Biden insists he is staying in the presidential race, ahead of pivotal ABC News interview

With his reelection campaign facing an existential crisis, President Joe Biden struck a defiant tone, insisting he would stay in the race against former President Donald Trump.

“I am running and going to win again,” Biden said at a campaign event in Madison, Wisconsin, on Friday.

The Democratic incumbent, 81, appeared to acknowledge that he fared poorly in last week’s presidential debate, when he appeared weary, raspy and inarticulate.

“Can’t say it’s my best performance,” Biden said at a campaign event in Madison, Wisconsin.

Biden is scheduled to speak with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos Friday after the campaign rally, and 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.  

But it is far from clear if a single interview, even a successful one, can reverse the damage from the debate against the 78-year-old Trump.

The debate ignited hair-on-fire panic among Biden’s supporters about his ability to campaign, spurring a growing number of them to urge him to withdraw from the race.

But Biden in Friday’s speech delivered a defiant message to those nervous allies, while he attempted to flip the script on the concerns about his age.

“They’re trying to push me out of the race,” he told a crowd of supporters. “Well let me say this as clearly as I can: I’m staying in the race.”

“I’m not letting one 90-minute debate wipe out 3 1/2 years of work,” he added.

While Biden sounded consistently louder and clearer in Friday’s speech than he did in last week’s debate, he occasionally slurred or fumbled over certain words and phrases.

The ABC 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.