‘Panic mode’ Democrats begin calling for Biden to step aside after ‘horrible’ debate performance against Trump

Ahead of the first presidential debate in Atlanta, Democrats had one piece of advice for President Joe Biden: Be yourself.

Former House speaker Nancy Pelosi said it. Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester, who is running for Senate in Biden’s home state of Delaware said it. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told The Independent that people should ask what former president Donald Trump needed to do to have “half a chance” at sounding “barely cogent.”

But Democrats began to sound the alarm after Biden’s performance in Atlanta on Thursday evening.

Throughout the night, Biden interrupted himself, his voice hoarse and strained. It served as a bleak reminder to everyone that Democrats had nominated not only the oldest presidential nominee in history, but someone whom the public has regularly seen stumble over his words and whose fading memory came under greater scrutiny in a special counsel report.

Presidential debate recap: ‘Deep panic’ among Democrats after Biden’s performance as Trump spouts lies

Biden has consistently trailed Trump in the polls, with many voters citing his advanced age as a reason he should not run again. Challenging Trump to a debate and throwing out the normal debate schedule in the garbage was meant to come from a position of strength, showing Biden could handle the job and he could take the fight directly to Trump.

Instead, voters saw a Biden seemed to confirm their worst fears as soon as he began his opening remarks.

“Any Democrat who is not in panic mode is the stupidest person in America right now,” Patrick Murray, the director of Monmouth University’s polling, posted on X.

At one point, after Biden meandered throughout an answer about immigration, Trump said “I really don’t know what he said at the end of that sentence – and I don’t think he knows what he said either.”

Even Vice President Kamala Harris, ostensibly his biggest apologist, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that Biden faltered at the beginning.

“Yes, it was a slow start,” she said. “That's obvious to everyone. I'm not going to debate that point. I'm talking about the choice in November.”

Harris also made the rounds defending Biden, going on MSNBC to defend the president.

Meanwhile, one Democratic strategist did not mince words.

“Horrible,” they told The Independent. “Need to have Harris take over. Cleanest option.”

Conversely, Republicans seemed to celebrate. Scott Jennings, a former adviser to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, noted on X/Twitter that a flash poll from CNN showed voters thought Trump had beaten Biden two to one.

Michael Whatley, the chairman of the Republican National Committee who leads it alongside Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara, similarly celebrated.

“President Trump understands how to solve the problems plaguing the American people,” he said on X. “Biden couldn’t even understand the questions.”

However, Trump did not have it all his own way. Although he managed to temper his style from his chaotic debate performances in 2020, he was seen to spout a series of lies about immigration, abortion, the January 6 riot and the result of the last election.

Weeks after becoming the first former president to be convicted of a crime over his hush money payments to Stormy Daniels, he again denied having had an affair with her in the first place. As Biden accused him of having the “morals of an alley cat” and railed off a litany of scandals and criminal charges engulfing his predecessor, Trump said: “I didn’t have sex with a porn star.”

Another Democratic strategist cautioned that Biden’s performance did not spell death.

“The expectations for Joe Biden were low, but he didn’t come close to meeting them,” they told The Independent on anonymity to speak freely. “It is what it is- donors will pee their pants, Democrats will pine for what could have been, and we will all have to rally around Biden. We won’t win this election through debates, clearly. It’s gonna be a long slog.”

Later in the evening, Biden visited a debate watch party in Atlanta with supporters where he sounded more vigorous and energetic than he did just minutes before on the debate stage.

“They’re going to be out there fact checking,” the president said. “I can’t think of one thing that he said was true.”

Afterward, the president worked the rope line where he greeted supporters for a little under half an hour before he was shuttled out. Later on, he visited the Waffle House and said he did not have an issue with his debate performance.

“No. It’s hard to debate a liar,” Biden said. “The New York Times pointed out he lied 26 times.”

Meanwhile, his deputy campaign manager seemed to brush off the bed-wetting.

“Twitter: Doing twitter stuff,” Rob Flaherty posted. “Biden supporters: Doing the work, powering us to our best grassroots fundraising day of the cycle by far.”