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Trump gloats over Biden’s debate performance at a Virginia rally

CHESAPEAKE, Virginia (AP) — Former President Donald Trump gloated Friday over President Joe Biden’s often halting performance at the first debate ahead of the November election, saying Democrats have no better choices while calling the Democratic incumbent “the most incompetent president” in U.S. history.

Trump spoke to thousands of supporters Friday at a rally in Chesapeake, Virginia, a day after Biden’s disappointing performance sparked concerns among his allies and other Democrats who were hoping for a more vigorous candidate to secure and improve his chances at reelection. Biden repeatedly stumbled, paused and could not complete sentences, prompting some people to wonder whether they could replace him ahead of November.

“The question every voter should be asking themselves today is not whether Joe Biden can survive a 90-minute debate performance, but whether America can survive four more years of crooked Joe Biden in the White House,” Trump said.

Trump repeated several of the false claims he made on Thursday, including about abortions later in pregnancy, and again referred to rioters who have been charged with storming the Capitol to try to overturn his 2020 loss as “hostages.” He applauded a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that came out earlier on Friday, limiting a federal obstruction law that has been used to charge Trump and hundreds of Capitol riot defendants. And he called for their release.

“Free the J6 hostages now. They should free them now for what they’ve gone through,” he said, adding that the ruling “was a great thing for people that have been so horribly treated.”

Trump has long suggested the people charged in the riot have been unfairly prosecuted and continues to promote lies and unproven theories about voter fraud.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin appeared alongside Trump on Friday, saying he was going to work to secure a Trump victory in a state Biden won in 2020. The Republican governor, who was once a favorite potential presidential candidate for anti-Trump Republicans, notably waited during this year’s primary and only endorsed Trump in March.

“This is about strength versus weakness,” Youngkin told Trump supporters. “We have seen the weak America that Joe Biden has created, and we all lived through the strong America that Donald Trump built.”

Trump said he did not think Biden could drop out of the race, mentioning the demands from some Democrats and opinion writers calling for Biden to step aside. He then criticized other high-profile Democrats such as California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Vice President Kamala Harris and former first lady Michelle Obama.

Trump said he would be very happy going against Harris, who is Biden’s running mate.

Harris can’t just swap in for him at the top of the ticket by default should Biden decide to step aside. Individual state delegations would need to be lobbied to replace Biden ahead of a virtual roll call where the party intends to nominate Biden. The exact date for the roll call has not yet been set.

There is no evidence Biden is willing to end his campaign. And it would be nearly impossible for Democrats to replace him unless he chooses to step aside.

Christopher James Caton, 49, of Virginia Beach left his home at 4:30 a.m. to see Trump speak on Friday.

“Trump was unbelievable,” Caton, wearing a Second Amendment ball cap, said of Thursday night’s debate. “He was on fire. He was steady. He didn’t stutter.”

Even Democrats have to admit that Biden performed poorly, Caton said.

Ben Finley, Michelle L. Price And Adriana Gomez Licon, The Associated Press