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Joe Biden Gave the Performance Democrats Wanted From the Debate … a Day Later

“It’s going to take more performances like this to repair the damage done last night,” a North Carolina Democratic operative said.

President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally, Friday, June 28, 2024, in Raleigh, N.C.
Evan Vucci/AP

President Joe Biden delivered a forceful rebuttal to former President Donald Trump’s debate comments — it was just 16 hours too late.

The president’s campaign rally in North Carolina on Friday was a clear effort to assuage Democrats’ concerns about his debate performance, which included fumbling over lines, slurring words and playing directly into the party’s fears beforehand.

And Democratic sources in North Carolina told NOTUS afterward that they think it did the job, at least in part. But they said it will ultimately take consistent vigorous appearances to overshadow Biden’s past performance mishaps.

“Quite literally night and day,” said Asher Hildebrand, former director of policy and research for Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign in North Carolina. “Sharper, more energetic, clearly feeding off the crowd. If this is the candidate who shows up on the campaign trail, I feel better about his ability to remind voters of the stark choice they are facing and reassure them he’s up to the job. But it’s going to take more performances like this to repair the damage done last night.”

Biden used a majority of his speech to clarify points he attempted to make last night against Donald Trump during the debate and highlight the former president’s policies on abortion, COVID-19, immigration and more. He also blasted Trump for failing to commit to accepting the results of the 2024 election regardless of the outcome and for telling lies during the debate.

Biden acknowledged the criticisms of his performance, which have led to some calls for him to step aside.

“I might not walk as easily or talk as smoothly as I used to,” Biden said. “I might not debate as well as I used to. But what I do know is how to tell the truth. I know right from wrong. I know how to do this job.”

Unlike on the debate stage, Biden’s punch lines landed.

“He’s crushing it. Crowd is electric,” Morgan Jackson, political consultant to North Carolina Democratic candidate for governor Josh Stein, texted NOTUS from inside the rally.

“It was really a strong performance. Exactly the kind of speech that Democrats needed to see,” Jackson added.

While folks in the party agree that the highly viewed debate puts a stain on Biden’s reelection campaign this year, some say the experience might’ve given him a necessary boost of morale.

“I think like an NBA team in the NBA finals,” North Carolina Democratic strategist Doug Wilson told NOTUS. “They get blown out on one game by 40 but come with aggression the next game. This is what Biden showed. He is ready.”

Calen Razor is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.