This story originally appeared on Newsmakers with JR.

In the wake of President Joe Biden’s dismal debate performance, Newsmakers on Friday convened a group of veteran political talents that has worked in and around presidential campaigns for decades, to break down the stunning event and forecast what lies ahead.

Our panel, in a full and frank exchange of views, examines how Biden’s bad night obscured Donald Trump’s deluge of lies and nonsense, appraises the extent of the President’s self-inflicted political wound and weighs the swirl of post-debate speculation and scenarios about what Democrats may or may not do to reset the race:

  • Bill Carrick, whose distinguished career began as an adviser to the late Senator Ted Kennedy in the 1980s, decries the “wave of hysteria” afflicting the media and many Democrats the day after the debate, and calls the notion that Biden might be replaced on the ticket “a total fantasy.” He compares the affair to bad debate nights turned in by past presidents, arguing that, in a deeply and bitterly polarized country, the fundamentals of the race against Trump have not changed; that the contest still will come down to a small number of votes in a handful states where Democrats enjoy an on-the-ground organizational advantage.
  • Carla Marinucci, a veteran political reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle and Politico, expresses astonishment that Biden’s campaign team allowed him to take the stage in Atlanta looking “like a cadaver,” and suggests that the president over-prepared and tried to reel off too many facts instead of sticking to broad message themes about the dangers Trump poses to the country. An authority on Bay Area and California politics, she explains some of the intriguing cross-currents in the current campaign maelstrom affecting Vice President Kamala Harris and Governor Gavin Newsom, both of whom she began covering as local officials in San Francisco.
  • Dan Morain, former editorial page editor of the Sacramento Bee and author of the Harris biography Kamala’s Way, believes that Democrats and Republicans alike underestimate the vice president’s intelligence and political chops, and that she will be an asset to Biden as his campaign struggles to reset the race. Still, he said, Biden’s botched debate is a serious wound, pointing to the battles for control of the Senate and the House of Representatives in the November 5 election as the top priorities now for the president’s party, adding that Newsom faces a tough agenda of California issues that he best not neglect while serving as a top Biden surrogate.
  • The genial host, who has covered national, state and local politics as a reporter, columnist and editor for 50 years (who can forget that rollicking 1974 campaign for the San Francisco School Board?) opines that voters of all stripes should take Trump seriously, and at his word, as he repeatedly offers statements that demonstrate his desire and intent to govern as an autocrat if he wins a second term, sharply at odds with the traditions of liberal democracy that have shaped the nation since its founding.

As columnists for the New York Times opinion pages — perhaps the most rock-solid platform of left-liberal thought in the U.S. — on Friday raised a chorus calling on Biden to step aside at his party’s August convention in favor of a younger candidate selected by delegates, it is clear that the presidential campaign has entered a new and unprecedented phase, with the prospect of more unexpected and unknowable developments in the 130 days between now and Election Day.

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