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Biden campaign seeks to move forward from debate, criticizes Trump "lies"

The Biden-Harris campaign argued the debate showcased the “extremism” that Trump represents.
President Joe Biden speaks during the grand opening ceremony for the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center
Posted at 6:06 PM, Jun 28, 2024

President Joe Biden rallied voters in North Carolina on Friday less than 24 hours after the first presidential debate of 2024, where his face-off against former President Donald Trump drew widespread criticism including from some within his own party.

The high energy event in Raleigh marked a contrast from President Biden’s debate stage approach, as he forcefully argued in favor of truth and maintained a message about the stakes of the election.

“I spent 90 stages, 90 minutes on the stage debating the guy who has the morals of an alley cat. Did you see Trump last night? My guess he set, and I mean this sincerely, a new record for the most lies told in a single debate,” President Biden said.

President Biden doubled down on the comparisons long sparred over on the campaign trail, and in Thursday’s debate, including inflation, the economy, abortion, January 6 and democracy.

“The choice in this election is simple. Donald Trump will destroy our democracy; I will defend it,” President Biden said.

But notably, while President Biden appeared to concede a poor debate stage performance, he acknowledged his critics, admitting he doesn’t speak as smoothly or debate as well as he used to.

“But I know what I do know: I know how to tell the truth. I know, I know, I know right from wrong. And I know how to do this job. I know how to get things done. And I know like millions of Americans know, when you get knocked down, you get back up,” President Biden said to cheers from the crowd.

Despite Trump’s frequent mistruths during the debate, President Biden’s repeated verbal lapses catalyzed criticisms and questions about his age – something voters repeatedly point to as their top concern with his reelection bid.

Donald Trump and Joe Biden Debate
This combination of Sept. 29, 2020, file photos shows President Donald Trump, left, and former Vice President Joe Biden during the first presidential debate at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio.

A post-debate YouGov poll found nearly a third of Democrats and half of independents surveyed thought Democratic leaders should nominate someone other than President Biden as the Party’s 2024 nominee.

In Washington Friday, some House Democrats publicly voiced concerns about President Biden’s debate performance.

“Do we have concerns, and do we wish that Joe Biden did better yesterday? Yes,” said Congressman Gregory Meeks, who serves as the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"Look, he had a bad night. I've been in this town for a long time, I've seen ups and I've seen downs,” Michigan’s Debbie Dingell told Scripps News.

But elected Democrats Friday largely stopped short of calling on Biden to step aside. Congressman Dan Kildee, who represents Flint, Michigan, said any conversation about replacing President Biden is one the President is “going to have to have with his folks," but declined to weigh in himself.

Congressman Robert Garcia, a California Democrat who serves on the Biden Campaign’s National Advisory Board, called talk of replacing President Biden “ridiculous.”

“He's our nominee. 100%. Take it to the bank. And he's going to defeat Donald Trump," Mr. Garcia told Scripps News.

Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, who even Mr. Biden has credited for his electoral success in 2020, put it more bluntly: “Stay the course. Chill out."

Former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton offered their continued backing of Biden, reflecting the message that in their view the stakes of the election are unchanged.

Related Story: After debate, Biden makes unannounced stop at Atlanta Waffle House

“Bad debate nights happen. Trust me, I know. This election is still a choice between someone who has fought for ordinary folks his entire life and someone who only cares about himself,” Obama wrote in part on X, noting Thursday night didn’t change that.

“I’ll leave the debate rating to the pundits, but here’s what I know: facts and history matter,” Clinton wrote.

President Biden’s campaign leadership, meanwhile, refuted the idea it would pursue any change in strategy or entertain conversations calling for him to step aside, insisting that the President would be at the next debate. “Rather have one bad night than a candidate with a bad vision for where they want to take the country,” said campaign communications director Michael Tyler.

The Biden-Harris campaign instead argued the debate showcased what it dubbed the “extremism” Trump represents.

“Donald Trump did not give voters any reason to vote for him tonight. On the issues, the American people are with Joe Biden,” said a Biden campaign advisor.

The advisor noted the election wasn’t going to be determined by a single rally, conversation or debate. “We have a largely locked-in electorate and two well-defined candidates -- and the voters who will decide this election are going to require consistent time and effort to win for November,” the advisor said.

Swing voters did not react positively to Trump’s performance, indicated a campaign pollster. “Following the debate the President led Trump on key measures of being presidential, speaking to the issues that matter, and being likable by more than 20 points,” according to Biden campaign pollster Molly Murphy. 

The campaign touted $14 million raised between debate day and the day after, including their most successful grassroots fundraising hour after the debate concluded.

Voters present for President Biden’s post-debate rally in Raleigh conceded the President fared poorly in Thursday night’s debate but nonetheless attested to their ongoing support for him.

“Yes, we all wish he were younger, but it is what it is and his character is worth 100% over Donald Trump's lies,” Elaine Carswell told Scripps News. She drove several hours from her home in Morgantown, North Carolina, to attend the event.

“Age is relative,” echoed Brenda Pollard, who’ll serve as a Biden delegate at the upcoming Democratic National Convention in Chicago. “He's got the experience, he's done this his lifetime and we need that in the crisis we’re in.”

The event marked President Biden’s fourth visit to North Carolina this year. The state,which he narrowly lost to Trump in 2020, is key to his reelection effort.

As the campaign focuses on reaching swing state voters, it announced it was launching a “mobilization blitz” across battleground states with more than 1,500 events with lawmakers and surrogates, including in Georgia, Wisconsin and New Hampshire.