Recap: Coverage of Biden's rally at Madison's Sherman Middle School (2024)

As President Joe Biden contemplates his political future, facing calls from within his own party to abandon a reelection bid, the 81-year-old Democratic president made a critical stop in Madison Friday as a show of commitment to see his campaign through.

Biden held a rally at Madison's Sherman Middle School ahead of a primetime interview with ABC intended to help overturn public fears of a lagging mental acuity following a stunning debate performance during which the president often lost his train of thought and garbled words.

The stop, perhaps the most important for Biden this campaign cycle, comes as the president continues to deflect concerns from Democratic donors and his political colleagues over the president's ability to defeat Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Biden in Wisconsin:'I'm staying in the race': A defiant president rallies support in Madison

Here's a recap of our live coverage of Biden's speech and the events around it:

Biden finishes 18-minute speech at Madison's Sherman Middle School

Biden finished his speech at 2:47 p.m., speaking for about 18 minutes.

He concluded his remarks by saying "the American presidency is about character, the character of the president who holds the job.”

“It's about honesty. It's about the president's decency, integrity. Do they respect people, or do they incite violence and hate? Can they honor an oath to the Constitution and uphold the oath of office?”

Trump “could become a dictator,” Biden said.

“America's been a free, democratic nation, and I'll be damned if, in the year 2024, just two years before our 250th anniversary as a nation, I'll let Donald Trump take this away,” he said.

He left the stage to Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down."

— Jessie Opoien

Biden defiant about staying in race as he starts speech at Madison's Sherman Middle School

Biden has started his speech at the rally at Sherman Middle School at about 2:30 p.m.

In response to calls to drop out of the presidential race because of his debate performance, he said, "I am running and am going to win again.

"They're trying to push me out of the race. Let me say this clearly as I can, I'm staying in the race."

— Molly Beck

Sen. Tammy Baldwin declines to talk about Biden campaign

Absent Friday from the Biden rally was the state's top Democrat: U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin. Baldwin has avoided appearing with Biden in the president's recent visits and had already scheduled a campaign stop in northern Wisconsin.

Speaking to reporters Friday in a coffee shop after a campaign event about 200 miles from Madison in Marinette, Baldwin repeatedly declined to say even if she thought Biden should remain on the ballot in November.

"I will tell you that I am focused on my own campaign," said Baldwin, who's running against Republican millionaire Eric Hovde.

She made no mention of Biden in her talk.

Told that Hovde had accused her of hiding behind her staff when asked about Biden, the second-term senator still ducked the question: "It's not my decision."

The last time Baldwin appeared with Biden was at the State of the Union address in Washington, D.C. in March, when she was among a group of lawmakers who walked the president into the House chamber.

More:Bice: How badly does Tammy Baldwin not want to talk about Biden? Let us count the ways.

— Daniel Bice

Recap: Coverage of Biden's rally at Madison's Sherman Middle School (2)

Evers, Pocan, Madison mayor speak before Biden

Ahead of the president’s remarks at Sherman Middle School, attendees heard from Gov. Tony Evers, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan and Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.

Pocan said former President Donald Trump is a “felon who is unable to tell the truth and wants to be a dictator.”

“Thanks to his appointments on the Supreme Court, if not a dictator, a lawless king, a demigod who if elected will implement the far right Project 2025, a far-right authoritarian fever dream that will take away our freedoms, challenge our foundations of democracy and negatively affect our country for a long time,” Pocan said. “And on the other side stand the Democrats.”

Evers compared himself to Biden, saying neither of them are “flashy” or "fancy.”

“We’re not for political drama or fanfare. We put our heads down and do the work we always try to do the right thing,” Evers said.

Rhodes-Conway said a Biden-Harris vote is a vote for the “freedom to love who we love and to choose when and how to have a family and the freedom to live without fear of violence and discrimination.”

— Jessie Opoien and Rachel Hale

Recap: Coverage of Biden's rally at Madison's Sherman Middle School (3)

Wisconsin Democratic leaders greet Biden at airport

Biden landed in Madison at around 1:20 p.m.

Greeting him at Dane County Regional Airport were Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, Lt. Gov. Sara Rodriguez, former Gov. Jim Doyle, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, Secretary of State Sarah Godlewski, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, Department of Public Instruction superintendent Jill Underly and former Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.

— Molly Beck

Biden arrives in Madison

Pro-Palestine protesters on Sherman Avenue near school

Roughly 75 pro-Palestine protestors on Madison's Sherman Avenue shouted discontent over Biden’s handling of the war in Gaza into speakerphones, chanting “Biden, Biden you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide!” and “Free, free Palestine!” Voters held signs including “Pres. Biden, Serve your country — not your ego. Exit now,” “Pass the torch” and I <3 you Joe, bow out.”The groups included the Madison chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, the Wisconsin Coalition for Justice in Palestine and Listen to Wisconsin, according to an Instagram post.Biden’s handling of Middle East policy has been a contentious part of his campaign, especially among young voters. Roughly 48,000 Wisconsinites voted “uninstructed” in the April presidential primary.

— Rachel Hale

Recap: Coverage of Biden's rally at Madison's Sherman Middle School (4)

Biden campaign launching $50M swing state ad blitz around RNC, Olympics, 'Bachelorette'

Biden's campaign will spend $50 million on ads in Wisconsin and other battleground states in July, his campaign said Friday.

The campaign plans to target the advertising blitz around major events including the Republican National Convention,which will be held in Milwaukee, the Olympics and the July 8 season premiere of "The Bachelorette."

The ads will air on TV, radio and digital, focusing on issues including abortion access, economic relief and democracy.

Read more about the ads here.

— Jessie Opoien

Local media gets bumped from traveling with Biden in Madison

Local media are waiting for Air Force One's arrival at the Dane County Regional Airport. The president’s motorcade has arrived.

A small group of local reporters, including a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter and photographer, were set to travel with Biden to a handful of other stops today. We’ve now been told we don’t have transportation and won’t be doing so.

— Jessie Opoien

Wisconsin Democratic chair says Biden will be 'knocking it out of the park' with speech

Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Ben Wikler in an interview with the Journal Sentinel predicted Biden would be “knocking it out of the park” in his speech.

“My message to voters who are trying to figure out the path forward is to pay attention to the president's speech here in Madison today," Wikler said. "Watch him on the campaign trail. See the fire and the energy that the voters saw in North Carolina last week."

Wikler said the stakes of this election are even higher than they were in 2020, in part because of Monday’s immunity ruling.

On Monday, the Supreme Court in a historic decision ruled presidents have absolute immunity for “core constitutional powers” but aren’t immune to charges from unofficial acts. The ruling gives Trump’s team a new path to defend the former president from pending federal cases and his New York conviction on 34 state felony charges.

“In this moment after the U.S. Supreme Court handed the president the powers of a king," Wikler said, "having a president who is clear-eyed about the necessity to win and the necessity to exercise character in the Oval Office gives us a path to a rebirth of freedom in America at a moment when it's in peril.”

— Rachel Hale

Rally is at school in poor, racially diverse Madison neighborhood

Biden's rally will take place in one of the few working-class neighborhoods in Madison.

On the north side of the city, nearly 60% of students at Sherman Middle School are considered to be living in poverty. The demographics of students at the school are largely a proportionate mix of Black, Hispanic and white students.

— Molly Beck

More:'I screwed up': Joe Biden addresses debate performance with Milwaukee radio host

More:Bice: From softball questions to a bungled attack, takeaways from Biden's first post-debate interview

Democratic supporters say they'll vote for Biden, democracy

By 11:15 a.m., more than 100 people stood in the parking lot of Sherman Middle School on the north side of Madison. Many received an invitation through their local Democratic party, they said. Supporters largely said they stand behind Biden as the Democratic presidential candidate and blamed the media for blowing Biden's debate performance out of proportion.

“I don’t even understand why this is a talking point,” said Nancy Locante of Kenosha. “We’re all behind Joe.”

Lynn Dahl, 66, attributed blips in Biden’s performance to Trump’s barrage of lies.

“When he was faced with lies, I think that's what set him off,” Dahl said. “It would confuse me if somebody came at me with that volume of lies as well.”

Heidi Dexter, a volunteer with the Waunakee Democrats, said she is “a thousand percent” behind Biden.

“I’m voting for Democracy,” Dexter said. “I'm voting against Christian nationalists and Donald Trump and Project 2025.”

Amber Cohen, 41 of Madison, said she would vote for the Democratic candidate no matter what, but said putting in anyone else is “a terrible idea this late in the race.”

“I've been a Democrat since I understood what a Democrat was, and I just feel like this is really important,” Cohen said. “I'm pretty tired of people just constantly questioning Biden's age as if that's the issue and not focusing on the utter barrage of lies he was faced with.”

— Rachel Hale

Media await Biden's midday arrival in Madison

Recap: Coverage of Biden's rally at Madison's Sherman Middle School (6)

A group of local reporters is assembled on the tarmac at Dane County Regional Airport, where President Joe Biden is expected to arrive midday.

His campaign said he will be joined today by Gov. Tony Evers, U.S. Rep Mark Pocan, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Ben Wikler.

His campaign also announced plans to spend $50 million on advertising targeting battleground states including Wisconsin this month, focusing on abortion, economic relief and democracy.

— Jessie Opoien

Protesters organizing against Biden visit

Biden will likely face at least some protesters. A coalition of pro-Palestinian groups plan to be on the ground at the northside middle school to protest Biden’s visit, according to an Instagram post from the Madison chapter of students for Justice in Palestine, Wisconsin Coalition for Justice in Palestine and Listen to Wisconsin.

The group will convene at an intersection in front of the school.

"If you’ve wished that we could have a different candidate, this is your chance to voice that concern,” the post read.

— Rachel Hale and Molly Beck

Wisconsin GOP chair says Dems in disarray

Ahead of the Madison visit, Wisconsin GOP Chairman Brian Schimming said the Biden campaign has gone from one “confidence to calamity to crisis” over the past 10 days, citing Biden’s debate performance and the Democratic scramble since to shore up support for the president.

“The Democratic Party, nationally and in Wisconsin, is in disarray right now.”

— Molly Beck

Recap: Coverage of Biden's rally at Madison's Sherman Middle School (2024)
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