Skip to content
By Martin Liptrot

By Martin Liptrot

A week in America | 28 June 2024

Only hours ago, the US Presidential debate ended - Martin gives his reaction and what might happen next...

It is Friday, 5 o’clock in the morning UK time, and President Biden has just sat down after the live TV debate with Donald Trump.

A quick flash poll conducted by CNN tells us exactly what anyone who watched the tussle will confirm – Biden does not inspire confidence to lead the U.S.

The poll revealed that 57% of those surveyed doubted the octogenarian’s ability to cope with the demands of the biggest job in the World over the next 4 years.

Biden’s poor score wasn’t a fear about his tax and spend proposals, his stance on global conflicts or his actions or lack thereof to manage an immigration crisis at the southern border now impacting cities across the nation.

This was a debate on one issue and one issue only. Competence.

The millions of Americans who tuned in to watch the debate, and the hundreds of millions more who will only see the TikTok memes and social media chatter, were left in no doubt that there are serious concerns about Biden’s ability and suitability to run for a second term.

Biden stumbled over his opening address, his voice was faltering and raspy – attributed by his team to a cold – but most worryingly he had those ‘blank’ moments which have become an all too frequent part of his campaign presentation.

Trump on the other hand, was exactly how you’d expect him to be. Bullish and Aggressive.

Trump warned that Biden was damaging the economy, failing to secure the nation and ‘dragging the country into World War III’.

Biden in return did little to hurt Trump, failing to land a significant blow – quibbling about the former President’s golf handicap and generously describing his morals as those of ‘an alley cat’.

Biden’s people were the ones who had pushed for an early debate – this one was a record 4 months ahead of voting. They did so in the hope they could achieve three things – 1. Remind everyone that Trump is a convicted Felon. 2. Put the issues of Abortion, Healthcare and Economy front and centre. 3. Show Biden as the Stateman to Trump’s Showman.

They failed on all counts.

The best the American public will be left thinking this morning is ‘how are these the only choices we have.

As the candidates shuffled off stage at the end, attention turned to the ‘spin room’ where senior politicians on both sides mix with the media to drop headline worthy pearls of wisdom. Their job is to reiterate the attack lines, poke holes in the veracity of the claims of their opponent, and to boost their candidate’s standing.

Democrats were unable to do this, so poor was their man’s performance.

Even Kamala Harris, his biggest fan, the woman who Biden asked to be his deputy, was unable to confidently cheerlead for her boss.

A slow start’ she conceded before adding ‘but a stronger finish’ – but had to politely acknowledged the car crash we had all just witnessed when she told gathered reporters she wasn’t going to focus on the last few hours, instead ‘the last three and half years where the President had delivered’.

Democrats are clearly worried.

In a debate with a candidate who is a convicted felon, is facing federal prosecutions for conspiring to steal votes, plotting to overturn an election and illegally hoarding secret and classified documents, this should have been a home run.

Add to that the tabloid scandals about his payments of hush money to a porn star to cover up an affair, his quotes on women, his close relationships with and admiration for Russian President Putin and North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un, we should have seen the demolition of Trump unfold on our screens.

But instead, the post-debate polls show the former President was widely considered to have performed better.

Democrats must act now.

There is a clause in the U.S. constitution to remove a sitting President on the grounds of ill health, disability or incompetence. The 25th Amendment allows the Vice President to step up when the incumbent can’t perform.

The Democrats need to find a version of this for their own candidate selection process and find it now while there is still time to act.

It will be brutal.

A sitting President, one who is popular within the party ranks and was successful in removing Trump from office last time out, has to be treated with respect. He will either have to fall on his own sword and step down from the campaign on his terms, or else the party’s backroom boys will have to engineer his removal via August’s Democrat Convention in Chicago when the party formally nominates its Presidential Candidate.

The latter would be ugly and public. It would require candidates to challenge Biden, it would open the party up to infighting only weeks before a tight election and would trample Biden’s reputation as he would be removed kicking and screaming from the ticket.

I am hoping First Lady Jill Biden, a dignified character throughout her husband’s political career can help him reach the correct decision. Perhaps Barack and Michelle Obama who still play a big role in Biden’s inner circle can help too. But ultimately it will have to be Biden’s decision.

Politicians by the very nature of the job, have huge egos. Presidents have even bigger ones. There is a convention in popular politics that ‘one-term’ Presidents are deemed a failure – Carter, Ford, George Bush Snr, Trump… a list in history Biden will want to avoid adding his name to.

But politics is tough.

In Britain, the Tories have resigned themselves to an imminent election defeat and are focussed on what their party looks like in opposition. In part they have this freedom because they and the country aren’t petrified of a Kier Starmer led centre-left administration.

Contrast that with the situation in America. If the Democrats lose because their candidate isn’t up to the job, they don’t get four years to lick their wounds and come back stronger, because the return of Trump as President for a second and final term will have consequences beyond compare.

He will stack the Supreme Court with more of his appointees in part to allow himself to self-pardon any convictions he receives in state and federal courts. He will weaken or withdraw support for Israel and Ukraine at a time when global peace needs the active involvement and powerful clout only America can deliver, he will pull funds and engagement from NATO, UN and other global bodies, and will hitch his star to the wealthy businesses and lobby groups resisting healthcare reform, gun control and tackling the climate crisis.

It perhaps isn’t too great an exaggeration to say Biden has the chance to save America, but not in the way he first imagined.

Author picture

Martin Liptrot

Martin Liptrot is a Public Affairs, PR and Marketing consultant working with UK, US and Global clients to try and ‘make good ideas happen’.

Downtown in Business

A week in America | 19 July 2024

Desperate to write about anything other than American politics, Martin is once again frustrated as cataclysmic events on the campaign trail once again take centre stage… Trump vs Who? is the question on everyone’s lips…

Read More