Joe Biden says he ‘screwed up’ in debate as he fights to save candidacy


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Joe Biden has said he “screwed up” during his debate with Donald Trump, but insisted he would press ahead with his re-election bid despite mounting pressure to step aside.

“I had a bad night,” Biden told a local radio station in Wisconsin in a pre-recorded interview that aired on Thursday morning. “And the fact of the matter is that, you know, I screwed up. I made a mistake.”

The US president added he was “going to win this election”, repeating a line he has used frequently since last week’s disastrous debate: “When you get knocked down, you just get back up.”

The interview marked the start of Biden’s new effort to quell a revolt against his candidacy from within his own Democratic party, with lawmakers, party operatives and influential donors fearful that the 81-year-old president is unfit to face Trump or serve another four years in the White House.

Biden is heading into a make-or-break weekend for his campaign, with a stop in the swing state of Wisconsin on Friday and a national television interview with ABC News that will air in primetime that evening. He will travel to another battleground state, Pennsylvania, on Sunday.

Biden has reportedly quietly acknowledged to some of his closest allies that he cannot afford to trip up in any of the appearances if he is to regain the confidence of his party.

Before he leaves for Wisconsin, the president is expected to spend Thursday at the White House with close family and then host a July 4 celebration for military members and veterans. Biden’s wife, Jill Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden, have both encouraged the president to stay in the race.

The holiday comes after a dramatic day for the president, with members of his own party calling for him to drop out of the election race against Trump and several opinion polls published on Wednesday showing a sharp drop in support after the debate, leaving him behind his Republican rival.

Many House Democrats are drafting a joint letter calling on the president to end his re-election bid, said two people familiar with the matter.

But Biden also received the welcome endorsement on Wednesday evening of several Democratic state governors who went to the White House for an emergency meeting prompted by their concerns about his condition.

Tim Walz of Minnesota, Wes Moore of Maryland and Kathy Hochul of New York told reporters at the White House after the meeting that they had Biden’s “back” and the president was “fit for office”.

Several more, including Gavin Newsom of California and Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer posted statements of support to social media site X.

Newsom and Whitmer remain donor favourites to replace Biden. Party insiders also believe the president would support his vice-president, Kamala Harris, if he decided to drop out of the race.

Harris, 59, has suffered from low approval ratings as vice-president, but opinion polls since the debate suggest she would perform better than Biden against Trump.

The vice-president told White House staff on a call on Wednesday that she was behind Biden. “We will not back down. We will follow our president’s lead. We will fight, and we will win.”

Trump and his top advisers, who have kept a low profile since last week’s debate, have signalled they expect Harris will replace Biden on the Democratic ticket.

Trump was recorded secretly at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf course telling people he thought Biden would “quit”. In the video, which went viral late on Wednesday, he added: “That means we are going to have Kamala . . . she is so bad. She is so pathetic. She is just so fucking bad.”

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