Pennsylvania reacts: Governor Shapiro defends Biden after ‘bad debate’

The morning after the first presidential debate between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, Gov. Josh Shapiro and other Pennsylvania Democrats came to Biden’s defense both on the air and on social media.

Gov. Josh Shapiro said in separate interviews Friday morning on MSNBC and CNN that Democrats should “stop worrying” and “start working” as headlines trumpeted Democrats in “panic” over Biden’s lackluster debate performance, reigniting speculation that the president’s age is a major concern in his reelection bid.

“Here’s the bottom line. Joe Biden had a bad night of debates, but Donald Trump was a bad president,” Shapiro told CNN.

During both interviews, Shapiro was pressed about Biden’s performance, and in both cases he repeatedly acknowledged that the debate with Biden was bad and that “it didn’t look good,” but reiterated that the election was a choice between Biden and Trump.

“I would just say Democrats stop worrying and start working,” Shapiro said on MSNBC. “We all have a responsibility here to do our part.”

Shapiro also said Biden is “ready to take on that task,” in response to a question about various Democratic strategists and pundits urging him not to seek their party’s nomination.

MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski at one point challenged Shapiro, pushing back on his remarks and asking about the stakes of the debate, saying Biden was “terrible” on one of the most significant nights of the election cycle. Shapiro said Trump “had a terrible night, too.”

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“I have already acknowledged many times that Joe Biden had a bad debate night and the onus is on him to show people that he is still able to move forward in these debates while going after Donald Trump,” Shapiro said. “I believe he can do it. “I also believe we all have a responsibility to help him do that.”

During an interview with CNN, Shapiro harshly criticized Trump, stating that “it’s not easy to argue with a pathological liar” and criticized CNN for its moderation of the comments.

“I think CNN could have responded better to these lies, quite frankly,” Shapiro told CNN. “The bottom line is there is a stark contrast in this race and we have an obligation to pursue the case against Donald Trump and not get caught up in any hand-wringing right now. Stop worrying and start working and help move this country.”

Democrats cancel Biden’s Friday campaign event in Harrisburg

Also Friday morning, a Biden campaign event in Harrisburg scheduled to feature Democratic state lawmakers never happened. A Pennsylvania House Democratic spokesman called it a “response to Trump’s debate lies” earlier this week. Bring a chair, this will take some time.

Jack Doyle, Biden’s campaign manager in Pennsylvania, said the event was canceled a day early because of the Senate’s weekend adjournment and a conflicting House schedule.

House Minority Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) expressed concerns about Biden campaign events in Harrisburgincluding whether Department of General Services resources were misused.

On Thursday, Cutler appealed a ruling by House Speaker Joanna McClinton that an amendment he was trying to add to the Senate bill “prohibits any administrative agency… from expending funds to prepare for, plan or organize an event, or to advocate for or against the election of any candidate or question about the ballot” was irrelevant to the bill in question that it was intended to address reauthorize funding for the state geospatial coordinating council. McClinton called the amendment and Cutler’s appeal “trivial and absurd.”

Reaction to Biden’s performance

Before the debate on Thursday evening Shapiro addressed participants in the debate with Biden in Harrisburg, where he shared a similar message about the 2024 race between the two candidates, claiming Biden “loves this nation” and Trump “doesn’t love America.”

The mood in the room changed throughout the evening as Biden’s tentative performance unfolded. A CNN poll conducted after the debate found that 67% of people who watched the debate said Trump outperformed Biden last night.

Democrats shocked by Biden’s ‘terrible’ debate performance as he defended candidacy

U.S. Senator John Fetterman (Democrat from Pennsylvania), who was another busy Biden surrogate in Pennsylvania, spoke on the matter social media. He shared a screenshot of a Politico headline that read, “WTF”: Panicked Democrats Are Starting to Look for Biden Alternatives , and reminded people of his own destitute showing in the debates during the 2022 U.S. Senate race.

“I refused to join the Democratic vultures in piling on Biden’s shoulder after the debate. No one knows better than me that a heated debate is not the sum of a person and their accomplishments,” Fetterman wrote.

Fetterman struggled during his only debate in 2022 against GOP candidate Mehmet Oz. Fetterman was still recovering from a stroke he suffered several months earlier. While the performance was widely considered a campaign-ending performance by political pundits, voters generally sympathized with Fetterman, and he won the election, 5 points.

“The day after my race’s thermonuclear defeat, debate and polling geniuses like 538 predicted I would lose by 2. And what happened? The only seat that changed was won by a historic margin (+5). Chill out, damn it.” Fetterman wrote in another post on X Friday morning.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (R-Pa.), who is seeking re-election to a fourth term, has not commented on Biden’s debate performance. His campaign responded to a request for comment Friday with a statement from the senator that did not address the debate and instead criticized his GOP opponent, David McCormick, without mentioning his name. “Pennsylvanians deserve someone who will fight for working families, not billionaires,” the statement said.

McCormick sent a message to social media on Thursday night during the debate, he wrote: “As an American, this is just challenging to watch. “I don’t know how anyone can watch this and still think Joe Biden is fit for office.”

During an interview with KDKA-FM in Pittsburgh on Friday morning, McCormick said Biden’s performance left everyone watching with a “sense of fear” and “sadness.”

“As an American, put politics aside for a moment and say, listen, we should be concerned,” McCormick said. “Our founders, our ancestors had a certain vision on this issue, they had something called the 25th Amendment.”

Fetterman and Oz will face off in the first – and only debate – of the U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania

This 25th Amendment to the United States Constitution includes actions intended to replace the president or vice president in the event of death, dismissal, resignation or incapacitation.

Pressed on whether he thinks there should be a conversation now about replacing the president via the 25th Amendment, McCormick said, “If what we saw last night is a reflection of what he looks like on a day-to-day basis, then they’re sitting down with him … if that’s the case, “When it comes to the secretary of defense, the attorney general, the secretary of state, you have an obligation to say, ‘Hey, wait a minute, this guy is not up to the job,’ yeah, I’m saying that’s what they should be asking themselves, right now.”

U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-8) told States Newsroom that Biden’s performance reminded him of a debate he had in 2022, where his own performance was “poor.”

“He had a rough night,” Cartwright said, adding that he thought Democrats should not “overreact.”

Cartwright said he doesn’t think Biden’s debate performance will have an impact on how his voters view him. districtcovering areas of northeastern Pennsylvania, including Biden’s childhood home of Scranton, will vote in down-ballot elections later this year.

“People split their tickets where I live,” Cartwright said. “They know who I am, and they know I’m not the same guy as whoever’s in the White House.”

Rob Bresnahan, Cartwright’s Republican challenger, responded to the debate by saying there was a “leadership void” in the White House.

“Joe Biden may be a nice guy, but it’s time for him to dump them. It’s time for new leadership in Washington,” Bresnahan wrote.

This article was updated at 1:35 p.m., Friday, June 28, 2024, to include a comment from Senator Bob Casey, and at 3:40 p.m., to include a comment from Representative Matt Cartwright.

This article was co-authored by Ian Karbal of Capital-Star.

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