The High-Energy Biden Missing At Thursday Night's Debate Shows Up In North Carolina

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden walk off the stage Friday after a campaign event in Raleigh, North Carolina.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden walk off the stage Friday after a campaign event in Raleigh, North Carolina. MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Just hours after a disastrous debate performance that led to immediate calls to abandon his reelection campaign, President Joe Biden on Friday made clear that he had no intention of dropping out.

Biden held to a schedule that had been planned ahead of time, delivering a high-energy speech at a rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, before continuing on to New York City for a Friday night fundraiser, with three other fundraisers planned for Long Island and New Jersey on Saturday.

One Biden campaign official, speaking on condition of anonymity, had a two-word answer to the calls that he step aside: “Absolutely not.”

Biden did not address the issue directly at his rally, but referenced it after conceding that Thursday night’s CNN debate with former President Donald Trump had not gone well.

“I know, like millions of Americans know, when you get knocked down, you get back up,” he said to raucous cheers.

Indeed, Biden’s frequent stumbles in the 90-minute televised encounter also stood in sharp contrast to far more energetic remarks delivered at a campaign watch party barely an hour later in Atlanta. Before heading to the airport for the short flight to North Carolina, Biden made a midnight visit to an area Waffle House, where he told reporters, “It’s hard to debate a liar.”

But that rationale did not explain how, when confronted with the same wall of lies from Trump at their first debate in 2020, Biden had managed to counter them with relative ease. Observers generally saw him as the hands-down winner of that event.

It also didn’t explain why Biden fumbled when asked about the Jan. 6, 2021, coup attempt at the debate Thursday night, when he failed to point out that the U.S. Capitol attack, instigated by Trump, included violent assaults on 140 police officers, with one dying hours later. Instead, Biden only mentioned the breaking of windows and overturning of desks in the building, as if the vandalism had been the worst of it.

Biden did reference the attacks on the Capitol and Washington, D.C., police officers during his speech in Raleigh, as he has many dozens of times before.

“We saw thousands at his direction attack the Capitol. We saw police being attacked. The Capitol being ransacked. The mob hunting for Speaker Pelosi. Gallows literally set up for Mike Pence,” Biden said, describing Trump followers’ hunt for then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence.

Toward the end of his 20-minute speech, Biden acknowledged that this week’s debate performance wasn’t his best.

“I know I’m not a young man, to state the obvious,” he said. “I don’t walk as easily as I used to. I don’t speak as smoothly as I used to. I don’t debate as well as I used to. But I know what I do know, I know how to tell the truth. I know right from wrong. I know how to do this job. I know how to get things done.”

Meanwhile, former President Barack Obama, for whom Biden served as vice president for two terms, shared a social media post that tacitly confirmed Biden would be staying in the race.

“Bad debate nights happen. Trust me, I know,” Obama wrote, referring to his own poor performance at his first reelection debate in 2012 against GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

“But this election is still a choice between someone who has fought for ordinary folks his entire life and someone who only cares about himself,” Obama wrote. “Between someone who tells the truth; who knows right from wrong and will give it to the American people straight — and someone who lies through his teeth for his own benefit. Last night didn’t change that, and it’s why so much is at stake in November.”