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Chester County Democrats stick to support of Biden after shaky debate

Leaders from the Democratic Party who represent Chester County at the federal, state and local levels lined up behind President Joe Biden in support after what many observers — including some among their numbers — described as a weak and halting performance during his debate with former President Donald Trump.

Nationally, reports started circulating early on in the debate on Thursday that party members were worried about Biden’s lackluster-at-best presentation against his Republican rival, with it crystallizing the concerns of many Americans that, at age 81, he is too old to serve as president.

 

Biden appeared to acknowledge the criticism during a rally in Raleigh, North Carolina Friday, saying ”I don’t debate as well as I used to.” But he added, “I know how to do this job. I know how to get things done.” Speaking for 18 minutes, Biden appeared far more animated than he had the night before as he excoriated Trump for his “lies” and for waging a campaign aimed at “revenge and retribution.”

But the debate also sparked a fresh round of calls for the Democrat to step aside.

The first 2024 presidential debate is seen on TV between President Joe Biden and Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump, hosted by CNN, in Atlanta on Thursday, June 27, 2024. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)
The first 2024 presidential debate is seen on TV between President Joe Biden and Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump, hosted by CNN, in Atlanta on Thursday, June 27, 2024. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)

David Axelrod, a longtime advisor to former President Barack Obama, echoed others by saying on CNN immediately after the debate that, “I think you’re going to hear discussions that, I don’t know will lead to anything, but there are going to be discussions about whether he should continue.”

Those predictions fell flat among party leaders from Chester County who responded to a request for comment from the MediaNews Group on Friday. The men and women — in the U.S. House of Representatives, the state Senate, and the state House of Representatives  — were sent the questions to their official e-mail addressed and  asked the following questions:

“Following the debate between President Biden and Donald Trump last night, some members of the Democratic Party are speculating that the time may have come for Mr. Biden to end his candidacy and for the party to choose another nominee. What do you think, and do you believe that the president can win re-election this year?

“If he does not step aside, do you think a poor performance will hurt the party’s ticket in Chester County?”

President Joe Biden, right, and Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump, left, during a presidential debate hosted by CNN, Thursday, June 27, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
President Joe Biden, right, and Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump, left, during a presidential debate hosted by CNN, Thursday, June 27, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Not all responded, and many avoided the question of whether a poor Biden showing in November would hurt the party locally. But those who did respond expressed confidence in Biden’s ability to lead the party and distain for the GOP nominee.

Said U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-6th, of Easttown, who will top the local ballot in November as she runs for re-elections: “Last night wasn’t President Biden’s best performance, but we know the President to be a capable and extremely competent leader and I am deeply appreciative of his remarkable six plus decades of service – service with a grace and dignity that stands in stark contrast to his opponent’s.

“Former President Trump is a known chronic liar (as recently as his own debate performance), a convicted felon, and has to this date expressed no commitment to respecting the outcome of the 2024 election,” said Houlahan. “This is a choice between two starkly different views of our nation and our place in the world.

President Joe Biden speaks as he participates in the first presidential debate of the 2024 elections with former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at CNN's studios in Atlanta, on June 27, 2024. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)
President Joe Biden speaks as he participates in the first presidential debate of the 2024 elections with former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at CNN’s studios in Atlanta, on June 27, 2024. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

“In my opinion, a return of President Trump to the White House is an existential threat to our democracy, the future of our planet, to civil rights of women, the LGBTQ community, and to a diversity of faiths,” said Houlahan, whose district includes part of Berks County. “He is not fit to lead our country as Commander in Chief.”

Charlotte Valyo, the chairwoman of the Chester County Democratic Committee, also expressed concern about the debate, but continued to back Biden by contrasting him with Trump.

”There is no ignoring the fact that President Biden did not have his strongest debate performance last evening,” she said in an email. “But we certainly cannot ignore the refusal to answer questions and the spewing of lie after lie by the presumptive Republican candidate for President, Donald Trump.

“Donald Trump was rated one of  the worst, if not the worst, President in U.S. history, he cannot be returned to the White House, our democracy will vanish,” she said.

Later, Valyo praised Biden’s speech on Friday, in which he seemed more energetic and focused than on Thursday.

“After the President’s speech today in North Carolina, it is obvious President Biden is up to the task of running this country for four more years and building on the incredible achievements he has made in all areas,” she said.

“This election is a choice between electing a convicted felon, a former president who continues to be an election denier and challenges democracy and re-electing President Biden,” said Valyo. “President Biden who will  save our democracy, protect women’s rights, fight inflation, address climate change, create jobs, increase wages, protect workers’ rights, protect medicare and social security, work to provide affordable day care and healthcare for all and serve with honor and civility.”

The two state legislators who responded — State Rep. Danielle Friel-Otten, D-155th, of Uwchlan and State Rep. Chris Pielli, D-156th, of West Goshen — again doubled-down not so much on the questions raised by the debate, but by Biden’s accomplishments in office.

“As a woman and a mother, I don’t have the luxury of playing zero sum games.,” said Friel-Otten, whose name will appear on the ballot in November. “My freedom and my daughter’s life and freedom is on the line in November. I will work endlessly to protect her, and all of our girls and young women from the vile and devastating possibility of another Trump presidency.

“I have full faith that Joe Biden is able and willing to make choices that will protect women, LGBTQ Americans, and all marginalized Americans who are threatened by the current radical activist court that was solidified by Trump,” she wrote in an email. “I have full faith that Joe Biden will uphold our constitution and preserve a country where we still have the ability to vote and participate in government. Joe Biden has given his life to service. Donald Trump has lived his life to serve himself from Atlantic City to the White House.”

Pielli, a first-term representative, began his remarks by acknowledging the debate presentation.

“Yes, Joe had a bad night,” he said. “But despite his low voice, he spoke truth.  Trump continually lied about everything except his name. History will show that over the past 3 1/2 years President Biden’s performance has been outstanding.

“How soon we forget the insurrection, presidential crimes, impeachments, playing lap dog to Putin, overturning Roe v. Wade and more,” he said, pointing to Trump’s time in office. “We went from a time of national crisis where thousands of Americans were dying of COVID, and you couldn’t even find enough toilet paper never mind other supplies leading to current inflation issues; to a time of stability, record employment, and growth.

“I choose to focus on this rather than one night while also recognizing that the alternative is most likely the end of our Republic,” PIelli said.

Biden began the debate night with a raspy voice and a halting delivery as he tried to defend his economic record and criticize Trump. A person familiar with the matter said Biden was suffering from a cold during the debate, adding that he tested negative for COVID-19.

Biden appeared to lose his train of thought while giving one answer, drifting from an answer on tax policy to health policy, at one point using the word “COVID,” and then saying, “excuse me, with, dealing with,” and he trailed off again.

“Look, we finally beat Medicare,” Biden said, as his time ran out on his answer.

Biden began to give clearer answers as the debate progressed, still with a rasp, and attacked Trump’s record on issues like fighting climate change.

“The only existential threat to humanity is climate change, and he didn’t do a damn thing about it,” he said.

The current president and his predecessor hadn’t spoken since their last debate weeks before the 2020 presidential election. Trump skipped Biden’s inauguration after leading an unprecedented and unsuccessful effort to overturn his loss that culminated in the Capitol riot by his supporters.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

 

To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.


Source: Berkshire mont

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