What Is at Stake for Joe Biden Today?

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

A general rule of thumb when it comes to a bad news cycle: If you can outlast the week, you're golden.

The problem for Joe Biden is that we're now on Day 8 of a really bad news cycle. The debate was last Thursday, and the negative headlines are still rolling in. There's a lengthy piece in New York Magazine that explains the lengths to which the Biden team - including his family and Vice President Kamala Harris - have gone to keep Biden's problems from the public eye.

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And yesterday was a day that Biden made the situation worse. He had two public appearances, one aimed at a black radio audience, and he stumbled his way through them, as well.


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“I’m proud to be, as I said, the first vice president, first Black woman, to serve with a Black president," Biden said in an interview on WURD in Philadelphia, also saying he was the “first president that got elected statewide in the state of Delaware when I was a kid.”

WURD is a station geared toward a black audience, a demographic the Biden campaign is keenly aware it's struggling to keep. That interview was incredibly important not only because of the demographic, but because it was on a Philadelphia station, and Pennsylvania is a state Biden risks losing in 2024.

The Biden team is frantically going after any and all media outlets that are reporting on Biden's increasingly fragile mental state. His rapid response director, Ammar Moussa, posted on Twitter/X that it was all "perfectly normal."

All of this brings us to today, the day that Biden has what POLITICO is calling "The biggest interview of Joe Biden’s life."

All of this is to underscore that Biden’s interview with ABC News today is just about as high stakes as it gets.

In the president’s sit-down with GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS — who, as a former White House comms director and senior adviser to President BILL CLINTON, has been on both sides of this kind of PR crisis — presents the longtime news host with a different opportunity than debate moderators: He has the chance to “play the roles of devil’s advocate, voter surrogate and fact checker,” as Brian Stelter previews this morning for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“The White House, incredibly, is leaning into this dynamic, almost casting Biden-Stephanopoulos as a televised cognitive test,” Stelter writes, arguing that “it’s no exaggeration to say that this is the most important interview of Stephanopoulos’s long and distinguished career.”

But it’s also likely the most important interview of Joe Biden’s long life.

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And it's not an exaggeration. Donors are looking for alternatives, and activists are demanding change. Even members of Congress have weighed in, as two swing-state Democrats have called on Biden to step aside.

So, when it comes to George Stephanopolous and his interview with Biden today, the stakes couldn't be higher. Amid all these calls for him to step down, Biden has to have a good interview. He has to have zero mistakes, zero stumbles, zero stutters, and zero gaffes. Anything less will give fodder to the people calling for him to retire, and it will continue to fuel media reports and speculation for another week or more.

If the interview, which airs tonight at 8 p.m. (EST) on ABC News, is anything short of perfect, then the calls (which are coming from within the Democratic Party) will only grow louder. Biden is already 81 and is slipping mentally. He has the highest-pressure job in the world, and his voters have already been fleeing for greener pastures before this all took place.

As an aside, Stephanopolous has a big role in all this. He is either the guy who is going to run interference for Joe Biden (as a lot of folks on the right expect) or he will play the role of Dr. Kevorkian and put this campaign out of its misery. His own reputation is on the line here, and he knows he was chosen for this for a reason. Whatever his marching orders, there is a ton of pressure on him. I almost feel bad for him.

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