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How Biden’s Debate Performance Raised Concerns Among Democrats

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President Joe Biden’s recent debate performance has left many Democrats feeling uneasy about his capability to lead the nation. At 81 years old, Biden was expected to reassure the public about his physical and mental fitness. However, his showing on Thursday night did little to quell concerns, instead raising alarms within his party.

From the start of the debate, Biden appeared to struggle with his speech, delivering a weak and raspy voice. He repeatedly stumbled over his words, misspoke, and lost his train of thought, which was particularly evident when he concluded a meandering statement with, “We finally beat Medicare,” before being cut off by the moderators.

Though Biden found more rhythm as the debate progressed, he failed to effectively counter former President Donald Trump’s barrage of misinformation. Trump capitalized on Biden’s faltering moments, at one point remarking, “I don’t know if he knows what he said either,” in response to Biden’s comments on border policies.

A Biden aide later attributed the president’s hoarse voice to a cold, but this did little to mitigate the perception of his frailty. When not speaking, Biden often stared off into the distance, allowing Trump to dominate the stage. Trump accused Biden of criminal behavior and spreading misinformation, frequently without rebuttal, although Biden managed a few one-liners in response.

The Biden campaign had high hopes for the debate, viewing it as a pivotal moment to shift the election dynamics in their favor. Polls have shown a tight race with razor-thin margins, even after a New York jury found Trump guilty of 34 felony counts. However, Biden’s age and perceived frailty have negatively impacted his polling numbers for months.

The debate was seen by many Democrats as a cause for concern. “Democrats just committed collective suicide,” said one party strategist, pointing to Biden’s hoarse voice, tired appearance, and rambling speech. Another Democratic consultant added, “It’s hard to argue that we shouldn’t nominate someone else.” Despite these criticisms, Biden’s campaign insisted there was no mass panic at their headquarters in Delaware. A Biden aide admitted the debate’s start was less than ideal but maintained confidence in the president’s overall performance.

The debate featured muted microphones, a measure agreed upon by both campaigns to prevent interruptions. This was a marked change from the first Biden-Trump debate in 2020, which was characterized by frequent interruptions, particularly from Trump. During that debate, Biden famously asked Trump, “Will you shut up, man?”

Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Ben Proto suggested Democrats might consider asking Biden to step aside, drawing a parallel to 1974 when then-Sen. Barry Goldwater and other lawmakers urged President Richard Nixon to resign following the Watergate scandal. However, Biden’s campaign defended his performance, emphasizing his “positive and winning vision” for America. Jen O’Malley Dillon, Biden’s campaign chair, contrasted Biden’s vision with Trump’s, which she described as a “dark and backward window” into a potential future under Trump’s leadership.

Trump has faced questions about his mental acuity, often giving rambling responses and making questionable claims. During the debate, Trump touted his environmental record and promised to lower insulin prices, despite it being Biden who signed legislation in 2022 to cap insulin costs for Medicare recipients.

The debate, occurring unusually early in the election cycle, set the stage for the coming months. Matt Gorman, a Republican strategist, noted, “Debates move numbers,” highlighting the significance of this early face-off. Trump’s team has focused on attacking Biden’s mental fitness, a strategy aimed at setting low expectations for Biden’s debate performance. Despite this, Biden struggled to meet even the low bar set for him.

The debate covered a wide range of topics, with Trump attacking Biden on immigration and inflation. Biden countered by highlighting job creation under his administration and framing Trump’s economic record as disastrous. The debate also touched on Trump’s handling of the January 6 insurrection, with Biden accusing Trump of encouraging the Capitol attack. Trump deflected, criticizing Biden for prosecuting those involved in the insurrection.

The first debate of the 2024 election cycle has left many Democrats worried about Biden’s ability to lead and win against Trump. As the campaign continues, the pressure is on for Biden to address these concerns and solidify his position. The debate has undoubtedly set the tone for the months ahead, with both candidates facing scrutiny over their readiness to lead the nation.

This story was originally featured on NBC News

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