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It's over for Biden: Will Joe realize it?

Joe Biden will not be reelected as president.

While other presidential candidates have recovered from bad debate performances, last night was several orders of magnitude worse than anything we have ever seen in a presidential debate before. Biden did so badly that it was beyond the margin of spin.

From the moment the debate ended, CNN, MSNBC, and outlets that have tried to prop him up over the last four years were alarmed and reported on full-blown panic among Democrats. At the New York Times, he lost Tom Friedman, Frank Bruni, Nick Kristof, and just about everybody else. This morning, one of Biden’s biggest defenders and self-professed lovers of Biden, Joe Scarborough, said, “If he were CEO and he turned in a performance like that, would any corporation in America, any Fortune 500 corporation in America keep him on as CEO?”

There is no recovering from this, on three levels.

First, the major issue confronting Biden’s campaign was his age. Anybody honest could see he was in rapid decline. But until now, those in the propaganda business have been trying to argue that all the attacks on his age were unwarranted and merely based on dishonest reports and deceptively edited video. That argument is off the table.

Second, there is no way Biden can simply “do better next time” as has been the case with underwhelming first debate outings by incumbent presidents in the past. Biden had all the advantages in this debate. His team chose the rules, and Donald Trump agreed to them. The White House cleared his schedule so he could focus on debate prep. He did poorly because he is physically and mentally incapable of doing better. Four years ago, Biden was able to debate well enough to win the election. This year, he can’t. What will he be like if elected to serve another four years?

Third, Biden has now lost all of his most ardent defenders in the media. They cannot put the toothpaste back in the tube of what they said and wrote in the last twelve hours. Trump can pretty much put together a highlight reel of the CNN and MSNBC panels from last night and this morning and keep running it from now until the election and do nothing else, and he would still win. Biden’s defenders can no longer get back in line and credibly make the case for his candidacy.

So, Biden is done. But that does not mean Trump will automatically win. Ultimately, it depends on whether Biden can be replaced.

Because Democrats dawdled and thought they could prop up Biden through November, he did not face a serious primary challenge, and so he has too much of a stranglehold on DNC delegates. However, were he to withdraw from the race, those delegates would be released from their obligations, and the Democrats would have the ability to put somebody else on the ballot — likely, that would be Vice President Kamala Harris. She has her vulnerabilities, but in February I argued that she is now the safer choice for Democrats — and everything I wrote is even more true after last night.

Some people argue that Biden will never withdraw. If all of his close friends and trusted allies make the case to him, and most importantly, if they can convince First Lady Jill Biden that he needs to step aside, I think there is a decent chance that he will.

If Biden steps out now and Democrats manage to win, he still has a chance to be remembered fondly within his party. He will be thought of as the guy who beat Trump, gave them a lot of policies they wanted, and was ultimately — even if it came at the eleventh hour — willing to put his party over his own ambition and step aside once the writing was on the wall. If he keeps running, he will lose. And then he will be remembered by Democrats with disgust as somebody whose ego and arrogance subjected the country to a second Trump term.

It’s over for Biden. The only question is whether those closest to him can get him to realize it.

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