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Biden heads out on public events blitz as White House pushes back on pressure to leave the race

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House announced Tuesday that President Joe Biden will meet with Democratic lawmakers and governors, sit for a network TV interview and hold a press conference in the coming days as he pushes back against growing pressure to step aside in the 2024 race after his disastrous performance in last week’s debate with Republican Donald Trump.

“We really want to turn the page on this,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said of the intensifying calls for Biden to bow out of the race. She added that the 81-year-old president had no intention of stepping aside, characterizing his debate failings as simply evidence of “a bad night” when he had a cold.

The White House was also holding an all-staff meeting on Wednesday, billed as a morale-booster following the debate and a chance for the senior team to keep the staff focused around governing, according to three people familiar with the details who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss a private meeting.

But Democratic leaders were increasingly signaling that they were not buying White House attempts to brush off Biden’s performance in the face-off, when he gave halting and nonsensical answers, as just a momentary lapse.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told MSNBC that she believes “it is a legitimate question” whether Biden’s halting performance is just “an episode or is this a condition.”

“When people ask that question, it’s legitimate — of both candidates,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi said she had not spoken with Biden since the debate, but she emphasized that the president is on “top of his game, in terms of knowing the issues and what is at stake.”

Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas became the first Democratic member of Congress to publicly call for Biden to step down. He said Biden should “make the painful and difficult decision” to withdraw, citing the president’s inability to “effectively defend his many accomplishments” in the debate.

Rep. Jared Golden, a moderate Democrat from Maine, said in a local newspaper column Tuesday that the debate “didn’t rattle me as it has others, because the outcome of this election has been clear to me for months: While I don’t plan to vote for him, Donald Trump is going to win. And I’m OK with that.”

Jean-Pierre said Biden, who has not taken questions from reporters since Thursday night’s debate, would meet with Democratic governors and top congressional leaders on Wednesday. And Biden also agreed to sit for an interview Friday with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that will air Friday. He has planned trips to Wisconsin on Friday and Philadelphia on Monday. And will hold a press conference during the NATO summit in Washington next week.

The president’s stepped-up schedule comes after a private discussion within Biden’s campaign about what can be done to counteract the damaging impression left by last week’s debate.

“We’re going to get out there, across the country. Americans are going to see him for themselves,” Jean-Pierre said at a White House briefing, rejecting any suggestion that the president undergo cognitive testing or provide additional information on his medical condition.

When asked whether the president had a degenerative illness or dementia, Jean-Pierre said: “No. And I hope you’re asking the other guy the same question,” she said, referring to Trump, who is 78 and once challenged Biden to a cognitive test, only to confuse who administered the test to him in the next sentence.


Associated Press writers Stephen Groves and Zeke Miller contributed to this approach.

Colleen Long, The Associated Press