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Biden Pushes on 'Blue Wall' Sprint     07/12 06:13

   Biden, now a president seeking reelection, returns to the city Friday with 
many in his party now pleading for him to fulfill that very promise and step 
aside. But Biden remains defiant that he'll remain in the race despite a 
disastrous debate performance that triggered a wave of calls for him to end his 
candidacy.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Four years ago, candidate Joe Biden stood before 
supporters at a Detroit high school, flanked by Kamala Harris and other rising 
Democratic stars, and called himself a bridge to the next generation of leaders.

   Biden, now a president seeking reelection, returns to the city Friday with 
many in his party now pleading for him to fulfill that very promise and step 
aside. But Biden remains defiant that he'll remain in the race despite a 
disastrous debate performance that triggered a wave of calls for him to end his 
candidacy.

   During a news conference on Thursday, when asked why he no longer considered 
himself a "bridge" to the next generation of leaders, Biden responded that 
"what changed was the gravity of the situation I inherited in terms of the 
economy, foreign policy, and domestic division."

   "We've never been here before," Biden continued. "And that's the other 
reason why I didn't, you say, hand off to another generation. I gotta finish 
the job."

   In the two weeks since his debate debacle, Biden and his team have been on a 
relentless sprint to persuade fretting lawmakers, nervous donors and a 
skeptical electorate that at the age of 81, he is still capable of being 
president. But a spate of travel to battleground states, interviews with 
journalists and a rare solo news conference have done little to tamp down the 
angst within the party about Biden's candidacy and his prospects against Donald 
Trump in November.

   So far, one Democratic senator and 16 House Democrats have publicly called 
on Biden to step aside, with the latest statements -- from Connecticut Rep. Jim 
Himes, California Rep. Scott Peters and Illinois Rep. Eric Sorensen -- coming 
as the president's highly anticipated news conference ended Thursday night. 
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has indicated Biden still has a 
decision to make on whether to run, even though the president has made it clear 
he remains in the race.

   Meanwhile, his reelection campaign has indirectly acknowledged that Biden's 
route to the White House is narrowing, saying the so-called "blue wall" of 
Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania is now the "clearest pathway" to victory 
even as other battleground states like Arizona and Nevada are not out of reach.

   That strategy is reflected in how Biden is redoubling his efforts in the 
Midwestern states, hitting Detroit nearly one week after he campaigned in 
Madison, Wisconsin; Philadelphia; and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Rallying 
enthusiasm in Detroit and among its sizable Black population could prove 
decisive for Biden's chances of winning Michigan, which Biden reclaimed in 2020 
after Donald Trump won it in four years prior by just over 10,000 votes.

   But at a critical juncture when Biden needs to consolidate support, key 
Democratic leaders in the state will notably be absent at Friday's event, where 
Biden plans to speak about the "Project 2025" agenda, a massive proposed 
overhaul of the federal government drafted by longtime allies and former 
officials in the Trump administration.

   Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who is co-chair of Biden's campaign, will be 
out of the state. Sen. Gary Peters, a steadfast supporter of Biden, and Rep. 
Elissa Slotkin, who is vying for Michigan's open Senate seat, will also be 
absent from the event. United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain, whom Biden 
actively courted during last year's strikes and who met with him and other 
union leaders Wednesday, is traveling for a conference.

   Meanwhile, Rep. Hillary Scholten, who is seeking reelection in a 
battleground district in western Michigan, joined a growing list of national 
Democrats who have called on Biden to step aside for another candidate.

   "With the challenges facing our country in 2025 and beyond, it is essential 
that we have the strongest possible candidate leading the top of the ticket -- 
not just to win, but to govern," Scholten said in a statement Thursday.

   But in a swing state that he won by close to 3 percentage points in 2020, 
Biden continues to command support. Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell, Rep. Haley 
Stevens, Rep. Shri Thanedar and AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler will all attend 
the Detroit event, which marks Biden's fourth trip to the state this year. Also 
planning on attending is Academy Award-winning actress Octavia Spencer. And 
over a dozen Detroit-area state lawmakers signed onto a joint letter Thursday 
"to express our unwavering support for President Joe Biden."

   "As the Detroit Caucus, we are committed to mobilizing our communities, 
raising awareness, and advocating for policies that benefit Black 
Michiganders," the state lawmakers wrote in the letter. "We encourage all our 
members and allies to join us in supporting President Biden and Vice President 
Harris."

   In his return to Michigan, Biden aims to reignite the energy felt in March 
2020 when appearing at Detroit's Renaissance High School. During that 
appearance, Biden had locked hands with Harris, Whitmer and New Jersey Sen. 
Cory Booker.

   "I view myself as a bridge, not as anything else," Biden said. "There's an 
entire generation of leaders you saw stand behind me. They are the future of 
this country."

   In 2016, Trump won Michigan by a thin margin attributed in part to reduced 
turnout in predominantly Black areas like Detroit's Wayne County, where Hillary 
Clinton received far fewer votes than Barack Obama did in previous elections.

   Biden reclaimed much of that support four years ago, when he defeated Trump 
in Michigan by a 154,000-vote margin, but he has work to do. Detroit, which 
holds a population that is nearly 78% Black, saw a 12% turnout in the Feb. 27 
primary, almost half that of the 23% total turnout in the state.

   Key parts of Biden's coalition in Michigan are also upset with him over 
Israel's offensive following Hamas' Oct. 7 attack. Michigan holds the largest 
concentration of Arab Americans in the nation, contributing to over 100,000 
people voting "Uncommitted" in Michigan's Democratic primary in February.

 
 
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