Incumbent usually struggles with first debate, even Reagan and Obama, expert says

President Biden’s weak first debate may not prove to be his ultimate undoing if history is a barometer. Incumbents often struggle to find their footing but, in the end, win re-election. 

Biden Campaign Chairwoman Jen O’Malley Dillon pointed to history to defend the president’s performance, telling NBC in an interview that "every incumbent president that I can remember in my lifetime has had a s----- first debate."

"Obviously, the stakes are higher for us because we are up against Donald Trump," she continued. "Obviously, we have more work to do because the president is 81, but it was also a terrible debate in 2012. I was there. I remember it clearly." 

Dillon argued that June was early enough in the campaign cycle for Biden to correct course as several of his predecessors have managed to do. 

Presidents Obama, Bush 43, and Reagan each faced scathing reviews of their performance against challengers as they sought, and ultimately won, re-election. 

Brett O’Donnell, a Republican communications strategist and president of O’Donnell & Associates, told Fox News Digital that sitting presidents can effectively get lost in the weeds on policy and major issues facing the country and "don’t take debate prep seriously." 

"They deal with these issues in a very deep way, more so than they did as candidates, as president," O’Donnell said. "So, I think they confuse knowing the issues with being able to perform in a presidential debate.

"I call it the incumbent trap, and it actually goes back further than that because Carter’s first debate with Reagan was a disaster. So, these guys — the incumbents — seem to … they forget the importance of performance as they need to know issues."

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