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Though he separately assured staffers and governors on Wednesday that he’s staying in the race all the way to Election Day, President Biden has privately conceded to close allies that he must excel in his public appearances over the next several days if his campaign is to survive, according to the New York Times.  

Those upcoming events include weekend campaign stops in swing states Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, but the most attention by far will be paid to a Friday night sit-down interview with ABC News host George Stephanopoulos. After taping the interview on Friday, July 5, ABC will provide a first glimpse of the conversation that evening via “World News Tonight with David Muir.” The full interview — after ABC’s edits — will air as a “primetime special” on Friday at 8pm ET, and again on Sunday morning’s “This Week.”  

As ABC’s Friday sit-down interview approaches, the stakes are high for both Biden and Stephanopoulos (photos by Getty Images via Fox News)

In contrast to last week’s debate — when Americans who hadn’t been paying attention were shocked by Biden’s shuffling gait, periodic incoherence, weak voice and slack-jawed stares — the ABC interview will be pre-recorded, and it will be edited. However, seemingly in response to backlash about that taped-and-edited format, ABC has committed to releasing a full transcript of the interview on Friday.

As Fox News notes, that’s a decision with some significant historical context where both ABC and Stephanopoulos are concerned: 

In 2018, ABC News was heavily criticized for a massive editing job when former FBI Director James Comey sat down with Stephanopoulos for his first interview since he was abruptly fired by then-President Trump the previous year. The full transcript released by the network revealed it chose not to air several key moments during its Sunday night special, such as when Comey ripped former President Obama. 

Readers will naturally view the idea of a Stephanopoulos interview with justifiable wariness of soft-pitch questions and friendly editing. However, we’re in a different political world than last week, one where liberal media has abandoned its monolithic shielding of Biden’s mental health from public scrutiny. It’s a world where Stephanopoulos won’t be uniformly pressured by his peers and leftist mobs on social media to make Biden look “sharp as a tack,” to borrow the propaganda line that Biden’s defenders regularly employed in the months leading up to the debate.  

To appreciate how much has changed, consider that the cornerstone leftist media institution — the New York Times — crossed the Rubicon last weekend. Its editorial board, noting Biden’s “infirmity” that Americans had “[seen] with their own eyes,” urged Biden to quit the race, saying that would be “the greatest public service Mr. Biden can now provide.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Boston Globe followed suit, along with columnists and pundits across the country, from Paul Krugman to James Carville and Joe Scarborough. Emboldened by the media’s lead, elected Democrats have started to issue their own pleas for Biden to quit, starting with Texas Rep. Lloyd Doggett and Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva. A draft letter, intended to be signed by multiple members, is circulating on Capitol Hill. At least two House reps have publicly said Biden can’t win after what Americans saw in the debate. 

Given the debate-triggered earthquake that’s altered the leftist landscape, Stephanopoulos will likely feel significant pressure to act something like a real journalist, for once. Indeed, the interview could prove to be the most historically significant of his career. 

On the other side, Team Biden has every interest in molding the event to its benefit. On Wednesday night, the Daily Beast reported that Biden’s handlers are pulling on one very significant lever — the length of the interview, which will take place in Wisconsin as Biden is on the campaign trail:

The Beast has learned that behind the scenes there is deep concern inside ABC News’ upper echelons that Stephanopolous could get as little as 15 minutes to conduct what should be a searching interview offering insight into the president’s mental state...

One source suggested it would be more in the range of 20 minutes—still a relatively short period of time for even an accomplished interviewer to cover questions both over Biden’s cognitive state and his ability to stay in the campaign

The Biden campaign is forced to balance two huge risks. A longer interview increases the odds of a major Biden flub, while a shorter interview could anger Democrats who — wary of not only losing the White House but also suffering consequences up and down the ballot — are demanding that Biden quickly and urgently make a strong case that he’s mentally fit to serve another term. 

In the week following the debate, Biden’s response has disappointed Democratic leaders and major donors alike, with a senior campaign advisor telling the Washington Post that Biden had met widespread panic with “deafening silence.” 

His few efforts to shore up public opinion during that stretch have been terribly underwhelming. Attendees at a celebrity-laden fundraiser in the Hamptons on Saturday said Biden’s appearance only reinforced their deep worries about his fitness. The event was tightly orchestrated, and Biden did his speaking with the aid of a teleprompter, reminding attendees that he struggles to manage unscripted dialogue — even with a friendly audience. 

Similarly, when Biden took to a White House podium to address the Supreme Court ruling providing a large degree of legal immunity to former President Trump, he read from a teleprompter and left without taking any questions from the press.   

ABC is certain to garner high ratings on Friday night; Biden’s chance of prospering from the opportunity is much lower. 

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