Joe Biden's debate gamble backfires

It will be hard for the president to recover from his performance and the risky gamble the campaign took with an early debate

Democrats exited the presidential debate Thursday night in a panic as President Biden’s appearance left a nation questioning his ability to govern for another term.

While well-prepared with facts and figures, Biden’s shaky voice and rickety manner without a Teleprompter, quickly became the headline of this debate. 

The raspy speech, the halting nature of some of the answers and occasional lapses into non sequiturs revealed a Biden that had been carefully shielded from view. 


It will be hard for Biden to recover from this performance and the risky gamble that the campaign took with an early debate. 

Kellyanne Conway: Biden has wounded his presidency even moreVideo

There were no "cheap fake" videos here. The real videos will fill the internet Friday as the spin about a debate can be even more important than the debate; and the spin from this debate is all in one direction.  

Just about every focus group and pundit agrees that the Biden campaign took on a lot of water. It was already behind in the polls, and this was supposed to be the game changer that lifted it up. 


About the best thing the campaign can hope for is that a well-staged convention can undo this damage and that they can get their candidate another look. There will be chatter about a new nominee but, as David Axelrod observed, the delegates have been chosen and the votes cast in a democratic process and the only person who can change that is Joe Biden himself. The party will continue to close ranks behind Biden. 

President Biden's campaign was already behind in the polls, and this event was supposed to be the game changer that lifted it up. 

In contrast, former President Donald Trump kept his cool no matter what insults were hurled at him. He had fewer facts and figures at his command, but he drilled his immigration message over and over again. 

Ron DeSantis: I think I witnessed the unofficial end of the Biden campaignVideo
placeholderHe shot down the various traps thrown at him about retribution, honoring election results and January 6th, which he blamed on former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, claiming she turned down the 10,000 national guard Trump said he offered beforehand.


There was no handshake before or after this deeply personal debate that threw charges of "felon," "criminal" and "liar" back and forth. 

The low point of the debate was the serious squabble over golf handicapping. 

Why did the president’s team invite this debate? That’s a question that will be debated for a long time. 

The moderators were surprisingly fair — asking reasonably issue-oriented and relevant questions across domestic and foreign affairs. They were polite and asked candidates to address their questions but didn’t comment when they didn’t. 

On the issues, Trump generally played it smart, always returning to immigration. He said his retribution would be "success" and shot down the idea of a national abortion ban. 

Trump: Biden caused this inflationVideo

He surprisingly did not repeat his policy of no tax on tips. He defended the corporate tax cuts and his policy on China. His best line was likely calling Biden a Palestinian, and a bad one at that, and said he would have let Israel finish the job.

By the end, Biden threw every name and negative story he had in his bin against Trump, regardless of whether they had been debunked or not.  Trump returned the fire. Voters really don’t care about their personal antagonism. 

In the end, it really didn’t matter what the candidates said, but rather how they said it. Trump didn’t appear to have prepared much for this debate, with the exception of his obvious determination to stay cool. He met that objective. 

Biden clearly had tried to memorize his closing and other key answers, but it just did not help him. 

Biden delivers final remarksVideo

Obviously, the refusal of Attorney General Garland to turn over Special Counsel Robert Hur’s tapes from his interview with the president will meet renewed calls, since it is more than possible that those tapes reflect an unsteady president, and the transcripts may have been edited. 

Whether it was Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. or Dean Phillips, Democrats went to extreme lengths to eliminate a Democratic primary race. Biden was untested by that process and has been able to avoid all but the most favorable settings until this debate. 

So why did the president’s team invite this debate? That’s a question that will be debated for a long time. 

Regardless of the setting or the rules, Donald Trump, despite a lead in the polls, decided immediately to accept the opportunity. He was confident that he would show up stronger and more coherent than Biden. 

Ultimately, he was right. 

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