U.S. 2024 | Joe Biden’s Wobbly Performance at Debate with Trump Puts Democrats on the Edge

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By Emmanuel Yashim

Atlanta, June 28, 2024 (Reuters/NAN)

President Joe Biden’s allies scrambled on Friday to contain the fallout from his faltering performance at the first 2024 U.S. presidential debate after he struggled to stem a barrage of attacks and false claims from his Republican rival Donald Trump.

The Biden campaign had hoped that a strong debate would quell concerns among voters that the 81-year-old Democratic incumbent is too old to serve a second four-year term.

Instead, a hoarse-sounding Biden stumbled over his words at times, especially in the early stages of the debate.

One Biden donor, who asked for anonymity to speak freely about the president, called his performance “disqualifying” and predicted that some Democrats would revisit calls for Biden to step aside in favor of another candidate ahead of the party’s national convention in August.

Panicking Democrats exchanged messages wondering whether Biden would consider stepping down.

One senior Democratic strategist said it would be unprecedented for an incumbent to pull out this late in the election cycle, but there would be calls for Biden to do just that.

Interviews with undecided voters confirmed that it was a bad night for Biden.

They described his showing as feeble, embarrassing, and difficult to watch.

Two White House officials said mid-debate that Biden had a cold, but that only further reflected his aides’ anxiety about his performance.

Vice President Kamala Harris conceded that Biden had a “slow start” but argued that his record over 3-1/2 years as president outweighed one 90-minute event.

California Governor Gavin Newsom – who could be a leading Democratic alternative if Biden stepped aside – dismissed the notion that Biden could be replaced.

Trump, 78, has also faced questions about his fitness for office, given his conviction last month in New York for covering up hush money payments to a porn star, his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, and his chaotic term in office.

But despite a litany of falsehoods from Trump during the debate, the focus in the aftermath was squarely on the incumbent.

Neither candidate is popular, and polls show many Americans are dissatisfied with their options.

The country is deeply polarised, and a majority of voters have expressed concern that political violence could follow the election.

The debate at CNN headquarters in Atlanta took place far earlier in the campaign than any modern presidential debate, with more than four months – an eternity in U.S. politics – before the Nov. 5 election.


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