President Biden says it would take 'the Lord Almighty' to get him to drop out of presidential race

(OSV News) -- President Joe Biden said he had a "bad night" due to a cold in his first televised interview since his performance at a debate raised concerns about his physical and mental ability heading into the general election campaign.

In an interview in Madison, Wisc., where he was campaigning, Biden told ABC News's George Stephanopoulos that a busy travel schedule followed by a cold resulted in his poor performance in a June 27 debate against former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee.

"I was exhausted. I didn't listen to my instincts," Biden said.

But Biden was adamant that he believes he could serve another four years in the office if reelected in November, arguing he "wouldn't be running" if he did not believe so.

Asked whether he would exit the race if Democratic allies like Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer or former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on him to step aside, Biden dismissed the possibility, indicating it would take a higher power.

"If the Lord Almighty came down and said, 'Joe, get out of the race,' I'd get out of the race," Biden, who is the nation's second Catholic president, said. "The Lord almighty is not coming down."

Biden's performance in that debate -- in which he appeared pale, sounded horse and appeared to lose his train of thought during several comments -- raised questions about his ability to remain the presumptive Democratic nominee amid concerns over his age. A subsequent poll from The New York Times and Siena College, a Franciscan-run school in Loudonville, New York, showed that after the debate, Trump, 78, now leads Biden, 81, by 49% to 43% among likely voters nationally, a three-point swing toward Trump in the same poll from the week prior.

But Biden was bullish on his poll numbers, arguing Democrats outperformed expectations in the 2022 midterm cycle, in which a predicted "red wave" of a massive Republican takeover of Congress did not materialize, with Republicans winning the House by a small margin.

Biden argued the race is a "toss-up," and that the New York Times poll didn't show anything "changed substantially."

In the 22-minute interview, which ABC said was uncut, Biden largely avoided similar missteps to the debate, but it remained to be seen whether it would alleviate growing concern within his party over his prospects against Trump in the November election.

Biden cast himself as the party's best choice, downplaying calls from some in his party to step aside in favor of an alternate nominee.

“I don’t think anybody’s more qualified to be president or win this race than me,” Biden said.

Biden also declined to commit to undergo a cognitive test and publicly release the results. Pressed on the matter, Biden replied that the presidency itself was such a test "every day."

"Every day that test is everything I do," he said, citing his frequent interactions with other world leaders on topics like the conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine.

Asked by Stephanopoulos if he is more frail, Biden replied, no," quipping, "come keep my schedule."

Shortly before the interview aired, Rep. Mike Quigley, an Illinois Democrat, joined a growing number of House Democrats calling on Biden to step aside.

- - - TAGLINE: Kate Scanlon is a national reporter for OSV News covering Washington. Follow her on X (formerly known as Twitter) @kgscanlon.- - - NOTES: