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Biden’s Poor Debate Performance Attributed to Bad Preparation and Exhaustion

Photo Credit: REUTERS

President Joe Biden’s lackluster debate against Republican opponent Donald Trump has been linked to a series of decisions by his senior advisers that critics now view as misguided, according to interviews with Democratic allies, donors, and former and current aides.

During the 90-minute debate on Thursday, Trump, 78, repeated several well-known falsehoods, including claims of winning the 2020 election. Biden, 81, failed to effectively counter these claims, and his hesitant performance has prompted calls from Democrats for him to reconsider his re-election bid and for a reevaluation of senior aides.

“I had insisted that he be well-rested before the debate, but he appeared exhausted and unwell,” said one individual who appealed to Biden’s top aides in the days leading up to the event, without success. “It was a mistake to send him out looking so fatigued and unwell.”

Others were more critical. “I believe he was overly coached and rehearsed. Anita Dunn… chose a venue that favored Trump over Biden,” said John Morgan, a major Biden fundraiser based in Florida, who suggested Dunn and her husband, Bob Bauer, should be permanently dismissed from the campaign.

Biden’s debate strategy, approved by campaign chair Jen O’Malley Dillon, who played a pivotal role in his 2020 victory and joined the campaign in January to bolster his re-election effort, was supported by Dunn, a longtime Biden aide and former strategist for Barack Obama’s campaign.

Confidence was high heading into the debate, buoyed by Trump’s recent legal troubles and Biden’s active international engagements.

In the weeks leading up to the debate, Biden’s consistently low poll numbers showed a slight improvement nationally, prompting advisers to schedule intensive debate preparation sessions during his six-day retreat at Camp David.

Key figures in Biden’s inner circle, including Ron Klain, his first White House chief of staff, Dunn, former White House counsel Mike Donilon, and several policy and political experts, were involved in preparations.

Despite criticism, Biden’s campaign stated on Friday that no personnel changes were being considered. A campaign official clarified that multiple aides, not just Dunn and Bauer, were engaged in the preparation process, and Morgan was not present.

In an email to supporters on Saturday, O’Malley Dillon reassured that internal polling and focus groups in battleground states showed no significant change in voter opinions following the debate. She cautioned against exaggerated media narratives that could temporarily affect polling numbers.

Biden’s recent international trips, particularly to France, generated social media ridicule from Republicans about his age but were seen by his team as a demonstration of strong leadership on the global stage.

As Biden arrived at Camp David on June 21 after his extensive travels, aides noted signs of exhaustion.

The debate preparation focused heavily on countering Trump’s anticipated attacks with facts and quick comebacks, expecting a more disciplined Trump compared to 2020.

Critics now argue that the preparation should have emphasized Biden’s broader vision for the country and addressed concerns about his fatigue before the debate.

Following the debate, Biden delivered a robust speech in North Carolina the next day, aiming to recover lost ground. Despite setbacks, many donors and Democrats have expressed continued support.

However, discussions within the Democratic Party about the 2024 candidacy are reportedly underway, reflecting differing viewpoints within the party.

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