Biden to Campaign in Wisconsin With His Political Future in the Balance

President Biden arrives in Madison, Wis., on Friday for a campaign rally that, coupled with an interview airing in prime time, could be among his last, best hopes of saving his teetering presidential campaign.

The state is an appropriate venue for the high-stakes moment as Mr. Biden, 81, tries to stem the tide of defections among voters, donors, activists and lawmakers who believe he is simply too old.

Wisconsin, which will allocate 10 electoral votes, is part of the president’s Midwest firewall, a collection of Rust Belt states that he must win if he hopes to spend another four years in the White House. Even before his disastrous debate performance last week, polls showed him locked in a tight race with Mr. Trump in the state, which Mr. Biden won in 2020 by about 20,000 votes out of more than 3.2 million cast.

It is also ground zero for the yearslong battle over voting procedures that could help determine the outcome in another very close race. On Friday, just hours before the expected arrival of Air Force One, liberal members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court reversed a previous ruling by conservative justices banning the use of absentee-ballot drop boxes in elections.

That change alone will likely benefit Mr. Biden if he remains on the ballot in November. Democrats tend to do better in early voting, and Mr. Trump has railed against the practice as fraudulent, urging his supporters not to mail in their ballots early.

And yet, the Friday visit to Madison, a solidly Democratic college-town capital, is anything but the usual swing-state visit.

Mr. Biden is under the kind of intense, political microscope that usually only comes in the middle of a roiling scandal. Every word he utters, during the rally and in the interview, will be viewed through the lens of the twin questions hanging over his campaign: At 81, is he too old? And can he still win?

For days, Mr. Biden, his allies, White House officials and top campaign aides have all answered those questions the same way — no and yes. At a July 4 White House celebration Thursday evening, a supporter yelled to Mr. Biden to “keep up the fight. We need you.” The president offered a strong response.

“You got me, man,” he said, loud enough for reporters to hear. “I’m not going anywhere.”

For the moment, his future may hinge on how well he can appeal to Wisconsin’s fickle electorate, which has flipped back and forth during the past two presidential elections. His arrival on Friday will mark his fifth visit to the state this year. In January, he visited the Blatnik Bridge in Superior, Wis. to promote his infrastructure legislation. In May, he was in Racine, Wis., to promote the construction of an A.I. data center.

Friday’s appearance will be different.

During the four hours he is on the ground, Mr. Biden is scheduled to hold a campaign rally during which he must prove to skeptical supporters that he remains vigorous enough to wage a fierce battle with former President Donald J. Trump in the remaining four months of the campaign.

After the rally, Mr. Biden will sit down for his first serious interview since the debate debacle in Atlanta raised deep qualms about his mental acuity. How he handles questions from ABC’s George Stephanopoulos may determine whether his re-election bid can survive.

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