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Nothing to see here, it was all just a bad dream

You can hear it already, praise for how fired-up and alert Joe Biden seems, when he’s reading off a teleprompter at a rally in Raleigh, N.C. on Friday, instead of answering questions on a debate stage in Atlanta.

Yes, that’s the point — in tightly stage-managed appearances, where Biden doesn’t have to think on his feet, he can competently read words written by other people. (And every speaker sounds better when applause greets the end of every sentence.) And if a president’s lone duty was to read speeches between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the country could easily survive another four years of Joe Biden. Alas, threats, disasters, and high-stakes decisions arrive at times outside the middle of the day. As Hillary Clinton’s 2008 ad in the Democratic primary warned, “It’s 3:00 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. But there’s a phone in the White House and it’s ringing. Something’s happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call.”

Biden appeared lost, confused, and overwhelmed shortly after 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time; God only knows how he handles any 3 a.m. phone calls warning him of a developing crisis. (He probably mumbles, “Build another pier.”) Forget the argument that Biden can handle the duties of the presidency over the next four years; Biden doesn’t look or sound like he can handle the duties of the presidency right now.

But Democrats are talking themselves into believing that Thursday night was just a bad dream, that somehow Biden’s abysmal performance before the cameras for 90 minutes won’t have any meaningful effect on the race. Democratic elected officials have dutifully issued statements that they’re sticking with Biden. Barack Obama himself has thrown cold water on the idea of replacing Biden at the convention. And Mark is right, without the public or private support from Obama, the effort to ditch and replace Biden will go nowhere.

We’ll see if the impact of the debate is minor or major, but it’s hard to believe that Thursday night helped Biden in any way. His job approval rating was already low, Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction, and they think that Biden is too old to be president. Biden’s road to reelection only got harder last night, and teleprompter speeches at rallies aren’t going to undo the damage.

He just had the worst debate performance ever; in the immediate aftermath, everyone in the Democratic Party was in a completely justified panic. And less than 24 hours later, they’ve decided to double down on the same bet. Sure, the Democrats are ruthless, underhanded, and determined to win at all costs. But they’re also, often, really stupid.

The nation’s emergency rooms are full of Americans suffering the effects of political whiplash, as the conventional wisdom suddenly and violently shifted back and forth over a matter of hours.

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