Joe Biden’s carcrash performance at last night’s television debate has upended the Democrat’s campaign but it is now up to the President to voluntarily stand down.
Mumbling and incoherent during a CNN showdown with Republican nominee Donald Trump, the President appeared unable to form a sentence, let alone rebut any of his opponent’s claims.
The performance has “left Democrats stunned and shell-shocked”, according to Molly Ball of the Wall Street Journal, with The Atlantic’s Jerusalem Demas arguing that “stepping down is Biden’s most patriotic option”.
Even the most senior of Democrats have given only the most lacklustre gestures of support. Younger colleagues and potential rivals, such as Gavin Newsom, Gretchen Whitmer or vice-president, Kamala Harris, would not be able to oust Biden even if they wanted to.
That is because Biden already holds the votes for the state primaries which took place earlier this year.
Amazingly, the Biden team had spent almost a week at Camp David preparing for this showdown, the first of two major television debates before American voters go to the polls in November in the tightest and most consequential presidential race in modern history.
That was wasted effort. Biden completely lost his train of thought on a question about healthcare, confused the First and Second World Wars, and got his numbers on tax mixed up by many orders of magnitude.
On Reaction today, David Waywell has more on how the debate panned out while The Editorial Board writes that the debate exposed, on live TV, “the biggest cover-up since Watergate”.
The only upside – if this is an upside at all – is that voters now have a little over two months until September 10, when CBS broadcasts the next debate, to forget about what just happened.
But the Democrats are in a polycrisis of their own making. Very few of them, and we can include Ohio’s Tim Ryan in this small list, went on record last year to say Biden was unfit to run a second term. By default, Kamala Harris would assume the nomination if Biden stood down – the vice-president with the worst approval rating in modern times. Some donors are reportedly threatening to withdraw their support if Biden stays on.
Meanwhile, Biden’s opponent has moderated his tone, appearing calmer and less interrupting. This is an indicator of the quiet campaign Trump’s team are working on to subvert voter expectations about the wild-eyed former President. Democrats should be worried about that too.
Trump managed to avoid being pinned down. He refused to answer whether he would pass a nationwide abortion ban if it were accepted by a Republican-controlled Congress, among many other failures to spell out his policies or separate fact from fiction.

It was the Democrats who decided long ago they would make mental capacity and fitness for office their main lines of attack whenever they were preparing to confront Trump on a debate stage.

Technically, the Democratic Party does not have to choose to elect the President as its nominee when delegates gather in Chicago in August for its National Convention. However, to not do so would be an extraordinary break from convention. Only Biden’s biggest cheerleader, his wife Jill, can save him now from further embarrassment by asking him to step aside. And focus on honing that golf handicap instead.