Biden campaigns ahead of pivotal ABC News interview, as his reelection bid teeters

U.S. President Joe Biden is welcomed by Air Force Colonel Angela Ochoa (R) as he arrives to board Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on July 5, 2024.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

With his reelection campaign facing an existential crisis, President Joe Biden on will sit for a rare one-on-one news interview Friday, that the White House hopes will ease his fellow Democrats’ concerns about his age and fitness for office.

But it’s far from clear if a single interview, even a successful one, can reverse the damage from the 81-year-old incumbent’s weary, raspy performance in last week’s presidential debate against 78-year-old Republican former President Donald Trump.

Biden is scheduled to speak with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos during a campaign trip to Madison, Wisconsin. ABC will broadcast the interview during a “primetime special” on Friday at 8 p.m. ET. An advance clip will air during ABC’s “World News Tonight with David Muir,” scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET.  

The full interview was originally set to air on Sunday, but ABC News announced late Wednesday that rather than hold the footage for two days, it would air hours after it was shot.

The interview could mark an inflection point for the Biden campaign, which in the wake of the ruinous debate has faced mounting calls from top donors, political allies and supporters in the media to replace the top of the Democratic ticket.

On Thursday, for instance, Disney heiress and longtime Democratic donor Abigail Disney told CNBC that she will withhold donations until Biden withdraws.

On Wednesday, a group of business leaders corralled by the pro-Democracy Leadership Now Project urged Biden to step aside.

Editorial boards of multiple newspapers, including The New York Times, have issued the same call.

Questions are now swirling about how an alternative candidate, such as Vice President Kamala Harris, might take Biden’s place as the new nominee.

The Trump campaign and Republican Party, in turn, have started ramping up attacks on Harris.

So far, Biden and his campaign have shot down any suggestion that he is dropping out of the race.

“No one is pushing me out,” Biden said on a campaign call Wednesday, an official told NBC News. “I’m not leaving. I’m in this race to the end and we’re going to win.”

When a reporter asked Biden on Friday if thinks he can still beat Trump, the president replied, “Yes,” before boarding Air Force One and heading to Wisconsin.

Harris told CBS News on Tuesday, “Joe Biden is our nominee. We beat Trump once, and we’re going to beat him again. Period.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre held the line in a gaggle with reporters who peppered her with questions about Biden’s capabilities during the flight to Madison.

“He said he had a bad debate,” Jean-Pierre conceded. But “90 minutes should not overshadow his career, his three-and-a-half [year] tenure as president.”

Biden, she added, “is resolute, strong, [and] thinking as clearly as he used to.”

But that solid front — buttressed by subsequent statements of support from Democratic governors and other allies — has done little to tamp down the anxieties of Trump’s opponents.

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Biden, the oldest president ever to serve and would be 86 at the end of a second term, was already struggling before the debate to boost his limp approval ratings.

National polls have consistently showed a neck-and-neck race, but some surveys gave Trump an edge in the key swing states that carried Biden to victory in 2020. Meanwhile, wide swaths of voters have repeatedly expressed concerns about Biden’s age and fitness for office.

After the debate, polls from major media outlets, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, all showed Trump gaining on Biden.

This is developing news. Please check back for updates.