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Biden in Madison declares he’s staying in the race following concerns over debate performance

President Joe Biden at a Madison rally today tried to shut down speculation he would leave the presidential race and dismissed concerns about his age after a heavily criticized debate last week.

Biden spoke this afternoon at the Sherman Middle School — the 12th Wisconsin visit of his presidency. The visit comes amidst Dems’ discomfort over Biden’s poor debate performance and mounting questions about the 81-year-old’s fitness to be the party’s nominee.

“They’re trying to push me out of the race,” Biden said. “Well let me say it as clear as I can: I’m staying in the race.”

He added he learned long ago that when you get knocked down, you get back up, and “I’m not letting one 90-minute debate wipe out 3 and a half years of work.” 

Biden also addressed concerns about his age, joking, “I know I look 40.” 

“I wasn’t too old to create over 15 million new jobs,” he quipped, touting other accomplishments, including signing the Respect for Marriage Act to safeguard same-sex marriages and putting the first Black woman on the Supreme Court. 

Biden also said presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump is the “biggest liar and biggest threat to our democracy in American history.” He noted a recent Supreme Court decision tied to Trump’s actions leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol by Trump supporters. The decision found presidents have immunity from prosecution for “official acts” carried out during their time in office. 

He mentioned liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s opinion in the case and argued the decision would allow Trump to take out his political opponents, take bribes and lead a coup without being held accountable. 

“He really could become a dictator that he promised to be on day one. For over two centuries, America’s been a free, democratic nation, and I’ll be damned if in the year 2024, just two years before our 250th anniversary as a nation, I’ll let Donald Trump take this away,” Biden said to cheers from the crowd.

Dems ahead of Biden’s comments blasted Trump as undemocratic. Biden was introduced by Sabrina Jordan, a first-time campaign volunteer who said she didn’t vote for many years. 

“He’s actually planning to rule our country as some kind of dictator. We all should be scared of that,” Jordan said of Trump. 

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Town of Vermont, called the former president “a twice-impeached, 34-time felon who is unable to tell the truth and wants to be a dictator.” 

“Joe Biden gets it done, Donald Trump gets felonies,” Pocan said, adding while “some say the snow globe of the election has been shaken,” the “resolve of the people” hasn’t.

Meanwhile, Gov. Tony Evers said there’s a reason Biden came to Wisconsin the day after Independence Day. 

“Because as we reflect on values we hold, those that we hold dear, values like upholding peaceful transfer of power, protecting the fundamental right to cast a vote, and our pursuit of freedom, justice and equality, the choice this November has never been more clear,” Evers said. 

Republicans in a state GOP call with reporters ahead of Biden’s visit portrayed the president’s reelection bid as a campaign in collapse following last week’s debate.

U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil argued his competitor, Dem Peter Barca, and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin didn’t appear with Biden today because they can’t stand by his policies. Baldwin D-Madison, was absent while campaigning for her reelection bid in Marinette and Brown counties. 

“President Biden’s coming to the most liberal city in the state of Wisconsin between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. in an attempt to rally his base,” Steil said. “And at the same time, those candidates in the most competitive races in our state are refusing to show up. That tells you how bad of a situation we are in right now, not only in the country but with the ability of President Biden to be able to do his job.”

GOP U.S. Senate candidate Eric Hovde noted Baldwin said in a recent interview that Biden’s administration is one of the most successful in generations, but added Baldwin needs to be clear whether she supports him continuing as the Dem nominee. 

“Has she been part of the cover-up of, you know, from the American public, and how much Joe Biden has declined?” Hovde said. “She also hasn’t come out publicly in person, other than through staff, to say she continues to support him.” 

A spokesperson for Baldwin’s campaign said she still supports Biden. 

While Baldwin and U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, were absent, other prominent Dems were in attendance, in addition to Evers and Pocan, including: state Dem Party Chair Ben Wikler, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, former Dem Gov. Jim Doyle, and the first Black elected mayor in Wisconsin, Frances Huntley-Cooper.

Watch Biden’s remarks here

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