Only ‘Lord Almighty’ can tell me to stand down, says Biden

Joe Biden has said only the “Lord Almighty” can tell him to stand down, as he refused five times to say what he would do if his allies in the Democratic Party turned on him over his health.

The US president, 81, gave an interview to ABC News on Friday evening that was billed as an opportunity for him to recover support after a torrid week of criticism about his mental state.

In the interview, with the broadcaster George Stephanopoulos, Mr Biden repeatedly refused to say how he would react to being told by allies he should leave the presidential race.

“If the Lord Almighty said, ‘Joe get out of the race’, then I would get out of the race. But the Lord Almighty’s not coming down,” he said.

He denied claims that some of his closest allies, including Hakeem Jeffries, the leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, believed he should consider bowing out.

“I’ve met with them. I’ve met a lot of these people,” he said.

“I’ve talked with them regularly. I had an hour conversation with Hakeem. I had more time than that with Jim Clyburn. I spent time with, many hours off and on the last little bit, with Chuck Schumer.”

Asked finally what he would do if those people asked him to stand back for a younger candidate, he replied: “I’m not going to answer that question. It’s not going to happen.”

The polls are a ‘toss-up’, says Biden

Mr Biden said he had not watched back his debate performance against Donald Trump last Thursday, which has sparked fresh calls for him to give up his re-election campaign.

The president was defensive about his health, his campaign and his poll ratings ─ implying several times that reports of his mental infirmity had been exaggerated by the media.

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He denied that his position in the opinion polls had worsened since the debate, telling the broadcaster: “All the pollsters I talk to tell me it’s a toss up”.

A polling aggregation by FiveThirtyEight suggests Mr Biden is now two points behind Trump nationally, after drawing even with him earlier last week.

President is ‘out of touch’

The interview did not appear to have placated Mr Biden’s critics, who have been calling for him to stand down since last Thursday.

David Axelrod, a former adviser to Barack Obama who served at the same time Mr Biden was vice president, said afterwards: “The president is rightfully proud of his record.

“But he is dangerously out-of-touch with the concerns people have about his capacities moving forward and his standing in this race.”

Mr Biden blamed the disastrous debate, in which he stuttered and froze, on a cold he had contracted and his decision to work too hard in the days before it.

“I was sick. I was feeling terrible,” he said. “As a matter of fact, the doc’s with me, I asked if they did a Covid test.

“We were trying to figure out what’s wrong. He did a test to see whether or not I had some infection in our virus. I didn’t. I just had a really bad cold.”

He also suggested the reason for his unease on the debate stage was Trump interrupting him.

“Even when I was answering the question, and when they turned [Trump’s] mic off, he was still shouting and I let it distract me,” he said. “I’m not blaming, but I realised that I just wasn’t in control.”

Biden insists he is well enough to run

However, Mr Biden repeatedly denied that he was not mentally or physically fit enough to run for office again.

He said: “Can I run the 110 flat? No, but I’m still in good shape.”

Asked several times whether he would agree to a cognitive test, Mr Biden said he showed his mental abilities “every day” through his work and had not been asked by doctors to complete one.

“No one said I had to,” he said. “No one said…they said I’m good.”

The interview came after a week of intense criticism of Mr Biden, including from two sitting Democratic congressmen who said publicly that he should stand down.

On Friday night Maura Healey, the governor of Massachusetts, became the most high-profile sitting Democrat to publicly call for Mr Biden to consider his position.

“The best way forward right now is a decision for the President to make,” she said.


03:12 AM BST

Thanks for joining us

That’s it for our live coverage of Biden’s interview.

Tony Diver says tonight’s performance shows the US President is in denial about the problem for his campaign.

Far from feeling reassured, Democrats are tonight feeling that Mr Biden is not concerned enough about this crisis to engage with it seriously. That impression is a dangerous one for the president.

Read more: Biden is in denial about the scale of this crisis


02:52 AM BST

Fetterman: Biden’s critics need to grow a spine

John Fetterman, the Pennsylvania senator, has called on Democrat critics of Joe Biden to “grow a spine” and rally around the US President. “Joe Biden is our guy, “ he said.

Chris Coons, the Delaware senator, also issued a message of support.

“President Biden has delivered remarkable progress for the American people, and he has plans to do even more in his next term,” he wrote on social media. “I can’t wait to help him continue to take the fight to Trump and win in November.”


02:51 AM BST

Biden ‘in denial and decline’, Trump campaign claims

Karoline Leavitt, the Trump campaign’s press secretary, wrote on social media: “Biden is in denial and in decline.” Donald Trump has not commented on his rival’s interview and has kept relatively quiet since the debate last week.


02:49 AM BST

‘We’re still screwed’: Democrats react to Biden interview

One Democrat in the House of Representatives told NBC News that Joe Biden’s interview “made me sad”, adding: “Completely out of touch with reality and insulated from truth. I’ll be breaking my silence soon.”

Another told CNN that Mr Biden’s interview was “certainly better” than the debate, but conceded: “We are still screwed.”


02:46 AM BST

‘If you think Biden is fine, you need a cognitive test’

Anyone who believes Joe Biden has not declined since he became president needs a cognitive test, Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina senator, has claimed.

Mr Graham, an ally of Donald Trump, claimed Mr Biden’s interview with George Stephanopolous was a “therapy session with a former Democratic operative begging President Biden to get out of the race”.

He wrote on social media: “With all due respect, the American people are not wrong to believe that President Biden is compromised physically and mentally.

“To suggest the debate was a ‘bad night’ instead of a deteriorating condition is not only disingenuous, it’s an insult to the intelligence of the American people.

“What we saw tonight was chilling. If you believe President Biden is as fit now as he was when he took office, as he claims, you need a cognitive test.”


02:42 AM BST

‘The pundits constantly get it wrong’, says Biden

Joe Biden has hit out at “pundits and politicians” predicting the death of his re-election bid following his interview with George Stephanopolous.

In a statement put out by his campaign, the US President said: “The pundits and politicians have continually gotten it wrong. Dead wrong.

“They were wrong about 2020. I beat Donald Trump then. And I will do it again this year.

“They were wrong about what I could accomplish in office. In the past three and a half years, I’ve gotten more done than any other President. That’s no hyperbole.”


02:39 AM BST

Biden planning two Pennsylvania events on Sunday

Joe Biden shows no sign of ending his campaign as a growing number of critics have urged, with US media reporting that he plans to make two campaign stops in the battleground state of Pennsylvania on Sunday.


02:35 AM BST

Biden adviser: Interview is enough to keep us in race

A member of Joe Biden’s inner circle believes the ABC News interview is enough to keep him in the presidential race for now, the New York Times reports.


02:31 AM BST

Pictures: Biden vows to fight on at Wisconsin rally

Joe Biden delivers remarks at a campaign rally at Sherman Middle School in Madison, WisconsinJoe Biden delivers remarks at a campaign rally at Sherman Middle School in Madison, Wisconsin

Joe Biden delivers remarks at a campaign rally at Sherman Middle School in Madison, Wisconsin – Kyle Mazza/Anadolu via Getty Images

Joe Biden poses for a selfie with supporters in WisconsinJoe Biden poses for a selfie with supporters in Wisconsin

Joe Biden poses for a selfie with supporters in Wisconsin – Kyle Mazza/Anadolu via Getty Images


02:18 AM BST

Biden attacks Trump as ‘congenital liar’


02:17 AM BST

‘We’re not the Lord Almighty – but Biden needs to go’

Lloyd Doggett, a Democratic congressman who has already called on Joe Biden to step aside, said the need for a new candidate is “more urgent” following his ABC News interview.

He said: “We may not be the Lord Almighty [but] Mr. President, the risk of a Trump presidency, to destroy our democracy, to take over the government and never give it back again, is so great that we have to have our strongest candidate.”


02:14 AM BST

Obama adviser: Biden is ‘dangerously out of touch’

David Axelrod, a former adviser to Barack Obama while Joe Biden was serving as vice president, has said he is “dangerously out of touch” over concerns about his age.


02:14 AM BST

House Democrats unconvinced by Biden interview

Democrats in the House of Representatives have not been convinced by Joe Biden’s interview performance, the New York Times reports.

Although a number of individuals contacted by the newspaper believe he looked stronger than in the debate last week, they fear he is in a state of denial about the shape of the race at the moment.


02:03 AM BST

Biden: My approval rating is above 36 per cent

George Stephanopolous tells Joe Biden he has never seen a president with a 36 per cent approval rating get re-elected. “I don’t believe that’s my approval rating,” Mr Biden answers. “That’s not what our polls show.”


02:02 AM BST

Biden: I beat Trump once – I can do it again

Joe Biden says he can repeat his 2020 election victory against Donald Trump, when he is quizzed about supporters who want him to stand aside for a younger candidate.

“They are worried about you and the country and they don’t think you will win.,” George Stephanopolous says. “They want you to go with grace and they will cheer you if you do. What do you say to that? “

Mr Biden answers: I say the vast majority are not where those folks are. I don’t doubt there are some foks there. Have you ever seen a group a time when elected officials running for office aren’t a little worried?

“I’ve not. Same thing happened 2020 – ‘Ah Biden I don’t know man, what’s he going to do.’”


01:55 AM BST

Biden: I will be happy if I know I did my best

Joe Biden said that “doing as good a job as I know I can do” is what the election is “all about” as he was challenged on how he will react to a Trump victory.

George Stephanopoulos asked the US president: “If you stay in and Trump is elected, and everything you’re warning about comes to pass, how will you feel in January?”

He responded: “I’ll feel as long as I gave it my all, and I did as good a job as I know I can do, that’s what this is all about.”


01:55 AM BST

Biden falsely suggests one of his critics challenged run for the nomination

Mr Biden was asked about a report that Mark Warner, a Democratic senator, was organising a group of congressmen to call for him publicly to step down.

“Mark is a good man,” Mr Biden replied. “We’ve never had that…he also tried to get the nomination too. Mark I have a different perspective, I respect him.”

Mr Warner, a 69-year old Democratic senator from Virginia, has never run for president. In 2006, he was thought to be considering a run, but ultimately declined to challenge Barack Obama in the 2008 race, citing a desire not to disrupt his family life.


01:53 AM BST

Biden: I don’t need to revive my campaign

Joe Biden pushes back on a question about how he plans to revive his campaign.

He tells George Stephanopolous: “I’m the guy supposedly in trouble. We raised $38 million within four days after this [debate]. Over we have over a million individual contributors – individual contributors, that’s less than 20 bucks. I mean, I’ve not seen what you’re proposing.”

Questioned whether he is aware of disquiet from Democrats and polls that show Donald Trump in the ascendancy, Mr Biden says he has only seen this in the press.


01:50 AM BST

‘I’m not going to answer that question’

Asked if his allies in the House and Senate tell him he will lose to Donald Trump and tell him to drop out, Joe Biden responds: “I’m not going to answer that question. It’s not going to happen.”


01:49 AM BST

Senior Democrats are not asking me to leave, says Biden

Joe Biden is asked if he would drop out if senior Democrats Chuck Schumer, Hakeem Jeffries and Nancy Pelosi told him to do so.

“I’ve spoken to all of them in detail, including Jim Clyburn. Everyone else said I should stay in the race. Stay in the race. No one said I should leave,” he answers.

The US President adds that he has spoken to “all the governors”.


01:47 AM BST

Biden: This is not about my personal interest

Joe Biden dismisses suggestions that, like Donald Trump, he was putting his own interests ahead of the national interest by staying in the presidential race.

“I don’t think those critics know what they’re talking about. They’re just wrong,” he says.

“Look – Trump is a pathological liar. He is… did you ever see anything Trump did that benefitted anybody else and not him?”


01:41 AM BST

I’ve spoken to all my critics, says Biden

Joe Biden repeatedly suggests that the reported criticism of his age has been exaggerated by the press.

He was asked what he would do if Hakeem Jeffries, the leader of the Democrats in the House, or Nancy Pelosi, said he should stand down.

“I’ve met with them. I’ve met a lot of these people,” he said. “I’ve talked with them regularly. I had an hour conversation with Hakeem. I had more time than that with Jim Clyburn. I spent time with, many hours off and on the last little bit, with Chuck Schumer.”

Asked what he would do if they turned on him Mr Biden added: “They’re not going to do that…I’ve spoken to all of them in detail, including Jim Clyburn. Every one of them. They all said I should stay in the race. Stay in the race.”

Pressed a third time, he replied: “I’m not going to answer that question. It’s not going to happen.”


01:40 AM BST

My doctors would tell me if something was wrong, says Biden

Joe Biden says he spoke to a doctor after the debate, telling ABC News: “He just looked at me said you’re exhausted.

“I have medical doctors traveling everywhere. Every president does, as you know. Medical doctors from the best of the world travel with me everywhere I go. I have an ongoing assessment of what I’m doing. They don’t hesitate to tell me if they think there’s something else is wrong.”

Mr Biden adds: “I get a full neurological test every day… not only in my campaign but I was running the world. I know that sounds like hyperbole, but we are the central nation in the world.”

He repeatedly refuses to answer when he is pressed by George Stephanopolous when asked if he would submit to a neurological examination and release the results.


01:36 AM BST

Biden: I will be happy if I know I did my best

Joe Biden said that “doing as good a job as I know I can do” is what the election is “all about” as he was challenged on how he will react to a Trump victory.

George Stephanopoulos asked the US president: “If you stay in and Trump is elected, and everything you’re warning about comes to pass, how will you feel in January?”

He responded: “I’ll feel as long as I gave it my all, and I did as good a job as I know I can do, that’s what this is all about.”


01:36 AM BST

‘I’m still in good shape,’ Biden insists

Joe Biden won’t be drawn on what the presidency has cost him “physically, mentally, emotionally” when pressed in his ABC News interview.

“I just think it cost me a really bad night, a bad run,” he answers. “But George – I’m optimistic about this country. I don’t think we’re a country of losers.”

He denies that he has declined physically since he entered the White House. “Can I run the 100 flat? No,” he says. “But I’m still in good shape.”


01:33 AM BST

My polls don’t show I’m behind, says Biden

Joe Biden has questioned polls that show he is behind Donald Trump after his debate performance last week. He said that “only” the NBC and New York Times/Siena polls show he is consistently behind Trump ─ and claims the Times poll has been against him from the start of this race.

In fact, polling averages do show that Mr Biden is behind Trump in aggregated scores. One published aggregation by FiveThirtyEight shows Mr Biden is on 39.7 per cent support, compared with Trump’s 42.2 per cent.

“All the pollsters I talk to say it’s a toss up,” Mr Biden said, adding that he does not think polls are “as accurate as they used to be”.


01:32 AM BST

Biden: I don’t know why – but I had a bad night

Joe Biden says he does not know why he had a “bad night” but seems keen to point to his campaigning stamina.

”After the debate I did 10 major events in a row including until two o’clock in the morning after the debate,” he told George Stephanopolous.

I did events advance North Carolina I did events in Georgia. I did events like this today. Large crowds, overwhelming response, no, no slipping. And so I just had a bad night. I don’t know why.”


01:28 AM BST

‘Trump distracted me by shouting’

Joe Biden says another reason for his poor debate performance is that Donald Trump was “shouting” even while his microphone was turned off.

“It came to me I was having a bad night when I realized that even when I was answering a question, even when they turned his mic off, he was still shouting,” he said in an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos.

“And I let it distract me. I’m not blaming it on that, but I realized that I just wasn’t in control.”


01:26 AM BST

Biden: Only God could tell me to leave the race

Joe Biden says he might withdraw from the race if  “the Lord Almighty” told him he could not beat Donald Trump.

“If the Lord Almighty came down and said ‘Joe, get out of the race,’ I’d get out of the race,” Mr Biden says, adding: “The Lord Almighty’s not coming down.”

He insists that all Democratic leaders have told him to keep campaigning – despite the fact that a number of senior Democrats have suggested he should make way for a younger successor.


01:22 AM BST

Biden: No one is more qualified than me

“I don’t think anybody’s more qualified to be president or win this race than me,” Joe Biden insists, again steering the conversation back to his record and away from the debate performance.

He repeatedly attacks Donald Trump, his Republican rival, claiming he wants to “undo everything I’ve done.”


01:18 AM BST

Biden: My job is a cognitive test – every day

Mr Biden is using an interesting defence of his health that we have not heard before tonight: that his job is enough of a test of his mental abilities.

He refused three times to say that he would take a neurological test to prove he is up to the job ─ referring instead to the tasks he performs as president.

“I have a cognitive test every single day,” he said.

This is a new line from the president. There will be some who point to the gaffes and verbal trips that happen almost every day, too, and it may not be enough to keep his critics happy.


01:17 AM BST

Biden attempting to move interview back to record

Biden is attempting to pull this interview back to safer ground ─ his record in government.

In response to the last question about his age, he spoke about his work on Nato, job creation and the big pharma industries.

“I don’t think we’re a country of losers,” he says, in response to another question about the physical toll those achievements have taken on his body.

He then talked about the difference between his policy platform and that of Donald Trump. George Stephanopoulos is repeatedly refocusing the president on specific questions about his heath.


01:10 AM BST

Biden is casual and flippant in stage-managed image tonight

Joe Biden is dressed relatively casually, in a striped shirt and blazer and two buttons undone. There clearly has been an attempt to make him look at ease and in control.

This format is not generally the best for the 81-year-old president. He performs best in front of a large crowd, with a teleprompter. Like this, all focus is on what he is saying.

He has repeatedly said he had a “bad night” last Thursday, in a slightly flippant tone of voice that suggests he is confused about the scale of concern.

But there is no doubting that some thought has gone into this. This could be the most important interview of Mr Biden’s life.


12:44 AM BST

Biden struggles to give clear answer in interview clip

Joe Biden appeared to struggle to articulate himself in a brief clip released ahead of his interview with ABC News.

Asked if he realised how badly his debate with Donald Trump was going while he was on stage, Mr Biden answered:

Yeah, look. The whole way I prepared, nobody’s fault, mine. Nobody’s fault but mine. I prepared what I usually would do sitting down as I did come back with foreign leaders or National Security Council for explicit detail.

And I realized – partway through that, you know, all – I get quoted the New York Times had me down, ten points before the debate, nine now, or whatever the hell it is.

The fact of the matter is, what I looked at is that he also lied 28 times. I couldn’t –  I mean, the way the debate ran, not– my fault, nobody else’s fault, no one else’s fault.”

At that point George Stephanopolous, the ABC News host, interrupted to suggest the US President was struggling from the first question, before any exchanges with Trump.


12:38 AM BST

Biden says he has not re-watched debate

Asked by George Stephanopolous, in an excerpt from the ABC News interview, if he had watched the presidential debate back, Joe Biden answered: “I don’t think I did, no.”

He has repeatedly that his debate performance was “nobody’s fault but mine”.

Critics, including Mr Biden’s family, have placed the blame on the aides who oversaw the practice sessions at Camp David: Bob Bauer, the US President’s personal attorney, Ron Klain, his former chief of staff, and senior adviser Anita Dunn.


12:27 AM BST

Biden: This was just a bad night

Joe Biden insisted his debate was simply a “bad night” in an excerpt from his ABC News interview, which will be broadcast in just over an hour.

The US President suggested he struggled to argue with Donald Trump because his Republican rival “lied 28 times”.

“But it seemed like you were having trouble from the first question in, even before he spoke?” interviewer George Stephanopoulos, a former Democratic strategist, asked him.

“Well, I just had a bad night,” Mr Biden responded.


12:16 AM BST

Biden vows to beat Trump ‘again in 2020’

Joe Biden vowed to beat Donald Trump “again in 2020” as he attempted to salvage his presidential campaign with a rally in Wisconsin.

“I’ll beat Donald Trump. I’ll beat him again in 2020,” the 81-year-old told a crowd of supporters in the battleground state.

It marks the latest gaffe committed by the US President, who has reportedly staked his campaign on a strong performance at rallies this weekend and an interview with ABC News.

Mr Biden, who beat Trump in the 2020 presidential election but faces an uphill battle to do so this year, is facing pressure to drop out of the race following a disastrous debate performance last week.

At one point in the Wisconsin rally, he admitted stumbling over his words but made fun of a slip-up committed by his Republican rival in 2019.

“Trump said George Washington won the Revolutionary War by taking control of the airports from the British,” he told the crowd. “Talk about me misspeaking.”


10:10 PM BST

That’s all for now – but we’ll be back

Thanks for following our coverage as Joe Biden attempts to get his presidential campaign back on track. We’ll be back later tonight, as the US President’s ABC interview is broadcast. See you then.


09:45 PM BST

No denial from Warner on reported move against Biden

Mark Warner’s office declined to confirm reports that he was recruiting Senate colleagues to persuade Joe Biden to drop out of the presidential race.

In a statement, his spokeswoman Rachel Cohen, said: “Like many other people in Washington and across the country, Senator Warner believes these are critical days for the president’s campaign, and he has made that clear to the White House.”


09:42 PM BST

Pictured: Biden urged to ‘pass the torch’ at rally

Joe Biden greets supporters at a campaign event in Madison, WisconsinJoe Biden greets supporters at a campaign event in Madison, Wisconsin

Joe Biden greets supporters at a campaign event in Madison, Wisconsin – SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images


09:39 PM BST

Reports: Senior senator hopes to convince Biden to drop out

Senior Democratic senator Mark Warner is reportedly trying to persuade colleagues to join him in a plea to Joe Biden to withdraw from the race, David Millward writes.

The Washington Post reported that the Virginia senator has told fellow senators he fears that Mr Biden is incapable of running a campaign which would beat Trump.

Citing two “people familiar with private conversations”, the paper said concern had increased after his faltering debate performance.

It says an array of possibilities are under consideration including Senators holding a White House meeting with Mr Biden in which they could voice their concerns.

Mr Warner, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is the most senior Democrat to call on Mr Biden to stand aside.

Underpinning the anxiety are growing fears not only that Mr Biden will lose but he will take Democrats down with him in November’s Senate and Congressional races.

The worst-case scenario would see an unrestrained Trump presidency, with the Republicans controlling both the House of Representatives and the Senate.


09:25 PM BST

‘I’m staying in the race and I’ll beat Trump’

Joe Biden has insisted that he is staying in the presidential race in a fiery speech at a rally in Wisconsin, despite a disastrous debate performance last week.

“I’m staying in the race. I’ll beat [Donald] Trump,” the US President told a crowd of supporters, as he launched multiple attacks on his Republican rival.

“Let’s stand together, win this election and exile Donald Trump,” Mr Biden concluded, before turning to greet supporters as Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” played over the PA system.

Mr Biden is reportedly staking his presidency on an energetic performance at rallies this weekend and an interview that is being broadcast on ABC, having admitted for the first time he is considering ending his campaign.

After days of criticism over his disastrous performance in the debate, the US president told allies he “knows if he has two more events like that” then he is in a “different place”, according to The New York Times.


09:15 PM BST

Biden: I misspeak – but I’m not as bad as Trump

Joe Biden said he was not too old to fight for a woman’s right to an abortion, fight for Medicare and Social Security and put the first black woman on the Supreme Court, David Millward writes.

The president said “they” wanted him to withdraw, but it was unclear who he was referring to.

Amid questions about his mental acuity, Mr Biden mocked Trump.

“He said George Washington won the Revolutionary War by taking control of the airports from the British.

“Talk about me misspeaking, the airports and the British in 1776. It’s true he is a stable genius.”


09:10 PM BST

‘I look about 40,’ says Biden

A defiant Joe Biden vowed to stay in the presidential race, David Millward writes.

“There has been a lot of speculation about what Joe is going to do. Is he going to run again? Here is my answer. I am going to run again. I am going twin again,” he said at a rally in Madison, Wisconsin.

“I am staying in the race, I am going to beat Donald Trump.”

Talking of his debate against Donald Trump, he said “I would not say that it was not my performance.”

The defiant president made light of the controversy over whether he is too old, telling supporters: “There has been a lot of discussion about my age. I know I look about 40.”


09:06 PM BST

Biden: Trump has failed every character test

Joe Biden attacked Donald Trump’s fitness for office in a rally in Wisconsin, in what he has privately admitted is his last chance to save his presidential campaign.

“You can’t be pro-insurrectionist and pro-American at the same time. This is so damn serious,” the 81-year-old said. “You can’t love your country only when you win.”

He continued: It’s about honesty it’s about the president’s decency, integrity, do they respect people? Or do they incite violence and hate?

“Can they honour the Constitution and uphold their oath of office? Well I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say Trump has failed on every one of these character tests. Every one.””


09:00 PM BST

Welcome

Hello and welcome to the live blog. Benedict Smith here. We’ll be bringing you all the updates today, as Biden attempts to salvage his run at the presidency with a rally in a battleground state and interview later this evening.