Biden dismisses age concerns and tells Wisconsin rally ‘I am running’

Joe Biden had a clear message at his Wisconsin rally on Friday: he isn’t going anywhere.

“There’s been a lot of speculation – what’s Joe going to do?” said Biden. “Here’s my answer: I am running and am gonna win again.”

He dismissed concerns about his age.

“We’ve also noticed a lot of discussion about my age,” said Biden. “Let me say something. I wasn’t too old to create over 50m new jobs.”

Biden focused largely on Donald Trump, decrying the January 6 insurrection and warning that a second Trump term could bring about the end of democracy.

“Donald Trump isn’t just a convicted criminal,” Biden exclaimed. “He’s a one-man crime wave.”

If Biden can find enthusiastic supporters amid a struggling campaign, it might be here, in Madison, Wisconsin, a liberal city with a history of turning out Democrats in droves during presidential elections.

“I support him no matter what,” said Marcy Wynn, a Democratic party activist attending Biden’s Wisconsin rally on Friday.

The rally formed part of a blitz of public appearances intended to reinvigorate support for Biden, whose faltering and confused debate appearance last week has spurred Democratic party leaders and donors to call for him to step down.

Ben Wikler, the chair of the Wisconsin Democratic party, acknowledged that Biden’s debate performance had sparked anxiety within the party.

“There’s no question that the debate was rough,” said Wikler. “It was even more scary watching the US supreme court announce that presidents have immunity from prosecution.”

Biden’s campaign has cast the 2024 presidential election as a choice between democracy and dictatorship, pointing to Trump’s attempted self-coup in 2020 and the rightwing Heritage Foundation’s autocratic Project 2025 plan as evidence.

“The specter of dictatorship looms over America,” said Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, while addressing the crowd. At stake, said Rhodes-Conway, is the “right to vote and to have a government that is accountable to we the people.”

Biden was joined on Friday by an entourage of Democrats, among them the progressive Democratic congressman Mark Pocan and Wisconsin governor Tony Evers, who both spoke at the rally.

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“If I had to summarize the last couple of years it would go something like this – Democrats getting shit done,” said Evers, who emphasized the state’s use of federal dollars to supplement infrastructural developments and repairs during Biden’s term in office. “The future of democracy runs right through the state of Wisconsin.”

Biden’s difficult debate performance – and the supreme court’s decision to grant presidents broad immunity from criminal prosecution – underscored the stakes of the election and raised fears about Biden’s ability to garner enough support to beat Trump in November.

The Wisconsin rally drew some of Biden’s strongest supporters – including Pat Raes, the president of Wisconsin SEIU, a union representing service sector workers.

“Fearmongers,” said Raes, when asked about the reaction to Biden’s debate last week. “I can’t think of another person as smart as Biden.”

Earlier in the morning, Wendell Mullins – a retiree who lives near the middle school where the Friday rally was held – reacted with considerably less enthusiasm.

Mullins watched the scene unfolding from his front yard and wondered how much good Biden’s last-minute effort would do.

“Right now, if the election was held tomorrow, Trump would beat him easy,” said Mullins. “I’m 82 years old, so I know pretty much how I feel, and I’m sure he doesn’t feel much better.”

The Guardian