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Biden says he's 'determined on running' as calls to step aside grow

President Biden speaks at a news conference on Thursday, on the final day of the NATO summit in Washington.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP
/
AP
President Biden speaks at a news conference on Thursday, on the final day of the NATO summit in Washington.

Updated July 11, 2024 at 20:45 PM ET

President Biden, in a roughly one-hour long press conference, doubled down on his decision to stay in the race, despite growing calls and doubts from leaders and supporters that he should step down from the ticket, and won’t be able to beat former president Donald Trump in November.

“I think I'm the most qualified person to run for president. I beat him once and I will beat him again,” Biden said of Trump.

“I’m not in this for my legacy,” Biden said. “I’m in this to complete the job I started.”

Asked if he was determined to stay in the race despite the fears of some Democratic lawmakers, Biden said, “I'm determined on running, but I think it's important that I realize allay fears by seeing — let them see me out there. Let them see me out.” He said his campaign was strong and working hard in “toss-up states.”

Biden spoke without a teleprompter, calling on 10 reporters during the event following the conclusion of the NATO conference held in Washington. He spoke evenly and was animated at times when speaking about the economy and gun violence prevention. Biden answered many of the questions succinctly, but spoke at length on some topics of foreign policy and the country’s economic recovery since COVID.

But the president misspoke early on, referring to Vice President Harris as "Vice President Trump."

Biden was asked what concerns he had about Harris’ ability to beat Trump if she were at the top of the ticket. “Look, I wouldn't have picked Vice President Trump to be vice president [if] I didn’t think she was not qualified to be president,” he said.

The misstep comes just hours after Biden misspoke on stage with leaders from NATO, calling Ukrainian President Zelesnkyy President Putin, before quickly correcting himself.

At the end of the press conference, an 11th reporter shouted a question, asking Biden how he would respond to criticism from Trump himself on misnaming Harris.

Biden said “Listen to him,” before walking off the stage.

The NATO summit has been an event his campaign had hoped would showcase his leadership on the world stage. Instead, it has been overshadowed by doubts about whether he is up for a bruising campaign and another four years in office — doubts expressed by elected Democrats, donors and voters.

The questions have been swirling since Biden badly fumbled his June 27 debate against former President Donald Trump. Biden struggled to answer questions in that debate and has since blamed it on a cold, latent jet lag, overpreparation and interruptions from Trump. He said it was just one bad night, but many in his party aren’t convinced.

Since then, Biden and his team have worked to prove he does have the stamina and mental acuity to run this race, adding campaign stops in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and later this week in Michigan. He did a television interview that aired in full on ABC News and has another one scheduled on Monday with NBC, and he called in to MSNBC’s Morning Joe this week, too. And Biden has turned defiant, telling his party that he’s staying in the race and it was time to stop talking about whether he should quit. He has received wholehearted support from some important figures in the party — but others have since come out and said they think he will lose to Trump.

Biden said he would take another neurological test if necessary

The president said he had taken three neurological exams during his presidency, which the White House has disclosed. He said that he would take another if his doctor recommended one.

“I’m good,” he said. “I’m tested every single day on my neurological capacity in the decisions I make everyday.”

“Every single day I’m surrounded by good docs," he said. "If they think I should have a neurological exam again, I’ll do it,” he said.

Biden’s campaign co-chair Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan said recently that it "wouldn’t hurt" if Biden took another test.

Biden said he needs to ‘pace himself’ in his schedule

Biden said he had to pace himself more in his days, in an attempt to clarify reports that said he had told the nation’s Democratic governors last week that he needed to go to bed earlier and not hold events past 8 p.m.

“Instead of my every day starting at 7 and going to bed at midnight, it would be smarter to pace myself a little more,” Biden said.

Biden added that his schedule has been “full bore” since the debate in June. And he said Trump, on the other hand, has done “virtually nothing.”

“Where’s Trump been? Riding around in his golf cart filling out the scorecard before he hits the ball?” Biden said

Multiple times, Biden threw cold water on any notion that he was not up to the task of being president, or running for president.

“The best way to assure them is the way I assure myself,” Biden said on how to make clear to Americans that he won’t have another “bad night” like he did at the debate. “And that is, am I getting the job done?”

“If I slow down and I can’t get the job done, that’s a sign I shouldn’t be doing it. But there’s no indication of that yet. None,” he said.

NPR’s Asma Khalid asked Biden why he didn’t make his presidency a “bridge” to the next generation of Democratic leaders, like he said he would in his 2020 campaign. Biden said the reason was the gravity of what he inherited, to issues from the economy to foreign policy.

Biden also spoke about threats to democracy, and referenced the Supreme Court’s recent decisions and the Republicans' Project 2025 plan.

“We’ve never been here before. And that’s the other reason why I didn’t, as you say, hand off to another generation. I got to finish this job. I’ve got to finish this job because there’s so much at stake,” Biden said.

Biden says he'll stay on — unless polls say ‘there’s no way you can win’

Despite Biden’s insistence for days that he will stay in the race, some Democrats, including Vermont Sen. Peter Welch, have still called on the president to step aside — and are pointing to Harris as the better option for the party.

Biden at several points during the press conference lauded Harris for her work on reproductive rights and on gun violence prevention.

“I wouldn’t have picked her unless I thought she was qualified to be president. From the very beginning, I made no bones about that,” he said. “She is qualified to be president. That’s why I picked her.”

Biden told reporters, though, that even if his own team did polling that showed Harris fared better than him in a match up against Trump, he would stay in the race.

“Unless they came back and said, ‘There’s no way you could win.’ No one’s saying that,” he said.

Biden also generally rejected the polling data that has come out for the race thus far, saying the race won’t really start until after Labor Day. He said there are other candidates who could beat Trump, but they’d have to start their campaigns from scratch.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.
Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.