Biden addresses his disastrous performance: ‘I don’t debate as well as I used to’

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“I know how to tell the truth. I know right from wrong. And I know how to do this job,” the president told supporters at a rally in North Carolina.

Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally. In front of a crowd of a few hundred supporters on Friday afternoon, President Joe Biden
was far more energized and fired up than on the debate stage.  | Evan Vucci/AP

RALEIGH, North Carolina — President Joe Biden attempted to calm the panic about the viability of his candidacy in the hours after his disastrous debate performance, telling supporters at a campaign rally on Friday that despite not being as young as he used to, “I know how to tell the truth.”

“I know I’m not a young man, to state the obvious,” he said, to a crowd of people cheering. “I don’t walk as easy as I used to. I don’t speak as smoothly as I used to. I don’t debate as well as I used to. But I know what I do know: I know how to tell the truth. 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.”

“I would not be running again if I did not believe with all my heart and soul that I can do this job,” he continued.

But the rally may not be enough to quiet an already widespread panic in the Democratic Party over Biden’s debate performance against Trump. Biden’s raspy voice, trailing answers and deflated stage presence during the 90-minute debate brought into the open what was once a taboo topic: replacing him on the top of the ticket. His comments at the Friday rally were an early indication of how his campaign plans to do damage control.

In front of a crowd of a few hundred supporters on Friday afternoon, Biden was far more energized and fired up than on the debate stage.

As supporters generously cheered on the president, waving “Let’s Go Joe” campaign signs, Biden, reading prepared remarks, lobbed sharp attacks at Trump for his criminal convictions, his position on abortion and his unwillingness to commit to accepting the results of the 2024 election. He emphasized that the former president was not honest in the debate. And he shouted through much of the speech, at times breaking to cough.

“He set a new record for the most lies told in a debate,” Biden said. “He lied about how he had nothing to do with the insurrection on January 6.”

The lineup of speakers who took the podium before Biden didn’t address the president’s rocky debate performance. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper zeroed in on attacking Trump, while First Lady Jill Biden said his performance on the stage was “Joe Biden — a president with integrity and character who told the truth,” while Trump told “lie after lie.” A North Carolina father, Eric Fitts — whose family went viral a few months ago on Tiktok after eating Cookout with Biden in their Raleigh home — told the crowd that he watched Biden with “pride” Thursday night.

‘Can he run for president?’: Biden surrogates discuss his ‘rough’ debate

Polls have consistently shown that voters — including his own supporters — think Biden is too old to effectively serve a second term. The Biden campaign had hoped that the debate would be an opportunity to prove to the public that the president was capable of serving another four years. But his performance had the opposite effect, all but ensuring that concerns about the 81-year-old’s fitness for office will only intensify.

In the past, Biden has tried to address voters’ uneasiness about his age by focusing on the experience he brings to the office and by infusing some humor into his speeches. He frequently makes self-deprecating jokes about having a “career of 280 years” and being friends with the Founding Fathers.

Biden aides often scoff at suggestions that he is not up for the job, insisting that he is as sharp as ever behind closed doors. At the same time, they have been reluctant to put him in more public settings where he could demonstrate that sharpness. Biden has participated in far fewer traditional media interviews and press conferences compared to his predecessors.

But the intense panic within the party following his debate performance raised questions about what he would do to more aggressively address the age issue over the next few months of the campaign.

Biden walked off the stage Friday as Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” blasted over the loudspeakers. He waved and pointed to members of the crowd before briefly appearing to jog on his way to the exit.