Trump claims ‘big victory’ over Biden despite lying in debate

Donald Trump wasted no time bringing up Thursday’s debate at a rally in Virginia on Friday.

“Hello, Virginia,” he opened to a crowd in Chesapeake. “Did anybody last night watch a thing called the debate?”

Related: Biden comes out swinging in first speech after presidential debate with Trump

The former president said he scored a “big victory” over Joe Biden in a debate that, from its outset, showed the Democratic president failing to make coherent points. Biden spent a week at Camp David preparing to debate and got the rules, date and moderators he wanted, Trump said, but it did not help.

“He studied so hard that he didn’t know what the hell he was doing,” Trump said. “No amount of rest or rigging could help him defend his atrocious record.”

Trump lied profusely during the debate, skirting questions about his role in the January 6 insurrection and political violence. But he outperformed Biden on the optics, landing insults and pivoting to talk about what he wanted, with light moderation by CNN.

Biden’s performance led Democrats to contemplate publicly whether he could be replaced as the Democratic candidate at such a late date. Some Biden defenders – and Biden himself – have since sought to reassure that the debate was just one bad performance and not indicative of his ability to lead, or representative of his policy record.

While Democrats scrambled, Republicans basked in the Biden flop, but worried whether or how a different Democrat could take his place. Trump’s campaign ran an advertisement along those lines, showing Biden tripping up stairs and struggling to put on a jacket.

“Will he make it four years?” the ad pondered. “And you know who’s coming behind him. Vote Joe Biden today, get Kamala Harris tomorrow.”

Trump posted clips of his golf game, and Biden’s, on Truth Social, a retort to Biden’s claims that he had a low golf handicap. And he shared some clips from the debate, both ones where he made his key points and others where Biden stumbled. “WOW – WHAT IS HE SAYING?!” Trump wrote of Biden’s biggest gaffe, where he inexplicably said: “We finally beat Medicare.”

Biden’s performance, some said, was a sign of his advanced age and how it was affecting his mental acuity. But Trump said age was not the deciding factor here – perhaps because Trump is, at 78, just three years younger than Biden.

And at the Virginia rally, he sought to attack Bidenfor making the country a “banana republic” rather than his age. He said the president’s biggest problem was not his “personal decline”, but what his administration has done, citing immigration and climate crisis policies.

“He’s got no problem other than his competence,” Trump told the Virginia crowd. Trump said he knows people much older doing much better than Biden.

Despite speculation that other prominent Democrats – such as Harris or California governor Gavin Newsom – could be installed on the ticket instead of Biden, Trump said he did not believe that would happen. Biden does better in the polls than these other Democrats, he claimed. “I have no idea what’s going to happen,” he said.

The debate was a “big moment for people with common sense”, Trump claimed.

He said people should not wonder whether Biden can make it through a 90-minute debate, but “whether America can survive four more years of crooked Joe Biden in the White House. In fact, I don’t know if we really can survive five more months.”

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