Biden’s solo, unscripted press conference a key moment in effort to resume debate

As with any public appearance, his performance will now come under scrutiny.

President Joe Biden is facing a political crisis as Democrats question the viability of his campaign and his mental fitness. He will be put to the test on Thursday when he holds his first solo press conference of the year.

This key moment presents a chance for Biden to change the narrative, after his poor performance in the debates raised concerns within his own party that he may be too weak to beat Donald Trump in November.

But any missteps in the unplanned setting could add fuel to the fire, despite Biden’s repeated efforts to silence his critics and his insistence that he is staying in the race.

Many Democrats have said Biden needs to give clear answers to questions without hesitating or losing the thread. That’s what troubled them about his debate with Trump two weeks ago.

The press conference comes after Biden hosts the NATO summit in Washington.

What overshadowed the international gathering was Biden’s domestic political fate, with debates over his ability to lead the US for another four years and the possibility that a second Trump presidency would jeopardize NATO’s policy on Ukraine — and the alliance itself.

These questions were high on the agenda this week for Democrats in Congress, who returned to Washington after the long weekend and met behind closed doors to discuss the way forward.

Biden tried to preemptively block the criticism in a defiant letter to Democrats on Monday, saying it was time to “come together” and that he was “committed” to staying in this race until the end.

But there are now nine Democrats in the House and one Democratic senator who have called on Biden to resign. Privately, many have expressed concern about the possibility of losing not just the presidency but the House and Senate if Biden remains at the top of the ticket.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) told his colleagues that he plans to relay their concerns about Biden’s campaign to Biden himself, multiple people familiar with his comments told ABC News.

Jeffries and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have publicly endorsed Biden, with Schumer simply telling reporters, “I’m with Joe” when peppered with questions about Biden’s candidacy.

But the apparent hesitation of one of Washington’s most prominent Democrats, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has sparked a new wave of outrage and concern.

When asked during an appearance on MSNBC whether Biden had her support, Pelosi said it’s “up to the president to decide whether to run” and that she wants him to “do whatever he decides to do.”

In the hectic days following the debate, Democrats urged Biden to make more public appearances and hold informal conversations.

Biden sat down with ABC News host George Stephanopoulos in his first post-debate televised interview in an attempt to correct his course. In the interview, he largely dismissed broader concerns about his fitness, saying he would only drop out if “the Lord Almighty” told him to.

Thursday’s news conference will be Biden’s first solo press conference since November, though he has held four joint news conferences with various world leaders since then. The White House, which did not specify how many questions Biden will answer, said it will be more than what is allotted during a joint news conference.

“He’s looking forward to it,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters. “And he’ll be answering your questions. So that’s a good thing.”

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