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Should Biden drop out? What his supporters said at a Philadelphia Black Church where he campaigned Sunday.

Biden takes a selfie with supporter Paulette Lassiter, 64, as he visits a campaign office Sunday, July 7, 2024, in Manayunk. (Tom Gralish / The Philadelphia Inquirer / TNS)
Biden takes a selfie with supporter Paulette Lassiter, 64, as he visits a campaign office Sunday, July 7, 2024, in Manayunk. (Tom Gralish / The Philadelphia Inquirer / TNS)
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Philadelphia area residents young and old who attended President Joe Biden’s high-stakes campaign stop Sunday at a predominantly Black church voiced their support for the Democrat’s reelection bid amid increased pressure for him to drop out.

The visit comes as a growing number of officials in his own party call for Biden to withdraw from the race after his poor debate performance in June raised questions about his fitness for office.

Biden addressed the congregation after the sermon, speaking from notes rather than a teleprompter as he usually does in public speeches. At times his phrasing was jumbled and difficult to understand, but he didn’t lose his train of thought as he did in his recent debate against former President Donald Trump. His speech lasted about seven minutes.

Many older members of the Mount Airy Church of God in Christ congregation said that Biden’s age and his debate performance did not concern them.

“Biden was not feeling well, you could tell he had a raspy voice and a cold, and he came anyway,” said Juanita Morales, 80, of Philadelphia. “We all get old. He can still do it, and he knows right from wrong.”

A cold was the first of several defenses Biden’s team made for his debate performance. Other aides later cited his debate preparations, as well as his foreign travel nearly two weeks before the debate.

C. Marie, 69, of Philadelphia was also willing to overlook Biden’s debate struggles.

“Unfortunately, he had just traveled to two foreign countries,” she said. “There are lapses in communication, it happens to the best, it happens to me.”

Marie pointed to Biden’s record on Medicare and working with servicemen as reasons for her support. She added that Biden’s team, including Vice President Kamala Harris, could mitigate the effects of any waning mental and physical strength.

“To me age is a secondary factor, primarily because he has qualified people who he discusses what his plan is,” Marie said. “That’s his community, most especially his vice president.”

For younger, Gen Z voters in the congregation, age was a topic of more concern, but some felt that it was too late in the race to replace Biden on the ticket.

“I would’ve wanted someone who is younger, someone who is more involved with the community or that more identified with our views,” said Amirah, a 17-year-old from Philadelphia who said she didn’t want to give her last name because she’s a minor.

Amirah will vote for the first time in November after turning 18 in the fall, and plans to cast her vote for Biden based on his “solid morals,” she said.

Amirah added that she thinks while all eyes are on Biden right now, national attention should be more evenly distributed to congressional and down-ballot elections. What happens at the top of the ballot could determine who controls both houses of Congress, which are closely divided.

Among eight Mount Airy congregation members interviewed, none thought Biden should concede the nomination to another member of the party.

“I think it’s a little late in the game for them to start switching people out,” said Danayah Randolph, 21, of Philadelphia. “They should have done it earlier on, but now we’re set with this because there aren’t that many options.”

Randolph added that she would be enthusiastic about a presidential run from Harris — who is the first woman and first woman of color to serve as vice president — but that Harris seems to have “drawn back” in the last few months. Randolph said that the U.S. was in a “sad state of affairs” and called Biden “the lesser evil” against Trump. She added that she thinks it is imperative to elect him to prevent the implementation of Project 2025, a set of conservative proposals that aim to reshape the federal government.

Trump on Saturday distanced himself from the proposals, which were drafted by longtime allies and former officials in his administration.

Younger voters at the service, like their older counterparts, acknowledged the concerns surrounding Biden’s fitness for office, but said their judgment of him rests on his political record.

“I did see a few other faces [of Democrats floated as potential replacements], but I think Biden is the best one,” Michael DeCoster, 27, of Plymouth Meeting said.

Joshua Cameron, 27, of Norristown said he also plans to vote for Biden, saying his “good intentions for the country” overshadow recent flubs.

Rachel Shin is a freelance writer.

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