Opinion: Biden’s Re-Election Is Doomed by Disastrous Debate

Opinion: Biden’s Re-Election Is Doomed by Disastrous Debate

There’s almost no chance the president tries to debate Trump again, and Dems might be better off if he just quit.

Matt Lewis


Photo illustration of Joe Biden

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Reuters

An old country song laments that “The whiskey ain’t working anymore.” Along those lines, the theme of Joe Biden’s debate performance Thursday night could probably be summed up as: The caffeine ain’t working anymore.

I’m talking, of course, about Republican theories suggesting that Biden’s solid State of the Union performance was enhanced by Mountain Dew and caffeine (or something much stronger), and that he would be “jacked up” for this first presidential debate.

Instead, Biden’s hoarse voice and aged appearance were on full display. But his stumbles only reinforced the sense that Biden was too old for the job. During one confused moment—sure to be a soundbite that is repeated over and over—Biden ended a botched response with the confusing words, “We finally beat Medicare.”

In response to a different botched Biden answer, Donald Trump said, “I really don’t know what he said at the end of that sentence.” (Trump wasn’t the only one.)

Meanwhile, Trump seemed (for Trump) pretty sedate and coherent. To be sure, he presented fanciful solutions and scenarios, such as the notion that his mere presence in the White House would have dissuaded Russia from invading Ukraine. But to the untrained ear, they had a certain verisimilitude.

During several occasions, Trump simply told obvious untruths such as, “I didn’t have sex with a porn star.” But he delivered them in a much calmer and persuasive manner than normal. Toward the end of the debate, Trump—the biggest baby to ever run for president—even had the audacity to say, “Let’s not act like children.”

Biden fired back once or twice. “My son was not a sucker or loser. You’re the sucker. You’re the loser,” he said, alluding to a report that Trump disparaged Americans who died in war.

But a lot of what he had to say was undermined by his raspy voice, rigid body language, and inability to deliver some otherwise good lines without messing up.

The debate moderators also didn’t do Biden any favors. Going into the debate, I would have bet money that the first questions would have focused on election denial, criminal conviction, or Jan. 6—issues that might put Trump on the defensive.

Instead, the debate began with a question about inflation. It’s impossible to know if Trump’s complaints about a “rigged” debate led to that line of questioning, but the choice certainly did Biden no favors.

At the end of the day, though, the story of this debate was Biden looking and sounding way too old to be president for another four years. And it’s not just me saying that. This was a universal opinion of almost every intellectually honest observer.

Consider Amy Walter, publisher and editor of the Cook Political Report, who tweeted, “Odds of a September 10 debate are close to zero about now.”

“​​This debate [is] making [it] abundantly clear that Biden’s insistence on running for another term—when 66 percent of voters in our swing state poll believe it’s likely he won’t be able to finish a second term—has gravely jeopardized Dems’ prospects to defeat Trump,” tweeted Dave Wasserman, Walter’s colleague at the Cook Report.

Thirty minutes into the debate, Republican strategist Mike Murphy tweeted, “On a 1 to 10 point scale — if this continues — the panic explosion inside the Democratic Party will hit 28 [tomorrow].”

“I’m a Biden Guy, but unless there is a huge turn around, and soon, there will be a huge universal call for a new candidate and an open convention,” David Doak, a former Democratic media consultant, tweeted.

If there is a saving grace, it’s this: A June debate means there is still some (albeit small) amount of time for Democrats to muster the courage to find a way to pull the plug on this candidacy and replace Biden on the ballot.

The irony is that Biden orchestrated this early debate to try and change the trajectory of this race. It was a bold move, and it could have been shrewd if he had the ability to execute. He couldn’t. As Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry character famously said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

Joe Biden didn’t, and neither did his team. Biden should consider dropping out, and if he won’t, Democrats should seriously consider pulling the plug. The stakes are high, and Biden is not getting any better (or younger).

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