Gov. Shapiro, top Biden surrogate, acknowledges close race with Trump: 'Stop worrying and start working'

"This election really is about all of us," he said.

February 18, 2024, 12:51 PM

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, one of Joe Biden's top Democratic surrogates, on Sunday urged the president's other supporters to start putting in the work to reelect him amid worries over his prospects at the ballot box.

"Well, the race is close. But understand, the campaign hasn't really even joined yet," Shapiro told ABC News "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl when asked why the early polls are so tight between Biden and former President Donald Trump in Pennsylvania, which is likely to be a key swing state in the election.

"This is the reason why we run races," Shapiro said. "And I would say to folks who are worried about the numbers: Stop worrying and start working."

Shapiro's comments come as some Democrats privately and publicly voice concerns over Biden's political future -- both because of the polls and his unpopularity as well as the public's well-established unease about his age and fitness for office.

Biden has acknowledged those issues but said his record proves his qualifications.

"My memory -- take a look at what I've done since I've become president. None of you thought I could pass any of the things I got passed. How'd that happen?" he told reporters earlier this month.

Still, he has notable skeptics in his party.

New York Times columnist Ezra Klein, a Biden supporter, said last week that the president should step aside out of fear he would lose to Trump -- a call Shapiro shot down.

"I think Ezra is right: The stakes could not be higher, but Joe Biden is going to be our nominee, and I'm proud to support him," Shapiro said. "The president, the vice president and those of us who are privileged to support him and have a front row seat to this, we've got to go out and do this important work now."

Some other outside voices, like popular radio host Charlamagne tha God did in a "This Week" interview that also aired Sunday, have called on Biden to rely more on Shapiro and other big-name politicians to help boost his standing.

Gov. Josh Shapiro delivers his budget address for the 2024-25 fiscal year to a joint session of the Pennsylvania House and Senate in the Rotunda of the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., on Feb. 6, 2024.
Matt Rourke/AP, FILE

The governor is seen as a rising Democratic star and won his election in 2022 by some 15 points -- a huge margin in a battleground state.

Shapiro told Karl that he appreciated Charlamagne's perspective and said that he intends to help persuade Pennsylvanians to stick with Biden.

"I'm going to do everything in my political power over the course of the next several months to make the case, to prosecute the case, against Donald Trump -- to make the case about how Joe Biden is the candidate standing up for our freedom," Shapiro said.

He touted some of the work that Biden himself often cites, like infrastructure investments, and said that Trump is running on a platform to restrict abortion access and end the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, which Shapiro said provides health care access to more than a million people in Pennsylvania.

Trump has publicly avoided taking a strict stance on abortion restrictions but has celebrated the end of Roe v. Wade and privately signaled support for a national, 16-week ban, with some exceptions, ABC News previously reported. He has also promised to implement other health care legislation over Obamacare.

On "This Week," Shapiro invoked Trump's first term in office.

"Remember what it was like when Donald Trump was president: He was in our faces and in our living room every day injecting chaos," Shapiro said.

Despite Biden's issues, he said that the president's likely rematch against Trump was about something bigger.

"While Donald Trump and Joe Biden's names may ultimately be on the ballot and be our choices in November, this election really is about all of us and whether or not we're going to rise up and use our voices and ultimately our vote to protect our fundamental freedoms, to scream out for the kind of country that we want," Shapiro said.

He pointed to the elections in Pennsylvania since 2016, when Trump narrowly won the state, to predict that voters there will again reject the former president's brand of politics.

"Every other time Pennsylvanians have had the opportunity to go to the ballot [after 2016], they have voted for freedom and against extremism," Shapiro said. "They rejected Donald Trump in 2020, they voted for me by an historic margin in 2022. Just last year in 2023, we had a Supreme Court race that was largely focused on freedom and the right to choose, and we elected the Democrat."

"In many ways, this election is less about Joe Biden and Donald Trump and more about us and the kind of country that we want to build," he went on to say. "And I've got confidence in the American people that just as they did in 2020, they will rise up. They will demand more. They will seek justice. And they will look to defend freedom in this nation, and they will reject Donald Trump."