Joe Biden says he made ‘mistake’ in debate as he fights to save his candidacy

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Joe Biden has said he made a mistake during his debate with Donald Trump, but has insisted he is continuing his re-election campaign despite mounting pressure to step aside.

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

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

The interview marked the beginning of Biden’s new effort to quell a revolt against his candidacy within his own Democratic Party. Lawmakers, party officials and influential donors fear the 81-year-old president is unfit to run against Trump or serve another four years in the White House.

Biden faces a crucial weekend for his campaign, with a stop in the swing state of Wisconsin on Friday and a nationally televised interview with ABC News in the evening. He travels to another swing state, Pennsylvania, on Sunday.

Biden is said to have privately admitted to some of his closest allies that he cannot afford to make mistakes in the election if he wants to regain the trust of his party.

But The New York Times reported Thursday that the president told Democratic governors at an emergency meeting at the White House on Wednesday that he needed to get more sleep and work fewer hours, and that he would no longer be allowed to attend events after 8 p.m.

Responding to a question from a governor about his health, Biden said he was fine, adding, “It’s just my brain.” Jen O’Malley Dillon, Biden’s campaign manager, confirmed the comment but said the president was “clearly joking and then said, ‘all joking aside.'”

A senior Biden campaign spokesman later issued a separate statement: “President Bush went to bed at 9:00, and President [Barack] Obama made dinner at 6:30. Normal presidents strike a balance, and Joe Biden is no exception. Hardly the same severity as Donald Trump, who spends half his day on Truth Social ranting about plans to cause a recession and the other half playing golf,” the statement said, without specifying which Bush president.

Governors 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 “supported” Biden and that the president was “fit for office.”

Before leaving for Wisconsin, the president is expected to spend Thursday at the White House with immediate family and then hold a Fourth of July celebration for military and veterans. Biden’s wife, Jill Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden, have both encouraged the president to stay in the race.

The holiday follows a dramatic day for the president, with members of his own party calling for him to withdraw from the race against Trump. In addition, several polls released Wednesday showed a sharp drop in support after the debate, leaving him behind his Republican rival.

Many Democrats in the House of Representatives are drafting a joint letter calling on the president to end his re-election campaign, two sources familiar with the matter said.

Walz, Hochul and Moore weren’t the only governors to praise Biden on Wednesday. Several others, including Gavin Newsom of California and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, posted messages of support on the social media site X.

Newsom and Whitmer remain donor favorites to replace Biden. Party insiders also believe the president would back his vice president, Kamala Harris, if he decides to withdraw from the race.

Harris, 59, has struggled with low approval ratings as vice president, but polls since the debate suggest she would fare better than Biden against Trump.

The vice president told White House staff in a phone call Wednesday that she stood by Biden. “We will not back down. We will follow the example of our president. We will fight and we will win.”

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

Trump was secretly filmed at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, telling people he thought Biden would “resign.” In the video, which went viral Wednesday night, he added: “That means we’re going to get Kamala… she’s so bad. She’s so pathetic. She’s just so fucking bad.”

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