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WBFO brings you NPR's live coverage of the Republican National Convention tonight and tomorrow night from 9pm-11pm.

Many Democrats are concerned by President Biden's debate performance


The headlines this morning are not kind to the current president of the United States - from the Associated Press, Biden had a bad night; The New York Times, Democrats talk about replacing Biden on the ticket; and in a political headline, Biden is toast. They're talking about Joe Biden's performance in last night's debate with former President Donald Trump.

We invited the Biden campaign to come on this morning to give us their take on how things went, and they connected us with Democratic Congressman Robert Garcia. He represents a Los Angeles area district that includes Long Beach, and he was there in Atlanta at the debate. Good morning, Congressman.

ROBERT GARCIA: Hey. Good morning.

MARTIN: So this is the moment early in last night's debate that's getting a lot of attention. Let's listen.


JOE BIDEN: Making sure that we're able to make every single solitary person eligible for what I've been able to do with the COVID - excuse me - with dealing with everything we have to do with - look, if - we finally beat Medicare.

JAKE TAPPER: Thank you, President Biden.

MARTIN: OK. So what's your reaction to this? What's going on here?

GARCIA: Well, look, I was there obviously in Atlanta last night. And I think what's important if you look at the entire debate - I think, yes, some folks are talking about the president's hoarse voice. But the reality is that Donald Trump spent the entire debate lying and lying and lying. And President Biden pushed back. President Biden talked about his record. And President Biden talked about what he'd do in the future.

And there's going to be - and there is - a clear contrast for voters - either have a president that's a good man, that's done infrastructure, climate change, is fighting for a women's right to choose versus, quite frankly, a criminal and a conman who could not tell the truth one single time during that debate. I think that was very clear last night.

MARTIN: So, look, a lot of Democrats spoke out last night and are speaking out today publicly in ways they might have only done privately until now. This is former Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill on MSNBC. She said she understands the job of a campaign surrogate. She said she'd really like to be one now. But this is what she said.


CLAIRE MCCASKILL: My job now is to be really honest. Joe Biden had one thing he had to do tonight, and he didn't do it. He had one thing he had to accomplish, and that was reassure America that he was up to the job at his age. And he failed at that tonight.

MARTIN: Is she wrong?

GARCIA: Look, I have to disagree with that assessment. I think that, number one, President Biden is the most experienced person to be president. He has wisdom. He has experience. I saw him earlier before the debate. He was out there, you know, greeting voters in Atlanta. And we have to also remember that we have a binary choice in front of us. The president has a strong record to run on. He talked about that record last night. I think a lot of people want to focus on his, you know, hoarse voice. But let's remember and let's really focus on what happened, which is Donald Trump...

MARTIN: No, forgive me.

GARCIA: ...Could not tell the truth one time.

MARTIN: It's not about his voice. It's about him seeming not to - seeming to be wandering, seeming not to be able to answer the question, seeming to be, you know, wandering. I mean, no, it wasn't just about his voice. It's about his acuity. So do you think he - is Senator McCaskill right or wrong? I mean, did he convince people that he's up to the job or not?

GARCIA: President Biden is absolutely up to the job. I mean, there's no question of that. And he's definitely shown that as president. He has had - he has an incredible accomplishment record. And so I trust the president. I think he's going to do a fantastic job. We've got a lot of days till the campaign - till the election, and we're going to work every single day.

And I think the contrast could be not any more clear. Donald Trump attacked and led an attack on our Capitol. I think that's the - incredibly important. I think the president's doing what he needs to do. And he talked about that last night.

MARTIN: So, look, you know, former President Clinton famously said that voters want somebody who is strong and wrong over somebody who is weak and right, OK? So if Donald Trump, whether you like it or not, demonstrated that he's strong and wrong, even if he - over somebody who's weak and right, I mean, doesn't that improve Donald Trump's chances?

GARCIA: I mean, look, I think President Biden is strong and right. And, look - and remember also, like, if we think and look back at debates recently, even presidential debates, and all the kind of, like, hand-wringing that happened during President Obama and his first debate and others, I mean, this happens. You know, we're not going to judge obviously an entire campaign on one debate.

But I also want to just focus that Donald Trump couldn't tell one single truth - not one single truth last night. He lied and lied and lied. And so I think that's important. On the other side, you have President Biden, who talked about lowering the price of insulin, fighting for...


GARCIA: ...Women's right to choose, making sure that we take on climate infrastructure. And that's what voters are going to actually make a judgment on. And so I'm proud of the president tonight. And to be crystal clear, this party - those of us, whether we're in Congress or as delegates, of which I'm both - we are supporting the president 100%, and he's our nominee.

MARTIN: OK. That is Democratic Congressman Robert Garcia, who represents part of the Los Angeles area. And he was in Atlanta last night for the debate. Mr. Garcia, thank you so much for joining us.

GARCIA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.