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After the first debate, discussion of whether President Biden should step aside as the Democratic candidate

President Biden's performance led commentators to speculate on his viability as the Democratic nominee for president.
APTOPIX Election 2024 Debate
Posted at 11:22 PM, Jun 27, 2024

During a contentious and frequently personal debate on Thursday, President Joe Biden delivered a relatively shaky performance, struggling to land points against his visibly more animated opponent, former President Donald Trump.

Immediately following the debate, multiple news outlets, political commentators and former advisers to President Biden characterized a widespread "panic" among Democrats — and some teased the possibility that Biden should step aside as the Democrats' presidential candidate for 2024.

"There's a lot of states [Biden] can lose now after tonight," political commentator and former MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews told Scripps News. "There's a lot of states in play now if you're a Republican strategist."

"He can't speak, and that's the problem," Matthews said. "If you can't speak, how do you win?"

"The choice he has is whether he would like to see a Democrat be inaugurated," said Scripps News political analyst Steve Schmidt, explaining after the debate the process of how a new candidate could step in. "He will release his delegates and the Democratic National Convention has rules to nominate a ticket that can win."

"[President Biden] loves his country," CNN political commentator Van Jones said. "He’s doing the best that he can. But he had a test to meet tonight to restore confidence of the country and of the base. And he failed to do that."

"I think there’s a lot of people who are going to want to see him consider taking a different course now," Jones said. "We’re still far from our convention, and there is time for this party to figure out a different way forward if he will allow us to do that."

In the hours immediately following the debate, there were no public statements from officials within the Democratic party questioning President Biden's viability as a candidate.

Vice President Kamala Harris defended President Biden's performance to CNN.

"People can debate on style points, but ultimately this election and who is the President of the United States has to be about substance. And the contrast is clear," Harris said. "Look at what happened over the course of the debate. Donald Trump lied over and over and over again. He would not disavow what happened on Jan. 6. He would not give a clear answer on whether he would stand by the election results this November."

But President Biden's performance also gave some everyday voters pause.

Some who watched the debate told Scripps News they were distracted by Biden's frequent departures from the topics raised by moderators. They said Trump's performance was punchier, but also noted that a number of Trump's claims during the debate were misleading, subjective or outright false.

And some of the voters wondered to Scripps News whether either candidate would withdraw from the race before nominating conventions later this year.

Related story: Fact-checking claims made by Biden and Trump during the first 2024 presidential debate