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Roving Periscope: After his “suicide mission” against Trump, panicked Democrats may replace oldie Biden

Roving Periscope: After his “suicide mission” against Trump, panicked Democrats may replace oldie Biden

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Virendra Pandit

New Delhi: With only about four months remaining for the November 5 Presidential elections, the ruling Democrats are panicked in the United States and wondering if they can replace incumbent Joe Biden, 81, from re-entering the fray for a second term after his ‘disastrous’ TV debate against his predecessor Donald Trump, 78, on Thursday.

According to the media reports, before the TV show, Biden’s allies hoped he would demonstrate strength and energy during Thursday night’s debate to address concerns about his physical and mental acuity. However, he did not meet these expectations. His voice, hoarse from what White House officials claimed as a cold, led to rushed talking points, stumbles over answers, and moments where he trailed off.

By the end of the 90-minute debate, Democratic strategists and voters were panicked because of Biden’s repeated stumbles, uncomfortable pauses, and quiet speaking style that was often hard to understand, according to the “Times of Israel.”

This performance has led to public and private discussions within the party about whether Biden should be replaced as the Democratic nominee to fight against Trump.

Thomas Friedman, the “New York Times” columnist and a close associate of Biden, argued that the incumbent must be replaced. In his op-ed, “President Biden Is My Friend. He Must Bow Out of the Race,” Friedman lamented that the debate was “heartbreaking.”

Early in the debate, President Biden appeared to lose his train of thought while discussing Medicare and tax reform. “Tax reform would create money to help strengthen our healthcare system, making sure that we’re able to make every single solitary person eligible for what I was able to do with the, with the COVID, excuse me, with dealing with everything we had to do with,” Biden said, pausing before continuing, “We finally beat Medicare.”

Trump criticized Biden’s incoherence: “I really don’t know what he said at the end of that sentence. I don’t think even he knows what he said.”

While Biden struggled, Trump repeated a series of ‘false claims,’ including allegations of a crime wave carried out by migrants and accusations that Democrats support infanticide.

A Democratic strategist who worked on Biden’s 2020 campaign described the debate as a “disaster.” A top Democratic fundraiser remarked: “There is no way to spin this. His performance was disqualifying.” He predicted a push for a brokered convention at the Democratic National Convention in August to nominate someone other than Biden. “I expect fundraising to dry up. Money follows enthusiasm,” the fundraiser said. “How can anyone with a straight face say ‘Donate to elect Joe.’”

Prominent Democratic lawmakers are also worried. A Congressional aide for a Democratic senator noted, “My boss is sitting with other frontline members and panicking. Let the Democratic bedwetting begin.”

Former Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill said “I’m not the only one whose heart is breaking right now. There are a lot of people who watched this tonight and felt terribly for Joe Biden. I don’t know if things can be done to fix this.”

The key question for Biden now is whether the damage is permanent. Many voters have not yet tuned into the election. Biden’s campaign has millions of dollars to spend on advertising and swing-state infrastructure, and there is precedent for recovering from rough debate performances. For instance, Barack Obama rebounded from an uneven encounter with Mitt Romney in 2012, and Democrat John Fetterman won a Senate race in 2022 after struggling in a debate.
Biden’s 2024 re-election campaign hinges on the gamble that voters will support an 81-year-old politician with weak approval ratings in a rematch with Trump. Biden’s team insists he is uniquely positioned to prevent Trump from returning to the White House. They have predicted that Biden’s political coalition will rally behind him after being reminded of Trump’s chaotic leadership. However, Biden’s underwhelming debate performance showed few signs of this confidence.

“It was a slow start. That’s obvious to everyone. I’m not going to debate that point,” Vice President Kamala Harris said after the debate while highlighting Biden’s achievements in office. “I’m talking about the choice in November. I’m talking about one of the most important elections in our collective lifetime.”

Biden’s surrogates largely avoided questions from the press, focusing instead on Trump’s falsehoods during the debate. California Governor Gavin Newsom, a potential future presidential candidate and Biden’s most prominent surrogate in the spin room, urged Democrats not to panic. “We’ve got to have the back of this president. You don’t turn back because of one performance?”

Campaign Chair Jen O’Malley Dillon contrasted Biden’s performance with Trump’s, asserting that Biden delivered “a positive and winning vision for the future of America – one in which every American has a fair shot at the American dream.”

Despite this, anxiety within the Democratic party is evident as Democrats openly discuss finding an alternative to Biden. Some officials pointed to a social media post from former Obama campaign aide Ravi Gupta, who wrote, “Every Democrat I know is texting that this is bad. Just say it publicly and begin the hard work of creating space in the convention for a selection process. I’ll vote for a corpse over Trump, but this is a suicide mission.”

Replacing Biden as the nominee would be difficult under current Democratic Party rules without his cooperation or significant changes at the national convention. The president won the overwhelming majority of Democratic delegates during the primary process, and party rules state that “Delegates elected to the national convention pledged to a presidential candidate shall in all good conscience reflect the sentiments of those who elected them.”

However, the Republicans were pleased with Biden’s performance, but Trump’s co-campaign chief dismissed speculation that Democrats might nominate someone else. “But the only way that happens is if Joe Biden voluntarily steps down, and he’s not going to do that.”

The debate will likely remain fresh in voters’ minds, with Biden and Trump not scheduled to meet again on the debate stage for another 75 days. Trump would be at the next debate “with bells on.” Biden campaign spokesman Kevin Munoz confirmed that the President would also attend the rematch.

Privately, Biden’s advisers maintained that the campaign would not be won or lost based on one debate. They plan to maintain an aggressive schedule in the coming weeks and months. Biden will soon campaign in North Carolina, while Harris will be in Nevada.

Still, Biden supporters found little solace in the immediate aftermath of the debate. “That was the worst performance in the history of televised presidential debates,” Tim Miller, a former Republican strategist-turned ardent Biden supporter, said in the spin room.

“Trump is Trump, every word out of his mouth is bullshit. But Biden sounds old. And lost. And that’s going to matter more than anything. So far, this is an absolute nightmare for Biden,” Joe Walsh, a former 2020 Republican presidential candidate who has been critical of Trump, said on X.


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