After Halting Debate Performance, Biden Tries to Reassure Democrats at Rally (2024)

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Rebecca Davis O’Brien

Trump takes a victory lap as Biden seeks to quell debate anxieties. Here’s the latest.

Reactions to the first presidential debate dominated the political world Friday, with former President Donald J. Trump taking a victory lap at a Virginia rally as President Biden and his surrogates sought to contain the damage from his shaky performance Thursday night.

While Democratic leaders have publicly backed Mr. Biden — including former President Barack Obama, who on Friday offered a strong statement of support for his former vice president — a wide range of lawmakers, activists and pundits were publicly discussing the possibility of replacing him at the top of the ticket. Some urged him to step aside, to allow a new candidate to ascend at the August convention.

But on Friday, Michael Tyler, the director of communications for the Biden campaign, said there were no internal conversations about replacing Biden on the ticket “whatsoever.”

Here’s what else to know:

  • Trump hammers Biden on debate performance. Mr. Trump seized on the debate right from the start of a roughly 90 minute campaign rally in Chesapeake, Va., on Friday afternoon. “Hello Virginia, did anybody last night watch a thing called the debate?” Mr. Trump said. “The question voters should be asking themselves today is not whether Joe Biden can survive a 90-minute debate performance, but whether America can survive four more years of crooked Joe Biden in the White House.”

  • Biden tries to quell anxieties. Mr. Biden gave an energetic speech at an afternoon rally in Raleigh, N.C., as he sought to dispel widespread panic among Democrats about his debate performance. “I know I’m not a young man, to state the obvious,” Mr. Biden told the enthusiastic crowd. “But I know what I know. I know how to tell the truth. I know how to do this job.” Later Friday, Mr. Biden arrived in New York for more events, including an appearance at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan’s West Village.

  • Can Democrats replace Biden? Even as Democratic leaders pledged confidence in Mr. Biden on Friday, pundits and political strategists openly expressed doubt in his ability to see the election through, in some cases calling for him to make way for a new nominee. Indeed, the only way for Democrats to replace Mr. Biden is for him to step aside and surrender the delegates pledged to him. At this point in the race, his replacement would be decided on the floor of the Democratic National Convention in August.

  • Trump’s own debate performance: attacks and falsehoods. The format of Thursday night’s debate, in which candidates were blocked from interrupting each other and not subjected to fact-checking, appeared to serve Mr. Trump, who seemed content to sit back and let Mr. Biden struggle. When he spoke, he delivered relentless attacks, wild accusations riddled with falsehoods, portraying a nation under violent siege from undocumented immigrants — a claim unsupported by broader crime statistics — as well as grandiose exaggerations about his accomplishments.

  • How many people watched? The numbers are in: 51.3 million Americans watched last night’s Biden-Trump debate live on TV. And that figure doesn’t even include millions more who likely followed along on digital sites and social media. The summertime audience was down 30 percent from the first presidential debate in 2020. But the debate, hosted by CNN, was still the most-watched television broadcast of 2024, outside of sporting events.

  • Trump celebrates a critical Supreme Court ruling. In addition to the debate buoying his spirits, Mr. Trump hailed a the Supreme Court ruling on Friday that held prosecutors had overstepped in their use of an obstruction charge against a member of mob that attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Mr. Trump, whose own case could be affected by the ruling, called it “a big win” in a post online. Get full coverage of the ruling here.

Michael M. Grynbaum contributed reporting.

June 28, 2024, 10:19 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 10:19 p.m. ET

Katie Rogers

Katie Rogers covers the Biden administration and the Biden family and reported from Washington. She is the author of a book on first ladies.

Jill Biden could make or break Biden’s campaign. She says she’s all in.

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President Biden knew immediately after stepping off the stage in Atlanta on Thursday night that the debate had gone wrong. In those first stricken moments after a raspy, rambling and at times incoherent performance, he turned to his wife, Jill Biden.

Whatever was going to happen next in Mr. Biden’s last presidential race, after perhaps the worst moment of his long political life, was always going to come down to her. His wife of 47 years had entered his life all those decades ago, reluctant to get into politics but fully embracing his dreams and his belief that he would one day reach the White House.

Now, her 81-year-old husband looked at her after a disastrous 90 minutes onstage.

The first lady’s message to him was clear: They’d been counted out before, she was all in, and he — they — would stay in the race. Her thinking, according to people close to her, was that it was a bad night. And bad nights end.

“To say they’ve been in foxholes together doesn’t even begin to explain their bond,” said Elizabeth Alexander, the first lady’s communications director, who has been with Mr. Biden since his Senate days.

So Dr. Biden spent the 24 hours after the debate putting her decades as a political spouse to the test, projecting confidence and normalcy while effusively praising her husband. But, like the president, she is an intuitive political messenger who can sense the mood of a crowd. She knows that along with the cheering supporters, there are legions of people suddenly accusing her of forcing an old man to put one weary foot in front of the other.

If Mr. Biden were to seriously consider departing the race, allowing a younger candidate to replace him, the first lady would be the most important figure — other than the president himself — in reaching that decision.

“Jill is the final and most important voice. She knows him and loves him with a passion. She also knows everything about him. Most big decisions are made with Valerie and Jill in the end,” said John Morgan, one of Mr. Biden’s top donors, referring to the president’s younger sister, who has run nearly all of his political campaigns.

Indeed, as major Democratic Party donors connected Friday, by text, by phone or in person, one of the most immediate questions they asked one another was whether any of them knew how to get a meeting or a conversation with the first lady.

After nearly a half-century in politics, the Bidens view themselves as long-game people. And right now, neither wants the story of the president’s long political career — one defined by tragedy, resilience and unceasing ambition — to end on a stage in Atlanta, across the podium from former President Donald J. Trump, a man they both revile.

“He wants to win and she wants that for him, and for the country,” Ms. Alexander said. “She’s his biggest supporter and champion, because she believes in him, and she fears for the future of our country if it goes the other way.”

In front of supporters on Friday, the first lady embraced the talking points espoused by Democratic Party leaders, including the vice president, Kamala Harris, that Mr. Biden’s bad performance did not erase years of successful legislating.

“As Joe said earlier today, he’s not a young man,” Dr. Biden told a group of donors assembled in Manhattan on Friday afternoon, her third stop since leaving Atlanta. “After last night’s debate, he said: ‘You know, Jill, I don’t know what happened. I didn’t feel that great.’ I said, ‘Look, Joe, we are not going to let 90 minutes define the four years that you’ve been president.’”

Dr. Biden understood that the debate night had amounted to a serious misstep. The president had needed to walk into the debate hall and address concerns about his age. Instead, he walked onstage after six days of preparations and mock debates at Camp David and had little other than a raspy voice to show for it. (The White House said he had a cold.)

She listened as Mr. Trump mocked him. “I really don’t know what he said at the end of that sentence,” Mr. Trump said when Mr. Biden blundered an answer on immigration. “I don’t think he knows what he said either.”

She listened as the former president attacked Hunter Biden, Mr. Biden’s son whom she had raised since childhood and had stood by during a recent trial on gun charges, sitting front row in the courtroom as the worst moments of his addiction were recounted for the world to see.

And she watched as her husband looked wide-eyed and slack-jawed as Mr. Trump went on, angrily absorbing what was happening but largely unable to hit back.

Afterward, Dr. Biden held hands with the president, who walked gingerly down the stairs. The moment quickly went viral. At a campaign-organized watch party the Bidens visited shortly after the debate, she praised her husband for his performance. But critics elsewhere saw her giving him a virtual pat on the head for simply making it through the debate.

“You answered every question, you knew all the facts,” she said. “And what did Trump do?”

“Lie!” the crowd shouted.

Suddenly, a first lady who had skirted major controversies over the past three and a half years found herself in the cross hairs of people who believe she has been trying to hide his diminished faculties.

“What Jill Biden and the Biden campaign did to Joe Biden tonight — rolling him out on stage to engage in a battle of wits while unarmed — is elder abuse, plain and simple,” Representative Harriet M. Hageman, Republican of Wyoming, wrote in a social media post.

The Drudge Report, a prominent conservative-leaning website whose author, Matt Drudge, has soured on Mr. Trump, ran an unflattering photo of the Bidens on Friday with the headline “CRUEL JILL CLINGS TO POWER.”

The first lady and her advisers have long noticed similar claims on conservative websites, and are aware that they are leaking into the mainstream. Ms. Alexander said Dr. Biden views her “amorphous” role as “an act of service, rather than some mythical power grab invented by the dark corners of the internet.”

She added that the first lady sometimes felt hamstrung by the demands of the role, one rife with expectations and hidden trip wires.

“You have to be supportive, but not so supportive that your motives are questioned,” Ms. Alexander said, placing much of the blame on the internet, bots and a right-wing machine that fuels “every conspiracy.”

Advisers to the president and first lady downplay the idea that she has the ability to unilaterally pull the plug on the president’s re-election campaign and clear the way for another candidate four months before a presidential election. They acknowledge her unique influence and power in his life, but they say Mr. Biden is in control of his own campaign.

“There’s too much putting this on Jill,” said one of Mr. Biden’s top advisers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a family dynamic. But as long as Mr. Biden wants to run, advisers say, she will support him.

“When Joe gets knocked down, Joe gets back up,” she told the donors in New York. “And that’s what we’re doing today.”

Key Moments From the Debate
  1. Biden Stumbles, Trump Pounces

    Courtesy of CNN
  2. Trading Personal Attacks

    Courtesy of CNN
  3. 'The Worst President in American History'

    Courtesy of CNN
  4. On Immigration

    Courtesy of CNN
  5. 'I Never Heard So Much Malarkey'

    Courtesy of CNN
  6. On Cognition and ... Golf

    Courtesy of CNN
  7. Kenny Holston/The New York Times
  8. On Roe v. Wade

    Courtesy of CNN
  9. Kenny Holston/The New York Times
  10. Insults Fly

    Courtesy of CNN
  11. On Veterans

    Courtesy of CNN
  12. The Opening

    Courtesy of CNN
  13. Kenny Holston/The New York Times

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June 28, 2024, 9:44 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 9:44 p.m. ET

Jazmine Ulloa

President Biden speaking at an L.G.B.T.Q. gala tonight at the Manhattan Center reminded me of covering him during some of his lowest days during the 2020 presidential campaign, just before he came in a devastating fifth place in the New Hampshire Democratic primary. He told reporters then not to count him out because he had been down before. Tonight, he seemed to echo the message: “I know what millions of Americans know, when you get down, you get back up.”

June 28, 2024, 9:35 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 9:35 p.m. ET

Liam Stack

Corey Johnson, the former speaker of the New York City Council, left President Biden’s fundraiser early, before the president had finished speaking. He said the state of the presidential race had left him with real fear: “I think he’s a great man who’s had a great career, who has been a great president, who defeated Donald Trump," he said of Biden. "But I am so scared. We cannot have a second Trump presidency. And so I don’t know what the answer is.”

June 28, 2024, 9:29 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 9:29 p.m. ET

Michael Gold

Reporting from Chesapeake, Va.

A gleeful Trump, fresh from Thursday’s debate, rallies in Virginia.

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The day after a presidential debate in which his opponent’s stumbles took the focus, former President Donald J. Trump returned to the campaign trail on Friday afternoon, clearly gleeful as he strode onstage in front of thousands of people in a field in Virginia and gloated about his performance.

Fresh off a debate in which his attacks, falsehoods and exaggerations largely went unchecked in the face of a halting performance by President Biden, Mr. Trump used the rally to bolster now familiar arguments that Mr. Biden was not fit to remain in office.

“The question every voter should be asking themselves today is not whether Joe Biden can survive a 90-minute debate performance,” Mr. Trump said, “but whether America can survive four more years of crooked Joe Biden in the White House.”

Seizing on reports that Democrats panicking about the debate were eager to push Mr. Biden off the ticket, Mr. Trump opined that Democrats had no better candidates than his opponent, with whom he has been engaged in yearslong hostility and whom he confidently says he will defeat despite his loss to him in 2020.

And Mr. Trump seemed equally buoyed by the Supreme Court’s decision on Friday that federal prosecutors misused an obstruction law to prosecute some of his supporters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in a bid to overturn Mr. Biden’s victory and keep Mr. Trump in the White House.

To Mr. Trump, the court’s decision — facilitated in part, he pointed out, by the justices he appointed — lent credence to his frequent insistence that his supporters who marched on the Capitol, some of them turning to violence, were engaging in a political protest and were now being wrongfully prosecuted solely because they backed him over Mr. Biden.

Mr. Trump told the crowd before him, which gathered in the summer heat in Chesapeake, Va., that the court had decided that Mr. Biden’s “department of injustice has wrongfully prosecuted hundreds of Americans for peacefully protesting on Jan. 6.”

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The comment elicited one of the crowd’s most energized cheers during Mr. Trump’s 90-minute speech. Then, in unison, his supporters began to chant, “U.S.A.”

Mr. Trump had spent less time talking about his views on Jan. 6 in recent weeks, particularly as he made campaign stops in cities like Philadelphia and Detroit, where he has been courting Black voters. In the wake of the debate, he made another pitch to expand his coalition, saying, “whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, young or old, Black, brown or white, we welcome you to our movement.”

Mr. Trump, who has a history of making racist statements, continued his efforts to win over Black and Hispanic voters by asserting, without providing evidence, that the surge of migrants coming across the border illegally were taking “Black jobs.” And as he tries to win union workers in key battleground states, Mr. Trump seemed to openly court the president of the Teamsters union, Sean O’Brien, whom Mr. Trump invited to speak at the Republican National Convention next month.

“I don’t want to throw around names,” Mr. Trump said after mentioning Mr. O’Brien, “but he’s a good man.”

But with the debate behind him, Mr. Trump revived forceful language that he had dialed back only slightly in recent weeks, including his false claims of widespread election fraud in 2020 and his depiction of Mr. Biden as mentally unfit to run the country.

Mr. Trump was sharply critical of Mr. Biden’s leadership, knocking his debate performance repeatedly and using it as evidence that four more years of a Biden administration would steer the country in the wrong direction. And as he stood in Virginia, which has not voted for a Republican president since 2004 but which Mr. Trump hopes to flip, he argued that Mr. Biden’s poor performance in the debate was grounds to oust Democrats from power across the ballot.

“We don’t just need to fire Biden,” Mr. Trump said, as Virginia’s Republican governor, Glenn Youngkin, looked on. “As you saw yesterday, the whole Democratic Party needs to get voted out of office.”

Mr. Trump argued that he would be “very happy” if Vice President Kamala Harris somehow became the nominee because he polled better against her. And he joked, insultingly, that Mr. Biden was wise to pick her because nobody wanted Ms. Harris to be president, an attack that his campaign made in an advertisem*nt it aired during the debate.

At times, Mr. Trump — who during the debate agreed to accept the results of the 2024 election only if he found them to be fair — seemed to act as if the presidential race were wrapped up. He repeatedly referred to a “transition period,” a seeming reference to the period after the election but that he extended to include the months leading up to the election.

“We have a five-month transition period, and I want our enemies to know, don’t play around with us.”

Yet Mr. Trump once again repeated his contention that America was more threatened by “the enemy from within” — a reference to his political opponents — than from foreign powers like China, Russia and North Korea, which he said were “not really enemies if you have a smart president.”

Mr. Trump repeated some of the false claims he made during Thursday’s debate, again accusing Democrats of supporting abortions up until “after a baby is born.” No state has passed laws that would allow that, and Mr. Biden did not endorse it during the debate.

And he again argued that Mr. Biden had allowed a surge of migrants across the U.S. border with Mexico, which in turn had caused a surge of violent crime. Available statistics show that violent crime has declined, and there is no evidence of a spike in crime caused by migrants.

Mr. Trump’s supporters lined up for hours in the heat to hear him speak. At least three people needed medical attention as they waited for the former president to arrive.

Still, the mood seemed jubilant. Ahead of Mr. Trump’s arrival, several speakers — largely a parade of Republicans who at various points occupied the governor’s mansion in Virginia — asked the crowd whom they thought won the debate.

Unsurprisingly, each time the resounding answer was “Trump.”

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June 28, 2024, 9:23 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 9:23 p.m. ET

Liam Stack

Jeffrey Omura, a former city council candidate in New York who attended the Manhattan Center fundraiser, left before President Biden even spoke. “Everybody feels the same way — that it is up to the people who are close around him, his friends and his closest confidants, to nudge him out of this race,” Omura said. He added that he had told the chair of the Democratic National Committee, Jaime Harrison, during the fundraider: “This is your job. You are, you are the one to do this. And the whole country is counting on you to do this.”

June 28, 2024, 9:12 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 9:12 p.m. ET

Liam Stack

Inside Mr. Biden’s Manhattan Center fundraiser, his poor debate performance was “definitely the main topic of conversation,” one attendee said. Another, Jonathan Rakiec, said that in the cheap seats — which cost $250 a head — people were chatting in small groups about the debate. With the stakes so high, he said, people were reassuring themselves that “the best minds in the country” must be working “on solving what happened yesterday.”

At the Manhattan Center, where President Biden is expected to make an appearance tonight at the 25th Annual LGBTQ+ Gala, the mood is energetic as the actor Alan Cumming warms up the crowd with a denunciation of fascism. “Everything we have fought for is on the line,” he says.

June 28, 2024, 8:42 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 8:42 p.m. ET

Maya King

What’s a ‘Black job’? Trump’s anti-immigration remarks draw pushback and derision.

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Former President Donald J. Trump claimed during the presidential debate on Thursday that immigrants entering the United States illegally were taking “Black jobs” and “Hispanic jobs,” a claim with little basis that Democrats immediately seized on as evidence that Mr. Trump and Republicans were not serious about cultivating support from voters of color.

It also touched off a host of internet jokes and memes over what, exactly, a “Black job” is.

“They’re taking Black jobs and they’re taking Hispanic jobs and you haven’t seen it yet but you’re going to see something that’s going to be the worst in our history,” Mr. Trump said on Thursday, speaking of migrants crossing the southern U.S. border. He then repeated the reference during a campaign rally in Virginia on Friday, adding that Black Americans who have had jobs “for a long time” are losing employment to immigrants.

Black political strategists, elected officials and heads of organizations quickly joined hundreds of social media users to post photos of themselves at their workplaces and to crack jokes about the reductive and racist nature of the former president’s comments.

Among them was, Stacey Plaskett, the Democratic House delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands, who posted a photo on X alongside two women in her congressional office on Friday that was captioned, “Another day in Congress doing our ‘Black jobs.’”

Malcolm Kenyatta, a Black Pennsylvania Democrat and surrogate for Mr. Biden’s campaign, quipped: “Did we ever figure out what a ‘Black job’ is? Asking for me.”

And Derrick Johnson, the president of the N.A.A.C.P., also criticized Mr. Trump’s remarks, writing on X that Black Americans “are not confined to any one #BlackJob.”

Republicans, who have sought to take advantage of President Biden’s softening support among Black voters, have made the issue of immigration a cornerstone of their appeals to the bloc, whose turnout in November could decide the election. Mr. Trump has said migrants are “poisoning the blood” of the country, and has repeatedly claimed that the migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border are escapees from prisons and mental institutions, something the evidence does not support.

Immigrants have made up an increasingly large portion of the American labor force in recent years, but economic experts say their presence has been healthy for the nation’s economy. And while Mr. Trump claims that migrant workers are taking jobs from American citizens, the population of foreign-born workers in the country is not large enough to offset the job creation of the last three years.

Democrats have increasingly gone on the offensive. In a statement, Mr. Biden’s communications director Michael Tyler pointed to the online fray of responses to Mr. Trump’s comments, saying Black voters “dragged Trump throughout the night for his racist rant.”

“They know Trump has done nothing for Black communities, so he tries to pit communities of color against one another as a distraction,” he said. “We aren’t distracted. We see Trump’s racism clearly, and it’s why Black voters will reject him this November.”

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June 28, 2024, 7:52 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 7:52 p.m. ET

Liam Stack

N.Y.P.D. officers have begun arresting pro-Palesintian protesters across the street from Biden’s L.G.B.T.Q. fund-raising gala in Midtown Manhattan. Officers and protesters are shoving each other on the sidewalk. Across the street, a Trump protester shouts a vulgarity and hom*ophobic slur at the crowd.

After Halting Debate Performance, Biden Tries to Reassure Democrats at Rally (11)

June 28, 2024, 7:50 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 7:50 p.m. ET

Simon Levien

Reporting from a Las Vegas rally

At a Biden Victory Fund event in Park City, Utah, Vice President Harris addressed a crowd of donors with a twinge of anxiety in the room. She said — for at least the fourth time since the debate — that Biden had a “slow start” but a “strong finish” on stage. She added that she thought Biden was a “profound thinker” and that the list of the administration’s accomplishments was like a CVS receipt because, “It just goes on and on.”

June 28, 2024, 7:40 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 7:40 p.m. ET

Michael D. Shear

Reporting from Raleigh, N.C.

In two appearances, two starkly different Bidens emerge.

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After Halting Debate Performance, Biden Tries to Reassure Democrats at Rally (13)

Millions of Americans saw one Joe Biden on Thursday night: halting, hesitant, meandering and looking burdened by every one of his 81 years. Democrats were aghast.

Fourteen hours later, a smaller number of television viewers saw a different Joe Biden: forceful and confident, landing political punches on former President Donald J. Trump with ease. Democrats in the room cheered.

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During the presidential debate on Thursday, President Biden repeatedly stumbled when speaking.

And I’m going to continue to move until we get the total ban on the — the total initiative. And then you think he’ll stop there? Do you think he’ll stop when — if he takes Ukraine? What do you think happens to Poland? What do you think Belarus? What do you think happens to those NATO countries? For the ability — for the — us to be able to negotiate drug prices with the big Pharma companies. Eligible for what I’ve been able to do with the — with the COVID — excuse me, with — everything we have to do with — look — if — we finally beat Medicare. “Thank you, President Biden. President Trump?” He was right. He did beat Medicare. He beat it to death, and he’s destroying Medicare.

After Halting Debate Performance, Biden Tries to Reassure Democrats at Rally (14)

Mr. Biden and his allies no doubt wished the appearances had been delivered in reverse order. The tepid and weak debate performance by Joe Biden One caused an immediate freak-out among those determined to see Mr. Trump lose in November. Some publicly broached the unthinkable: a new candidate.

The afternoon appearance in a fairground warehouse in North Carolina was seen by far fewer people, and seemed unlikely to immediately quell the hand-wringing among Washington consultants, media pundits and ordinary voters.

And yet, in the middle of the panic, Joe Biden Two showed that, even after five decades in public life, he can still pump his fist in the air, stir a crowd to cheer and perhaps inspire an unwieldy coalition to vote for him one more time.

But questions remain. Could that Mr. Biden have handled the rigid rules of the debate, which mandated no notes, no teleprompter and no audience for 90 minutes? And even if he had shown up on Thursday night, could he appear day after day for the remaining four months of the campaign?

The Republican answer was no even before Thursday’s debate. That part of Mr. Trump’s attacks on Mr. Biden is certain to only intensify in the days ahead. And some Democrats who had long worried in private that the answer was no showed that they were more willing to say so publicly, at least for now.

Early Friday morning after the debate, Mr. Biden gave reporters a hardly inspiring “I think we did well.” On Friday afternoon, he acknowledged his age and its impact on his ability to perform on the largest political stage.

“I know I’m not a young man,” he told his supporters, adding, “I don’t speak as smoothly as I used to.”

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Biden Vows to ‘Get Back Up’ After Poor Debate Performance

During a rally in North Carolina, President Biden tried to minimize concerns about his fitness for office by reassuring the crowd that he is up for the job.

Let me close with this. I know I’m not a young man. To state the obvious. Well, I know. Crowd: “Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe.” I don’t — folks, 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, I know I know right from wrong. I know how to do this job. I know how to get things done. I know, like millions of Americans know, when you get knocked down, you get back up.

After Halting Debate Performance, Biden Tries to Reassure Democrats at Rally (15)

But the differences in the two appearances could not have been more stark.

On Thursday night, Joe Biden One struggled to deliver sharp and cogent critiques of Mr. Trump despite having spent more than a week hunkered down at Camp David, surrounded by a revolving cast of aides and provided plenty of time to rest up.

He started to answer a question about debt by mixing up trillionaires and billionaires and then bragged about “what I’ve been able to do with the, with, with the Covid — excuse me, with dealing with everything we have to do with.” And after trailing off and pausing, he ended with a blunt statement: “We finally beat Medicare.”

That gave Mr. Trump one of his many openings: “Well, he’s right. He did beat Medicare. He beat it to death.”

Joe Biden Two provided a stark contrast. Over about 20 minutes — and with the help of a teleprompter and an enthusiastic crowd — he rarely missed a beat.

“He set, and I mean this sincerely, a new record for the most lies told in a single debate,” Mr. Biden said of Mr. Trump.

Accusing Mr. Trump of being one of two presidents to leave office with fewer American jobs than he began with, Mr. Biden said, “That’s why I call him Donald ‘Herbert Hoover’ Trump.”

After listing the legal cases filed against his rival, Mr. Biden said: “I thought to myself, Donald Trump is not just a convicted felon. Donald Trump is a one-man crime wave.”

All three were the kind of zingers that could have paid enormous political benefits had they been delivered with the same verve on Thursday night.

Joe Biden Two gave clear and concise descriptions of his positions on abortion, immigration, taxes and race. Joe Biden One confusingly conflated the issues, sometimes in the same sentence. Joe Biden Two was clear about Mr. Trump’s threat to democracy. Joe Biden One left viewers scratching their heads about the topic that the president has long said motivated his run in 2020.

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While speaking about abortion at the presidential debate, President Biden interrupted himself by mentioning immigration and crime. The day after, at a campaign rally in Raleigh, N.C., he attacked former President Donald J. Trump’s stance on abortion with apparent ease.

Look, there are so many young women who have been — including a young woman who just was murdered, and he went to the funeral. And the idea that she was murdered by an immigrant — coming in to talk about that. But here’s the deal. There’s a lot of young women who are being raped by their in-laws, by their spouses. Donald Trump says he thinks overturning Roe v. Wade was a beautiful thing. [crowd booing] I think it was a nightmare. [crowd yelling] No, I really mean it. A nightmare. And I made it clear again last night that if you elect me and Kamala, you give us a Democratic Congress, we will make Roe v. Wade the law of the land again. [crowd cheering]

After Halting Debate Performance, Biden Tries to Reassure Democrats at Rally (16)

It remains to be seen whether Mr. Biden’s remarks on Friday will take off on social media or be repeated by the press enough to make a difference.

But either way, the president’s supporters were confronting a difficult reality: The only way any candidate named Joe Biden will defeat Mr. Trump for another four years in the White House is to make sure that the version who shows up every day is Joe Biden Two.

Reid Hoffman, one of the Democratic Party’s biggest donors, seemed to hold out such a hope in emailing his network on Friday to try to tamp down talk of replacing Mr. Biden.

“I tuned into Biden’s rally in North Carolina this afternoon. He was energized and brutally effective in taking down Trump’s vitriol and lies,” he wrote, adding: “I wish we’d had that Biden last night, but that’s the nature of Joe Biden. When he does poorly, he tends to bounce back — and then win.”

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June 28, 2024, 7:32 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 7:32 p.m. ET

Zolan Kanno-Youngs

There are ‘no conversations’ about replacing Biden on the ticket, a campaign official said.

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There have been no discussions among President Biden’s campaign advisers about whether the president should step down as the Democratic nominee following his disastrous performance in Thursday’s debate, a senior Biden campaign official said on Friday.

“No conversations about that whatsoever,” Michael Tyler, the campaign’s director of communications, told reporters on Air Force One when asked about calls for Mr. Biden to step aside and whether there had been any consideration to do so.

“The Democratic voters elected, nominated, Joe Biden,” Mr. Tyler said. “Joe Biden’s the nominee.”

He acknowledged that Mr. Biden “didn’t have the best night on the debate stage” but highlighted how frequently former President Donald J. Trump lied during it.

“You’d rather have one bad night than a candidate with a bad vision for where he wants to take the country,” Mr. Tyler said.

But Mr. Biden’s debate performance plunged his party into crisis, with some Democrats openly questioning whether a change was needed in order to defeat Mr. Trump.

Still, Mr. Tyler sought to project a positive spin on the debate, adding that the campaign raised $14 million on Thursday.

“That is Democratic voters tuning in, telling Joe Biden that they’ve got his back for the fight ahead because they understand he’s fighting for them,” Mr. Tyler said.

He also said that Mr. Biden was still committed to participating in the presidential debate in September.

“Joe Biden will be there on Sept. 10,” Mr. Tyler said. “We’ll see what Donald Trump does.”

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Air Force One that the president had a cold during the debate and that he had tested negative for the coronavirus.

“He had a sore throat,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said. “He had a strong debate prep week, and he got a cold. It’s not something unusual.”

June 28, 2024, 7:28 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 7:28 p.m. ET

Liam Stack

L.G.B.T.Q. donors streamed into a Biden fund-raiser at Manhattan Center on 34th Street, near Penn Station in the chaotic heart of midtown Manhattan. Soon after the event began, a march of several hundred pro-Palestinian demonstrators also arrived, followed by riot police who filled the street in front of the gala.

June 28, 2024, 7:21 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 7:21 p.m. ET

Chris Cameron

Obama defends Biden, saying ‘Bad debate nights happen.’

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Former President Barack Obama, who recovered from a disastrous debate performance to win re-election in 2012, publicly backed President Biden after his poor performance in Thursday’s debate against former President Donald J. Trump.

Mr. Obama also sought to allay concerns among Democrats about keeping Mr. Biden as their presidential nominee.

“Bad debate nights happen,” he said in a social media post. “Trust me, I know. But this election is still a choice between someone who has fought for ordinary folks his entire life and someone who only cares about himself.”

Mr. Obama continued, linking to Mr. Biden’s campaign website, “Last night didn’t change that, and it’s why so much is at stake in November.”

Mr. Obama, who served as president for eight years with Mr. Biden as his vice president, played a significant role in unifying the party behind Mr. Biden during the Democratic presidential primaries in 2020. Now, fearing the consequences should Mr. Biden lose to Mr. Trump in November, he has advised Mr. Biden’s team to help the president get re-elected.

The circ*mstances are somewhat different, but Mr. Obama faced a similar crisis of confidence in his re-election campaign in 2012. Underestimating his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, Mr. Obama turned in a performance at the first presidential debate that was widely panned — with just a month to go before Election Day.

The episode set off a reassessment of Mr. Obama’s debate strategy. He returned to confront Mr. Romney twice on a more combative and assertive footing, settling a nervousness that had grown within the Democratic Party after he was caught off guard in his first outing against Mr. Romney.

Mr. Obama was not the only former president throwing his support behind Mr. Biden on Friday. In a statement, former President Bill Clinton vouched for the president, saying on social media that Mr. Biden had given the United States three years of “solid leadership.”

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After Halting Debate Performance, Biden Tries to Reassure Democrats at Rally (20)

June 28, 2024, 6:53 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 6:53 p.m. ET

Erin Griffith and Theodore Schleifer

Reid Hoffman, one of the most influential donors in the Democratic Party, said in an email to his network of friends on Friday that he believed a pressure campaign to get President Biden to step down “would be a bad idea.” He wrote that Biden’s poor debate performance was simply “the nature of Joe Biden,” and noted that the president tends to bounce back from such situations. Hoffman, a Silicon Valley investor, concluded that he was “doubling down” on his support for Mr. Biden.

June 28, 2024, 6:41 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 6:41 p.m. ET

Alan Blinder

Alan Blinder has interviewed Donald J. Trump along golf courses in Florida, New Jersey and Virginia.

In an unpredictable debate, a tussle over golf was par for the course.

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It was a surreal detour during a presidential debate already filled with peculiar exchanges and meandering remarks. On Thursday night, after squabbles about the economy, abortion and the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, President Biden and former President Donald J. Trump tussled over … golf.

“I just won two club championships — not even senior, two regular club championships,” Mr. Trump boasted as he answered a question tied to how he would be 82 years old at the end of a second presidential term. “To do that, you have to be quite smart, and you have to be able to hit the ball a long way. And I do it. He doesn’t do it. He can’t hit a ball 50 yards.”

Mr. Biden, 81, declared that he would be “happy to have a driving contest” with Mr. Trump.

“I got my handicap, when I was vice president, down to a six,” the president said, referring to a system by which golfers compare their abilities. The lower the number, the better the player.

“And by the way, I told you before, I’m happy to play golf if you carry your own bag,” Mr. Biden continued, addressing Mr. Trump. “Think you can do it?”

Mr. Trump, 78, routinely uses a cart. He did not respond to that particular challenge, but scoffed, “That’s the biggest lie — that he’s a six-handicap — of all.”

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Perhaps it was unsurprising that golf — a cherished ritual for many presidents, but especially Mr. Trump — would surface during the debate. But the bickering was also widely panned as an unserious exercise between two aging men trying vainly to outdo one another.

Few presidents have been as closely connected to the game as Mr. Trump. His family company controls an enviable portfolio of courses, a fact that he often crows about when he plays events tied to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series that has hosted tournaments at Trump properties. (He has been much less eager to talk about how some in professional golf have shunned him in recent years, particularly after the Jan. 6 riot.)

Mr. Trump has long reveled in playing with major tournament winners like Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods and talking up his own prowess even on days when he did not exactly adhere to the game’s rules or courtesies.

“Not bad, right?” Mr. Trump asked me at his course in Doral, Fla., in 2022. “Like, right around that level of, you know what? Pretty good. Anyway, let me finish off this victory.”

Long before Thursday’s debate, despite his own record of twisting golf’s rules to his whims, he was eyeing and doubting Mr. Biden's golf skills.

“Can Biden do that?” Mr. Trump muttered to me after he played a shot on his course in Bedminster, N.J. “He says he’s a six-handicap. He’s not a six-handicap.”

Mr. Biden has played for years but has lately hit courses more sparingly than his predecessor and has often adopted a more humble posture. (“The course record is still intact,” he told reporters after his first round as president.)

For what it’s worth, U.S. Golf Association records, which generally rely on self-reported scores, show Mr. Biden’s handicap as 6.7 in 2018 and Mr. Trump’s as 2.5 in 2021.

June 28, 2024, 6:23 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 6:23 p.m. ET

Marc Santora

Reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine

In Ukraine, Biden’s debate performance fuels uncertainty about American support.

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The list of uncertainties Ukrainians face every day is long and daunting. Will their sons and daughters fighting on the front come home alive? Will nightly Russian missile and drone attacks hit their homes? When they wake, will they have power?

To survive 28 months of war, many have learned to try not to be paralyzed by things beyond their control. Even so, the American presidential election — and its potential to affect the level of support Ukraine has received from the United States in its defense against Russia — is a source of deep worry.

So Thursday’s debate and the calls among some Democrats for President Biden to bow out of the race reverberated across this war-torn country.

“His main task was to convince the voters of his energy and readiness to rule,” Bogdan Butkevych, a popular radio host, wrote on social media. “He wasn’t able to do it.”

Ukraine has worked diligently to try and keep support for its fight for survival a point of bipartisan agreement in Washington. And if the debate meant that it was more likely that Donald J. Trump would reclaim the White House, Ukrainian media commentators said Kyiv should make connections with those who hold influence with the former president.

Some took a measure of solace in Mr. Trump saying during the debate that he did not accept Russia’s demands that it be allowed to keep the Ukrainian lands it has occupied.

But almost as soon as Mr. Trump answered the moderator’s question on the topic, he returned to familiar talking points, saying the war wouldn’t have happened under his presidency and criticizing the amount of support the United States was providing.

He also repeated his claim — made without any details — that he would end the war as soon as he came into office.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has been asked many times what he makes of Mr. Trump’s claim that he can bring peace to Ukraine and has sought to remain diplomatic in his response, saying he had yet to hear specific proposals.

“If I have such an opportunity I will, with pleasure, listen to them, and then we can discuss the topic,” Mr. Zelensky told CNN recently.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, told the BBC this week that Ukraine would respect the will of the American voters and work with any future Trump administration.

He noted that the government in Kyiv is building “bridges” with multiple political forces in other countries, as long as they do not accept “Putin’s narratives.” He cited recent elections in the Netherlands, where a party opposing military aid to Ukraine won but the governing coalition decided to continue supporting Ukraine.

“Everyone complained that the Netherlands would turn its back on Ukraine, but this did not happen,” he said, adding: “Pessimism is an irresponsible thing for a minister whose country is at war.”

For the most part, Ukrainian officials did not comment directly on the debate, saying they wanted to respect the American political process.

Andrij Dobriansky, spokesperson for the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, a group that represents Ukrainian Americans, told Voice of America that the debate did little to inform the discussion around U.S. support for Ukraine.

“We didn’t really get a clear explanation of the future policy of both presidential administrations toward Ukraine,” he said.

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June 28, 2024, 5:57 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 5:57 p.m. ET

Chris Cameron

Ron Reynolds, a state representative in Texas and a Biden delegate to the nominating convention in August, posted a call on social media for Democrats to nominate Vice President Kamala Harris, not Biden. There are some 3,900 delegates to the convention, but this is one of the only instances where an elected Democratic official has called for Biden’s ouster at the top of the ticket.

June 28, 2024, 5:49 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 5:49 p.m. ET

Kellen Browning

Downballot Republicans seize on Biden’s halting debate performance.

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Republicans running for the U.S. Senate and House gleefully seized on President Biden’s stumbles in Thursday’s debate, betting they could use his performance to drag down their Democratic opponents.

Many have spent months trying to tie their foes to the president. But even as Mr. Biden trails in swing-state polls, Democratic incumbents in those states have proved resilient against their Republican challengers, sometimes outrunning the president by a dozen percentage points in surveys.

Now Republicans are sensing an opening with voters by questioning how Democrats could stand behind a president whose halting and raspy performance on Thursday reignited questions about his age and acuity.

David McCormick, the Republican businessman trying to oust Senator Bob Casey in Pennsylvania, called out Mr. Casey’s support for Mr. Biden in a post on X.

“Bob Casey has said over and over that his ‘close friend’ Joe Biden, with whom he votes 98 percent of the time, is fit to be president,” Mr. McCormick wrote. “What we all saw last night proves Casey is lying.”

In Arizona, where the Trump acolyte Kari Lake is trying to stop Representative Ruben Gallego from picking up the seat held by Kyrsten Sinema, the Democrat turned independent who is not seeking re-election, Ms. Lake has tried repeatedly to compare Mr. Gallego to Mr. Biden. She has derided him as Mr. Biden’s “mini-me” and has said he is essentially the same as Mr. Biden, but 40 years younger.

A senior adviser to Ms. Lake’s campaign, who insisted on anonymity to discuss internal data, said the campaign had found that the closer it tied Mr. Gallego to Mr. Biden, the more skeptical independent voters grew of Mr. Gallego.

“Last night, the entire nation witnessed how unfit Joe Biden is,” Ms. Lake said in a statement. “As more voters discover that Ruben is nothing more than an extension of Joe, they will join our movement.”

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Sam Brown, an Army veteran and Republican who is trailing Senator Jacky Rosen in polls of Nevada even as Mr. Trump is leading Mr. Biden there, wrote that during the debate, “Nevadans saw with their own eyes what a Joe Biden/Jacky Rosen ticket will look like in November, and it is disastrous.”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, which works to elect Republicans to the Senate, hammered Senator Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat, for standing by Mr. Biden after initially being slow to do so.

“Tammy Baldwin is playing cleanup after dodging the president’s disturbing performance in last night’s debate,” said Tate Mitchell, a spokesman for the N.R.S.C. “The debate only sowed more doubt in his ability as president. Why can’t Tammy Baldwin admit that?”

Friday afternoon, the group released a video featuring clips of several Democrats voicing their support for the president. “Democrats 2024: Don’t believe your lying eyes,” it was captioned.

On the other side of the aisle, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee downplayed the debate. “Senate campaigns are candidate vs. candidate battles, and Republicans have a roster of deeply flawed recruits,” David Bergstein, a D.S.C.C. spokesman, said in a statement.

Jeremy Hughes, a Republican strategist who works on Nevada races, said Republicans needed to keep working hard to overcome their Democratic opponents. They “must resist the urge to dance on Biden’s political grave,” he said. “They shouldn’t be measuring the drapes.”

“Of course” Mr. Biden is a drag on down-ballot Democrats, he said. Republicans should “pray that Joe Biden is so self-absorbed and narcissistic that he stays in the race,” Mr. Hughes said.

Privately, a handful of Democratic strategists across swing states expressed alarm about Mr. Biden’s performance and how it might weigh on their candidates’ chances. But some hoped that with campaigns and voters having long considered his age, the debate would not greatly affect down-ballot races.

Conor O’Callaghan, one of the Democratic front-runners vying to challenge Representative David Schweikert, a Republican, in a competitive Arizona House district, said he would stand by the president. But securing a Democratic majority in Congress is now even more vital, he said.

“That’s the only way we’ll be able to support President Biden’s agenda” Mr. O’Callaghan said. “And God forbid Trump wins, we will need a Dem-controlled Congress to keep him and Project 2025 in check.”

Others privately admitted to deep consternation. The worries were particularly acute in Montana, a deeply red state where Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat, has been navigating how to take credit for the Biden administration’s accomplishments while keeping the president himself at arm’s length.

A Democratic strategist in Montana who insisted on anonymity in order to discuss private conversations said that a dozen of the state’s Democrats had expressed fear that Republicans could use Mr. Biden’s stumbles to nationalize the race in a way that could damage Mr. Tester, who has survived past elections by leaning on his local roots.

Mr. Sheehy is aiming to do just that.

“After Joe Biden’s abysmal debate performance tonight, remember this, Montana — Jon Tester loves Joe Biden,” Mr. Sheehy posted on X. “Tester thinks Biden is ‘100 percent with it’ and votes with Biden 95 percent of the time!!”

After Halting Debate Performance, Biden Tries to Reassure Democrats at Rally (25)

June 28, 2024, 5:40 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 5:40 p.m. ET

Tim Balk

Former President Donald J. Trump has finished a roughly 90-minute speech. He concluded by arguing that the United States has “lost its way” and by claiming his return to the White House would fix “every problem” in the nation.

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After Halting Debate Performance, Biden Tries to Reassure Democrats at Rally (26)

June 28, 2024, 5:36 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 5:36 p.m. ET

Simon Levien

Reporting from a Las Vegas rally

In a speech to a rally in Las Vegas, Vice President Harris spent a large part of her remarks defending President Biden. As she did during her Thursday night appearance on CNN, she acknowledged that Biden was not at peak performance during the debate. But, she said, “in a real leader, character matters more than style. Trump does not have the character to be the president.”

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After Halting Debate Performance, Biden Tries to Reassure Democrats at Rally (27)

June 28, 2024, 5:17 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 5:17 p.m. ET

Tim Balk

In a statement, former President Bill Clinton vouched for President Biden, hours after former President Barack Obama issued a similar supportive statement. Clinton focused on the president’s record, saying on social media that Biden had given the United States three years of “solid leadership.”

I’ll leave the debate rating to the pundits, but here’s what I know: facts and history matter. Joe Biden has given us 3 years of solid leadership, steadying us after the pandemic, creating a record number of new jobs, making real progress solving the climate crisis, and launching…

— Bill Clinton (@BillClinton) June 28, 2024

After Halting Debate Performance, Biden Tries to Reassure Democrats at Rally (28)

June 28, 2024, 5:16 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 5:16 p.m. ET

Michael Grynbaum

The numbers are in: 51.3 million Americans watched last night’s Biden-Trump debate live on television. And that figure doesn’t even include millions more who likely followed along on digital sites and social media. The summertime audience was down 30 percent from the first presidential debate in 2020. But the debate, hosted by CNN, was still the most-watched television broadcast of 2024, outside of sporting events.

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After Halting Debate Performance, Biden Tries to Reassure Democrats at Rally (29)

June 28, 2024, 5:10 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 5:10 p.m. ET

Tim Balk

Trump’s campaign had suggested ahead of the debate that the former president would face biased moderators on CNN. But in his speech in Virginia, Trump said that the moderators, Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, had been “very fair.”

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June 28, 2024, 5:07 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 5:07 p.m. ET

Kellen Browning

Downballot Republicans in competitive congressional races were quick to pounce on President Biden’s poor debate performance as they face resilient Democratic incumbents. The National Republican Senatorial Committee released a video Friday afternoon featuring clips of several Democrats voicing support for Biden. “Democrats 2024: Don’t believe your lying eyes,” the group wrote.

June 28, 2024, 5:01 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 5:01 p.m. ET

Shawn McCreesh

Reporting from Chesapeake, Va.

At Donald J. Trump’s rally in Virginia, by far the loudest applause came an hour in, when he mentioned the Supreme Court decision regarding those prosecuted for their activities on Jan. 6. “Free the J6 hostages now,” he said to more applause.

June 28, 2024, 4:58 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 4:58 p.m. ET

Jazmine Ulloa

Biden’s remarks were brief. He appeared less energetic than at his rally in North Carolina earlier today. But his tone was low, somber and emphatic as he shared stories of his father and underscored the stakes of the election. To loud applause, he introduced musician Elton John.

June 28, 2024, 4:57 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 4:57 p.m. ET

Jazmine Ulloa

“He’s the best,” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand shouts at the audience as President Biden gives her a warm embrace after taking the stage near the Stonewall National Monument in Manhattan. The president describes Stonewall as a “symbol of leadership in the L.G.B.T.Q.+ community” and says, “We remain in a battle for the soul of America.”

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June 28, 2024, 4:36 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 4:36 p.m. ET

Alyce McFadden

There’s a modest crowd bunched behind police barricades near the Stonewall National Monument in the West Village in Manhattan where President Biden is expected to arrive any minute. Most passers-by were not aware the president was in town. A small group of protestors are here too, holding signs against the war in Gaza.

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After Halting Debate Performance, Biden Tries to Reassure Democrats at Rally (35)

June 28, 2024, 4:33 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 4:33 p.m. ET

Tim Balk

Trump opened his speech by declaring a “big victory” in Thursday’s debate, but he said that he did not expect President Biden to leave the race. “He does better in polls than any of the Democrats they’re talking about,” Trump said of Biden, a claim that conflicts with some public opinion polling data.

June 28, 2024, 4:17 p.m. ET

June 28, 2024, 4:17 p.m. ET

Liam Stack

Trump’s use of ‘Palestinian’ as an insult raises alarms for some.

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During the presidential debate on Thursday in Atlanta, former President Donald J. Trump raised eyebrows by using the word “Palestinian” as an insult to President Biden.

Accusing Mr. Biden of not wanting Israel to “finish the job” in Gaza, Mr. Trump said: “He’s become like a Palestinian. But they don’t like him because he’s a very bad Palestinian. He’s a weak one.”

Mr. Biden — a staunch supporter of Israel throughout the war who has frequently called on Israel to limit civilian casualties — offered little in the way of a response.

At a rally in Virginia on Friday afternoon, Mr. Trump again used the word “Palestinian” in trying to demean a Democratic opponent, this time directing his comments at the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer.

“Look at a guy like Senator Schumer,” he said. “He’s become a Palestinian. He’s a Palestinian. Congratulations. He was very loyal to Israel and to Jewish people. He’s Jewish. But he’s become a Palestinian because they have a couple of more votes or something. Nobody’s quite figured it out.”

Mr. Trump’s use of the word “Palestinian” as a slight, and Mr. Biden’s lack of response during Thursday’s debate, raised alarm bells for some Palestinians, Arab Americans and other opponents of Israel’s war in Gaza, which has so far killed more than 37,000 people, according to local health authorities, and destroyed much of the territory’s civilian infrastructure.

“The fact that he called President Biden a Palestinian, a bad Palestinian, was an insult to me,” Mosab Abu Toha, a poet from Gaza, wrote on social media.

Mr. Abu Toha, whose work has appeared in The New Yorker and whose book “Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear” was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2022, fled with his family to Egypt last year after a fraught struggle to leave Gaza. He posted on Friday that they had arrived in the United States.

“I woke up today still feeling the insult from yesterday’s ‘debate.’” Mr. Abu Toha wrote. “The racism and warmongering make my flesh creep.”

Lorraine Ali, a news and cultural critic at The Los Angeles Times, said on Friday that Mr. Biden’s “ineffectual or totally absent responses also allowed racist remarks from his opponent to go unchallenged.”

“The casual racism against Arabs and more specifically, Palestinians, was one of many moments that went unchallenged in a poorly designed debate that allowed for misdirection to stand as truth,” she wrote.

She compared the exchange, unfavorably, to a high-profile incident during the 2008 presidential campaign, when Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee, gently pushed back on a supporter who said she did not trust Barack Obama because he was “an Arab.” In response, Mr. McCain told the supporter: “No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man.”

“Not a great answer,” Ms. Ali wrote, “but enlightened in comparison to today’s G.O.P.”

Mr. Biden’s efforts to pressure Israel to minimize civilian casualties have frustrated Israel’s supporters and the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while doing little to quell the fury of the war’s opponents, who resent the U.S. government for providing Israel with some of the arms that it uses in Gaza.

Mr. Trump was a strong supporter of Israel as president and was close to Mr. Netanyahu. During his term, he moved the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, fulfilling a long-desired Israeli goal.

But soon after the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attacks, which started the war in Gaza, Mr. Trump publicly attributed the invasion to Mr. Netanyahu’s lack of preparation and praised the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah as “very smart.”

Since then, he has said little about the divisive, bloody war beyond using it to attack Mr. Biden.

Rebecca Davis O’Brien contributed reporting.

After Halting Debate Performance, Biden Tries to Reassure Democrats at Rally (2024)
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