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Biden camp blasts media, claiming debate debacle doesn’t matter

And while there’s plenty to bolster the position the president doesn’t have another four years in him (from a Post poll saying 82% of people don’t think Biden should run to evidence that all he can handle is a six-hour workday), the re-election effort is nonetheless trying to convince media and the country that none of what they saw Thursday night mattered.

At a Saturday fundraiser in Red Bank, NJ, Biden attempted to diminish the importance of his first face-off with former President Donald Trump as he joked it wasn’t his “best debate ever, as Barack points out,” before moving into strategist spin.

“Since the debate, the polls show little movement and even have me up a couple points since the debate. Research during the debate shows us converting more undecided voters than Trump did, in large part because of the — his conduct on Jan. 6 as well as fighting for the working class — which he doesn’t do,” Biden said.

After casting various aspersions on Trump, Biden again resorted to self-deprecation, saying he “didn’t have a great night but neither did” Trump and admitting, as he did at Friday’s post-debate North Carolina rally, that he doesn’t “debate as well as . . . in the past.”

Biden’s embargoed remarks were delivered before but disseminated after a chief strategist’s defiant memo making the case to the media, just as the candidate himself is to donors, the debate wasn’t that bad for the president despite what people saw him do on stage — and it basically doesn’t matter.

“The debate did not change the horse race. This mirrors what the campaign’s internal post-debate polling showed: The president maintained his support among his 2020 voters and voters’ opinions were not changed,” writes Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon, citing multiple exit polls in her “The View from the Battlegrounds” memo released to press Saturday night, which argued the event “did nothing to change the American people’s perception.”

She suggests her client actually won the debate with that slice of persuadable voters, based on a Democratic focus group: “Following the debate, our internal dials showed President Biden led Trump on key measures of being presidential, speaking to the issues that matter, and being likable by more than 20 points. Dials showed that independent voters were turned off by Trump’s personal attacks, and had deep negative feelings when Trump talked about January 6, his support for Putin, and refusing to lay out his vision for America. Our internal poll confirmed the dials: Trump’s performance left independent voters feeling less confident about his position on reproductive rights and abortion, respect for the Constitution and rule of law, and truthfulness.”

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Further “debate dials,” conducted by what is called an “outside group” in Phoenix, confirmed the same read — that neither candidate could move voters from the other side, and it really didn’t matter anyway.

“Overall, voters say that the debate for the most part didn’t change their overall outlook of either candidate,” the memo claims, before going on to make the case the president’s performance drove record fundraising, including the hour just after the debate, along with a “massive mobilization blitz” and volunteer signups triple a typical day for Team Biden.

Further “debate dials,” conducted by what is called an “outside group” in Phoenix, confirmed the same read — that neither candidate could move voters from the other side, and it really didn’t matter anyway.

But O’Malley Dillon hedged her argument with an attack on the press, which has seen liberal editorialists and talking heads saying Biden’s performance should drive a change of ticket: “If we do see changes in polling in the coming weeks, it will not be the first time that overblown media narratives have driven temporary dips in the polls.

In 2012, we saw media coverage of President Obama’s first debate performance drive a large, but temporary, drop in his polling — driven almost entirely by fewer Democrats answering polls in the days after the debate, rather than true changes in support.”

In one final attempt to diminish expectations and minimize Thursday night’s spectacle, O’Malley Dillon said the campaign “knows a thing or two about putting our heads down and doing the work to win hard races” — and knows it will be a “very close election.”

A very close election. And an existential test for Biden and his political team.

Whether it was the debate and its aftermath or not, Joe Biden’s chief strategist is striking a much humbler tone than she was a week ago — when she told Puck, “We are going to win” — a sign that whatever the numbers and the dials say, the campaign understands the gravity of the president’s predicament and the aura left in Atlanta under the heat of the CNN lights.

As for the president? He has more than two months to go before his next debate with Donald Trump. And there are only so many times he can tell donors his inability to go toe-to-toe with the same challenger he faced four years ago shouldn’t matter to them.

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