Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) acknowledged yesterday that he is not certain he can continue his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

After a meeting with congressional supporters and campaign staff members, Biden told a United Press International reporter that he was in the race "at this point" but was trying to assess whether his candidacy has been "overwhelmed" by events.

In the past 10 days, Biden has acknowledged overstating his academic credentials to voters in New Hampshire, borrowing speech excerpts from other politicians without acknowledgment and having been disciplined in law school for plagiarism in a term paper.

Biden told reporters he was determined to carry through his role as chairman of the Judiciary Committee hearings on the Supreme Court nomination of Robert H. Bork. "The gavel is mine until they take it away from me," he said. But he was far more guarded and equivocal in defining the status of his campaign.

"I'm not going to make that judgment," he said when pressed at day's end about rumors he was ready to drop out. Only last Friday, Biden said he was in the race to stay.

{New York state officials on Friday asked the Federal Election Commission to investigate allegations that William J. Levitt, the builder of Levittown, N.Y., used employes, their relatives and others to funnel as much as $22,000 in contributions to Biden's reelection campaign, Newsday reported yesterday.

{On Aug. 25 of this year, Biden's campaign returned the funds after it had been advised by one of Levitt's attorneys that the state had been questioning the source of the funds, Newsday said.}

Reports circulated in Democratic circles throughout the day that top fund-raisers and political aides had despaired of the situation but were reluctant to preempt Biden's decision or "crowd him."

Rep. Marty Russo (D-Ill.) and Rep. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said that they and others among Biden's congressional supporters had urged him at a meeting yesterday morning to "get out on the trail and test it {public reaction} for himself." Russo, who gave that description, said, "I think his gut feeling is to do that."

Biden had planned to do no personal campaigning during the Bork hearings, which began last week and are expected to run another 10 days to two weeks, but associates said he may attempt some early campaign swings to see if the candidacy is viable.

"He's got to finish up the hearings," Boxer said. "That's his responsibility as a senator. But he can't hide behind them. This is a real testing time."

Several people compared Biden's position to one that former senator Gary Hart (D-Colo.) faced last spring, when he sought to resume campaigning after news of his weekend with a Miami model. "If people get to know Joe and hear his ideas about the country, he has a chance," Boxer said. "But if everywhere he goes, the only thing he can talk about is this, he won't have the chance. But he has to test it himself."

Several Biden fund-raisers interviewed by The Washington Post said that financial efforts are in abeyance but could resume quickly if the public reaction to Biden's situation is forgiving. Before Biden's string of troubles, fund-raising was one area in which his campaign surpassed most of the competition.

"The campaign will be funded," said national finance chairman Joel Boyarsky of New York. "We're hopeful the issue will evaporate and we can go about our business," said Ronald Rubin of Philadelphia, another major fund-raiser.

In the interview with George Lobsenz of UPI, Biden said his supporters have been "very encouraging" and that "at this point" he was still in the race. A moment later, he sounded less certain, saying, "I don't know. I think so. We are going to see whether I am going to get a chance to make my case or whether events have overwhelmed it."

Later, pressed by other reporters to say whether he was thinking of dropping out of the race, Biden said, "I'm thinking of a lot of things. There is only one thing I am not rethinking and that is conducting these hearings and the debate on the floor and my job as chairman of the Judiciary Committee."

One campaign insider said there was skepticism even among top aides about the viability of his candidacy. "Everybody says it is going to be a tough couple of weeks, but no one is pulling the plug yet," he said. "They all say that if we can get the campaign rolling again, then we can get the money rolling again too."

Biden's problems began earlier this month with the publication of stories and the televising of tapes showing he had borrowed passages from speeches of others without acknowledgment. Last week, Biden also confirmed that in the mid-1960s at Syracuse Law School, he had been disciplined for incorporating five pages from a law review article in a class paper without attribution.

Then two days ago, Newsweek magazine reported on another tape in which Biden exaggerated his academic degrees, his class standing and his intellectual pedigree in facing down a skeptical questioner.

On Monday, Biden issued a statement acknowledging that he was "inaccurate" in that exchange as well.

Staff writers Edward Walsh, Paul Taylor and Maralee Schwartz contributed to this report.