By MICHAEL RUBINKAM and MARC LEVY
Associated Press

SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey said Monday that President Joe Biden is able to run a strong race and serve a second term in the Oval Office, standing by his close ally in the critical battleground state following a disastrous debate performance that's prompting some national Democrats to question his candidacy.

Casey had stayed quiet about Biden's performance before making his first public appearances since Thursday night’s debate, including a campaign stop in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the blue-collar hometown that he shares with Biden and that the president name-checked in the debate.

Casey, who is also seeking reelection in November, acknowledged that Biden had a bad debate, but also suggested that voters have bigger concerns.

“He had a bad night and debate, but I think people know what’s at stake,” Casey told reporters, arguing that voters are more concerned about issues like abortion, labor and voting rights and the fate of democracy.

“I’ve been at this a while, and I know his work,” Casey said. “And I also know that the American people and the people of Pennsylvania are going to focus on these races in the way that I just outlined.”

Casey would not elaborate on why he thinks Biden is fit and said he doesn’t worry that Biden’s debate performance would affect his own race for Senate.

They lead the ticket together in a battleground state that is critical to the Democrats' fortunes in holding the White House and Senate. No Democrat has won the White House without Pennsylvania’s support since Harry S. Truman in 1948.

Casey's opponent, former hedge fund executive David McCormick — like other down-ballot Republicans — has seized on Biden's performance, accusing Casey of lying about Biden's fitness to be president and suggesting that Biden’s Cabinet should consider forcing him out of office, using the 25th Amendment.

The president’s debate performance last week left many donors, party strategists and rank-and-file DNC members publicly and privately saying they want the 81-year-old Biden to step aside to allow the party to select a younger replacement at the Democratic National Convention in August.

Biden spent the weekend trying to stabilize his campaign, then gathering with family as previously planned at Camp David, where they discussed the path forward.

The president and his team characterized his debate performance as an outlier, arguing one bad night shouldn't define him or jeopardize the election.

Biden told a Saturday fundraiser on Long Island that he didn’t have a “great night” at the debate, but that former President Donald Trump’s falsehoods and reminders about the January 6, 2021, insurrection had resonated more with undecided voters.

McCormick, for his part, hasn’t commented on a blatant falsehood Trump told during the debate about the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by his supporters. Trump falsely claimed the attackers were “a relatively small number of people that went to the Capitol and in many cases were ushered in by the police.”

Follow Marc Levy at www.twitter.com/timelywriter.

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