Watch Live: Biden campaigns in Wisconsin to kick off critical weekend

Washington — President Biden is in the battleground state of Wisconsin on Friday for a campaign rally, marking the start of a crucial weekend for his reelection bid as he seeks to assuage concerns about his fitness for a second term sparked by his startling debate performance just over one week ago.

In addition to the campaign event in Madison, Wisconsin, on Friday afternoon, Mr. Biden will tape an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, which the network said will air in full Friday night. The president will also head to Philadelphia for another campaign event on Sunday, capping the July 4 holiday weekend with a visit to a second battleground state.

The president’s appearances are coming under new scrutiny following his poor showing against former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, in the first general election debate on June 27. Mr. Biden blamed his performance on a busy travel schedule leading up to the face-off with Trump, saying during a campaign event Tuesday that he “almost fell asleep” on stage after making two trips to Europe in June.

President Biden arrives to board Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on July 5, 2024.
President Biden arrives to board Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on July 5, 2024. SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

In a pair of radio interviews that aired Thursday, Mr. Biden admitted he had a “bad debate” and that he “screwed up.”

Mr. Biden’s campaign and the White House sought to brush off concerns about his lackluster performance by insisting he had a cold and that the debate fiasco was simply a “bad night.” As part of efforts to quiet concerns about Mr. Biden and his age, he and Vice President Kamala Harris participated in a call with campaign staff on Wednesday, and they met with 20 Democratic governors at the White House later that evening. Mr. Biden also spoke with the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate, as well as other key allies on Capitol Hill.

One of the governors who attended the White House meeting, Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, praised Mr. Biden for his work over the last four years and reiterated that she is committed to defeating Trump in November. But Healey also urged the president to examine the path forward, while stopping short of saying he should step aside.

“The best way forward right now is a decision for the president to make,” she said in a statement. “Over the coming days, I urge him to listen to the American people and carefully evaluate whether he remains our best hope to defeat Donald Trump.”

The president has maintained the same message throughout the outreach, according to participants: he is in the race to defeat Trump and will not be pushed out.

“I learned from my father, when you get knocked down, just get back up, get back up,” Mr. Biden told “The Earl Ingram Show,” which airs in Wisconsin, in the radio interview Thursday. “And you know we’re going to win this election, we’re going to just beat Donald Trump.”

Amid the assurances, a handful of House Democrats have openly called on Mr. Biden to withdraw from the presidential race, including Reps. Lloyd Doggett of Texas and Raúl Grijalva of Arizona. Others, meanwhile, have publicly urged the president to take steps to prove to voters, elected Democrats and party donors that he is fit for a second term in the White House.