Day after abysmal debate, 'Jacked up Joe' energizes campaign rally. For panicky Democrats, will it be enough?

“And I know like millions of Americans know — when you get knocked down, you get back up,” President Joe Biden said Friday at a campaign gathering in North Carolina after his dismal performance in his debate with Trump.

SHARE Day after abysmal debate, 'Jacked up Joe' energizes campaign rally. For panicky Democrats, will it be enough?
President Joe Biden, right, and first lady Jill Biden walk off stage after speaking at a campaign rally, Friday, June 28, 2024, in Raleigh, N.C.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden walk off stage after speaking at a campaign rally Friday in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Evan Vucci/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — An energized, Jacked up Joe showed up at a North Carolina campaign rally on Friday.

President Joe Biden fired up the crowd, buying some time — maybe — to calm Democrats wanting him to step aside as the 2024 presidential nominee after his Thursday nightmare debate performance with ex-President Donald Trump.

On Thursday night, Biden, 81, came across as a befuddled, physically limited, exhausted senior citizen, raising questions within minutes of the start of the CNN-hosted debate in Atlanta. The stream of lies spewed by former President Donald Trump, 78, were overshadowed by how the frail Biden talked and looked.

It is true Biden is seriously wounded. It is true that Democratic activists are in a panic.

It’s also true it will take a hell of a push to switch the narrative from “Biden is toast, is not fit to serve and needs to be replaced” to “Biden will be OK.” The number of people who saw, or will see, via clips of a refreshed Biden do his thing at the Raleigh, North Carolina rally, is tiny compared to the millions who watched the debate.

After viewing the North Carolina rally, Republican strategist Ana Navarro-Cárdenas summed it up in her X post: “This is downright inexplicable. Debate Biden was a disaster. NC rally Biden — just 18 hours later — is on fire. Dear @JoeBiden please get rid of everyone who prepared you for that debate. DO IT NOW.”

Observations and explanations

  • Before the debate, Trump was calling Biden “Jacked up Joe” to lower expectations in case the Biden at the debate was the man who showed up at his State of the Union address — a president in command who hit a home run. Trump made this up, saying before the debate that Biden would be taking some performance-enhancing substance.

For Democrats, if only it were so. If only taking a shot would fix this.

If Biden pulls it together and can avoid another Atlanta meltdown, he can take on the nickname — it may save him — that he is indeed “Jacked up Joe.”

Biden is famous for his empathy. And he is counting on people to empathize with his terrible night.

“I know I’m not a young man, to state the obvious,” he said as the Raleigh audience laughed and chanted “Joe, Joe, Joe!”

“Folks, I don’t walk as easy as I used to. I don’t speak as smoothly as I used to. I don’t debate, debate as well as I used to,” Biden continued. “But I know what I do know. I know how to tell the truth. … I know how to do this job. I know how to get things done. And I know like millions of Americans know — when you get knocked down, you get back up.”

  • About replacing Biden. It would be very difficult. Almost all the 4,000 or so delegates are pledged to cast their ballots for Biden. But there is a loophole — a conscience clause — to be found in rule 13, section J in the Democratic National Committee’s convention Delegate Selection Rules.

That escape clause states: “Delegates elected to the national convention pledged to a presidential candidate shall in all good conscience reflect the sentiments of those who elected them.”

  • For the Democrats who are nervous and want Biden to step aside, look at the tight time line. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have to be officially nominated before Aug. 7, weeks before the Democratic convention kicks off in Chicago on Aug. 19. Aug. 7 is the deadline to make the Ohio ballot.

Let’s say Biden does decide to step aside after Aug. 7. The thinking is … Democrats were unlikely to win Ohio anyway, so Biden being left off the ballot may, given the circumstances, not have to dictate Biden’s decision.

  • What would it take for Biden to step aside? Likely some assurance the nomination would be passed on to Harris, vastly underestimated in a number of ways, including in her ability to reach out and motivate key Democratic base groups and suburban swing voters, mostly women, who care about abortion.
  • There is no strong, charismatic Democrat who can make a case to be the nominee and skip over Harris if Biden gives up the nomination.

Pritzker in Los Angeles on debate night

Gov. J.B. Pritzker was in Los Angeles Thursday, headlining a high-dollar fundraiser with two other Democratic governors, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and Andy Beshear of Kentucky. The fundraiser was aimed at benefiting the Biden Victory Fund. I’m also told Pritzker did fundraising for the Chicago convention host committee.

The Latest
It wasn’t just one bad night, but what that bad night represents.
Milazzo learned to be resilient after a major college injury, and that trait has served her well in professional soccer.
What most refuse to see is the beauty of the skin she chooses to live in. A skin at this point millions-on-millions thought she’d shed like most other Black athletes when their fame introduces itself to fortune.
Prairie State Conservation Coalition is stepping up to assume a major role in funding conservation projects for land acquisition, land stewardship and organization capacity building (organizational infrastructure).
Though her parenting tips conflict with what the experts say, she insists she’s right because she was a nurse (but she really wasn’t).