Botched performance: Biden tries to limit the damage


Lerato Khumalo

Joe Biden did not look particularly fit during the TV debate with his opponent Donald Trump. Now the 81-year-old Democrat is trying to show that he is suitable for the White House.

After his weak performance in the first TV debate against his challenger Donald Trump, US President Joe Biden has gone on the offensive and appeared combative.

“I wouldn’t run again if I didn’t believe with all my heart and soul that I could do this job,” the 81-year-old Democrat said at a campaign rally in Raleigh, North Carolina. “I’m here in North Carolina for one reason, because I plan to win this state in November,” he shouted to a cheering crowd. “If we win here, we win the election.”

Biden has received support from Barack Obama. “Bad duels happen. Believe me, I know that,” the former president wrote on the online platform X. “But this election is still a decision between someone who has fought for ordinary people his entire life and someone who only cares about himself. Between someone who tells the truth, who can tell right from wrong and will tell it openly to the American people – and someone who shamelessly lies for his own benefit.”

Biden is running for a second term in the presidential election in early November. His predecessor, the 78-year-old Trump, also wants to return to the White House for the Republicans. Biden’s performance in the 90-minute TV debate on Thursday evening (local time) in Atlanta fueled doubts in the Democratic Party about the 81-year-old’s suitability for the office. During the exchange, the most powerful man in the world regularly stumbled over his words, speaking indistinctly, quietly and with a hoarse voice. Although no prominent party colleague from the front row has yet publicly opposed Biden, many in the party are skeptical as to whether Biden is really the right candidate to win against Trump.

In his first major public appearance after the debate disaster, Biden tried to calm critics and tried to limit the damage. “I know I’m not a young man to state the obvious,” he said. “I don’t walk as easily as I used to, I don’t talk as smoothly as I used to. I don’t debate as well as I used to,” said the Democrat. But unlike Trump, he knows how to tell the truth. “I spent 90 minutes on stage debating a guy who has the morals of a street dog,” Biden said of the TV spectacle hosted by US broadcaster CNN.

Biden’s wife, First Lady Jill Biden, also tried to speak up for her husband in Raleigh. “There is no one I would rather have in the Oval Office right now than my husband,” she said on stage in front of party supporters. She wore a striking dress with the word “Vote” written on it several times in large white letters. A president with integrity and character stood on the TV stage, she emphasized. “His strength is unshakable, his hope is unshakable.”

Biden appeared much fitter during the campaign appearance than during the TV debate the previous evening. Unlike in the TV studio during the exchange of blows, however, the 81-year-old read from the teleprompter in front of his supporters. His voice also sounded less hoarse and he was not as quiet. Biden said after the debate that he had a sore throat. His age is a constant topic in the election campaign. His political opponent Trump is only about three years younger. However, Biden’s slip-ups and his stiff gait regularly make headlines and raise the question of whether he could really rule in the White House for another four years after a possible election victory.

Biden’s failure in the debate left many Democrats struggling to explain themselves and brought possible alternatives to the 81-year-old into focus. The governor of the US state of California, Gavin Newsom, who is himself said to have presidential ambitions, publicly supported Biden. “I will never turn my back on President Biden,” he said. The unpopular Vice President Kamala Harris was grilled in a TV interview about Biden’s performance – and finally admitted that her boss had had a “bumpy start”.

Trump’s team, on the other hand, celebrated the Republican for his performance. The 78-year-old once again downplayed his role in the storming of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. The Republican had incited his supporters at the time because he did not want to accept his election defeat. They then stormed the US Congress. The Republican also did not want to commit to whether he would accept the outcome of the election in November. But all of that was overshadowed by Biden’s performance.