WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden strained to quell Democratic anxieties over his unsteady showing in his debate with former President Donald Trump, as each candidate on Friday sought to expand his appeal in states he lost four years ago.

Thursday night’s faceoff appeared set to reinforce the public’s deep-seated concerns about both men before perhaps the largest audience they will garner before ballots are cast.

Biden’s halting delivery and meandering comments, particularly early in the debate, fueled concerns from even members of his own party that at age 81 he’s not up for the task of leading the country for another four years. And Trump’s attacks and policy falsehoods served as a reminder of the daily turbulence of his presidency.

Biden was greeted early Friday in Raleigh, North Carolina, by throngs of supporters invited by his campaign to watch Air Force One carry him from the debate in Atlanta, where he brushed aside Democratic concerns with his showing that he should consider stepping aside, saying, “No, it’s hard to debate a liar.”

The Democrat was scheduled to hold what his campaign is billing as the largest-yet rally of his reelection bid in the state Trump carried by the narrowest margin in 2020. He’ll then travel to New York for a weekend of big-dollar fundraisers that his campaign now needs more than ever, as it looks to stave off Trump.

Vice President Kamala Harris, whom the Biden campaign sent out to defend his performance as was set to travel to Las Vegas, Nevada. She told CNN hours after the debate, “There was a slow start, but there was a strong finish.”

Biden and his allies are looking to brush aside concerns about his delivery to keep the focus on the choice for voters this November. They seized on Trump’s equivocations on whether he would accept the will of voters this time around, his refusal to condemn the rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, trying to overturn his 2020 loss to Biden, and his embrace of the conservative-leaning Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade that had legalized abortion nationwide.

Trump’s comments, Biden’s team insisted, are out of step with the majority of voters and will serve as fodder for the barrage of ads that they will see through Election Day.

Still, they did little to quell the concerns about Biden’s fitness among members of his party. Rep. Tom Souzzi, a Democrat in a New York swing district, said, “We all would’ve liked a better performance by the president but regardless of what happens, I’m going to fight for my district.”

Asked if he thinks Biden should step down, he said, “That’s beyond my pay grade.”

Rep. Pete Aguilar, the third-ranking lawmaker in House Democratic leadership, was terse when reporters asked whether Biden should withdraw.

“Joe Biden is the Democratic nominee for president,” he stated after being followed for several minutes by reporters

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat frequently mentioned as a 2028 contender and speculated about as a potential replacement for Biden on the ticket should he step aside, released a statement backing him on Friday.

“The difference between Joe Biden’s vision for making sure everyone in America has a fair shot and Donald Trump’s dangerous, self-serving plans will only get sharper as we head toward November,” she said.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom also dismissed questions on whether he would consider stepping in for Biden, telling reporters after the debate, “I will never turn my back on him.”

Under current Democratic Party rules, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to replace Biden as the party’s nominee without his cooperation or without party officials being willing to rewrite the rules at the August national convention.

Trump, meanwhile, flew to his golf club in Virginia, a onetime battleground that has shifted toward Democrats in recent years but that his aides believe can flip toward the Republican in November. He was set to hold at rally in Chesapeake Friday afternoon.

Miller reported from Washington and Price reported from Norfolk, Virginia. AP reporters Stephen Groves and Farnoush Amiri in Washington and AP National Political Writer Steve Peoples in Atlanta contributed.

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