Harris acknowledges Biden had a ‘slow start’ in debate and tries to calm Democratic fears

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris acknowledged that President Joe Biden had a “slow start” in his debate against Donald Trump on Thursday night, but she insisted that he finished “strong” in a performance that triggered a new round of concerns within their own party about Biden’s fitness to be their standard-bearer.

“It was a slow start. That’s obvious to everyone. I’m not going to debate that point,” Harris said in an interview on CNN following the debate. “I’m talking about the choice for November. I’m talking about one of the most important elections in our collective lifetime.”

Harris gave interviews on CNN and MSNBC amid growing Democratic panic over Biden’s performance, which fueled longstanding questions about whether the 81-year-old president should step aside.

As she acknowledged Biden’s uneven performance, Harris emphasized the substance of Trump’s remarks during the 90-minute debate, including his refusal to condemn the rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as well as his unwillingness to emphatically commit to accepting the results of this November’s election.

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She also said the contrast between Biden and Trump ultimately has to be on Biden’s performance in office, rather than in one debate.

“I got the point that you’re making about a one and a half hour debate tonight. I’m talking about three and a half years of performance in work that has been historic,” Harris said in a tense exchange with CNN anchor Anderson Cooper.

Harris continued: “The Joe Biden that I work with every day is someone who, as I have said, has performed in a way that has been about bringing people into the Oval Office, Republicans and Democrats, to compromise in a way that is extraordinary these days.”

She concluded her MSNBC interview by saying that “only one of the two people on that debate stage, only one of them has the endorsement of his vice president. And let’s not forget that.”

Former Vice President Mike Pence has declined to endorse Trump this year. Trump pressured Pence to go along with his plan to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden.

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