr. Biden struggled not only to rebut former President Trump’s arguments, lies and misstatements, but also had trouble with answers about his own administration’s policies, speaking softly, rambling and losing his train of thought. He moved stiffly and appeared to be frailer than his opponent.   

“Nobody’s fault but mine,” Mr. Biden said of his struggles. 

The president has been fighting to make the case that he’s still up to the job, as Democrats publicly and privately voice their concerns about whether he should remain the Democratic presidential nominee. As concern within the party grew, he met with Democratic governors at the White House Wednesday, after the president did little personal outreach to top Democrats the weekend after his lackluster debate performance. 

So far, two Democratic House members have publicly called on him to drop out of the race. Mr. Biden was defiant during a campaign rally in Madison, Wisconsin, Friday afternoon, speaking to elected Democrats and the donor class as much as to Wisconsin voters. 

“I’m the nominee of the Democratic Party,” he said. “…You voted for me to be your nominee — no one else. You, the voters, did that. And despite that, some folks don’t seem to care who you voted for. Well, guess what, 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.”

Asked after the speech whether he’s considering dropping out or ruling out that possibility, Mr. Biden responded, “Completely ruling it out.” 

Any decision to leave the race would have to be voluntary. Democratic Party leaders can’t push Mr. Biden off the ticket because he has already won the delegates necessary to clinch the nomination.

Vice President Kamala Harris is standing by the president. 

“Look, Joe Biden is our nominee,” she said in an exclusive interview with CBS News earlier this week. “We beat Trump once, and we’re going to beat him again, period.”



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