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Joe Biden’s Disappointing Debate Performance Triggers Calls for Contingency Plans

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The unexpected and lackluster debate showing by Joe Biden on Thursday evening has ignited a wave of concern, bewilderment, and even melancholy within the Democratic Party, leaving even those in close proximity to the president perplexed.

In high-ranking party circles, the White House, and the Biden-Harris campaign, intense deliberations are in progress, considering a range of options. Among these is the controversial question of whether Joe Biden should consider stepping down as the presidential candidate. This underscores a prevailing level of unease within the Democratic Party regarding the capability of their candidate and his prospects in defeating Donald Trump in the upcoming November elections.

Feedback from Democratic officials, political operatives, and individuals close to the president portrays a party fraught with anxiety over the viability of their nominee. Among the president’s allies, concerns have been expressed regarding the preparation for the Atlanta debate, with certain quarters lamenting that Mr. Biden was excessively prepared and overburdened by his campaign team. Some opine that if he had been afforded more time to rest in the lead-up to the debate, his performance may have significantly improved.

While fatigue and overexertion may offer a credible explanation, such attributions do little to assuage the genuine apprehensions about Mr. Biden’s advanced age possibly affecting his prospects in the election. Doubts regarding the president’s age, mental acuity, and endurance, coupled with the insistent calls for remedial action, are not novel. Similar sentiments were previously expressed in September by David Ignatius and in February by Ezra Klein of the New York Times, but such voices were previously viewed as isolated instances. However, following the recent lackluster debate, an increasing number of prominent Democratic strategists, pundits, and former officials are now advocating for Mr. Biden to consider stepping aside.

It is crucial to acknowledge that the recent debate has significantly impacted the perception of Mr. Biden’s candidacy. If he opts against stepping aside, the feasibility of his removal from the ticket is minimal. However, conversations about potential replacements for Mr. Biden have predominantly taken place in public discourse rather than among influential figures in private. Notwithstanding the public deliberations, no immediate changes to the current status are anticipated. The campaign is affording the president an opportunity to counteract the fallout from the debate through upcoming public appearances and rallies, with the aim of rejuvenating his image.

Despite the prevailing skepticism, Mr. Biden has the track record of navigating through adversity, a trait that has often defied pessimistic forecasts throughout his political career. Nevertheless, the heightened concerns within Democratic ranks – particularly regarding the present circumstances – underscore the critical juncture at which the party finds itself.

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