Even before Thursday night’s debate, there was a sense of dread among Democrats that the party was charting a course towards the unthinkable — a Trump victory in November.

For nearly a year, Donald Trump has had a narrow but consistent lead in the battleground states that will determine the winner of the election. Polls have also consistently shown Trump could win the popular vote nationally, something didn’t come even close to doing in either 2016 or 2020.

Joe Biden needed a strong debate to address concerns about his age and to show he has physical and mental ability to take on Trump and win in November. That’s why he spent nearly a week at Camp David with an army of advisers preparing for Thursday night.

PHOTO: Democrat candidate President Joe Biden speaks during a presidential debate with Republican candidate, former President Donald Trump, in Atlanta, on June 27, 2024.

Democrat candidate President Joe Biden speaks during a presidential debate with Republican candidate, former President Donald Trump, in Atlanta, on June 27, 2024.

Brian Snyder/Reuters

Few prominent Democrats are even pretending he did what he needed to do. Now a loud chorus of Biden allies outside of the party leadership — liberal commentators, party strategists and former elected officials — have publicly urged him to pass the torch and open the door for the party to choose a different nominee at the Democratic convention in August.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden and Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump participate in the CNN Presidential Debate at the CNN Studios, on June 27, 2024, in Atlanta.

President Joe Biden and Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump participate in the CNN Presidential Debate at the CNN Studios, on June 27, 2024, in Atlanta.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

As former Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill put it shortly on MSNBC after the debate ended, “He had one thing he had to accomplish and that was reassure America that he was up to the job at his age, and he failed at that tonight.”

PHOTO: President Joe Biden participates in the first presidential debate of the 2024 elections with former President Donald Trump at CNN's studios in Atlanta, June 27, 2024.

President Joe Biden participates in the first presidential debate of the 2024 elections with former President Donald Trump at CNN’s studios in Atlanta, June 27, 2024.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Privately, the chorus of current Democratic officials is just as loud.

“I am in a state of shock,” a Democratic member of Congress who has strongly supported Biden told me even before the date was over. “He is diminished to an extent that has become undeniable.”

“It’s a shame this debate didn’t happen during a Democratic primary,” another Democrat told me. “If it had, we would have a different nominee.”

PHOTO: President Joe Biden walks off stage during the break of a presidential debate with Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump hosted by CNN, June 27, 2024, in Atlanta.

President Joe Biden walks off stage during the break of a presidential debate with Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump hosted by CNN, June 27, 2024, in Atlanta.

Gerald Herbert/AP

Is it too late? Technically, no. Democrats haven’t formally nominated anybody, yet. The delegates at the Democratic convention haven’t voted. The vast majority, however, are pledged to vote for Joe Biden. As a practical matter, the only way for the convention to choose a different candidate would be for Biden to declare he has decided to not run and to release his delegates to vote for someone else.

Will that happen? There’s absolutely no indication Biden is considering dropping out or that anybody in his inner circle is suggesting he should even consider doing so.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden walks off with first lady Jill Biden following the CNN Presidential Debate at the CNN Studios in Atlanta, GA, June 27, 2024.

President Joe Biden walks off with first lady Jill Biden following the CNN Presidential Debate at the CNN Studios in Atlanta, GA, June 27, 2024.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

But nobody knows better than Joe Biden how high the stakes are in this election. He still has time — although not much time — to make this decision. And while there is no indication that either he or anyone of his closest advisers or family members is having second thoughts, some of the most prominent voices on the outside publicly calling for him to drop out are voices Biden respects.

If polls a week from now show that Biden’s standing is even worse than it was before the debate — and that the party’s current course is heading toward a likely – even a possible – defeat at the hands of Donald Trump in November, then all bets are off.



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