Biden's 'excruciating' debate performance leaves Democrats angry his ego could see them lose election

Ninety minutes is a long watch in politics - ask a Democrat, any Democrat.

As the mist was hanging heavy over Atlanta the morning after the presidential debate, for them the metaphors were writing themselves.

Hot takes from the night before gave way to clear-eyed, cold assessment that chilled the Democratic Party.

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The briefest glance at US media reflected their concern at just how bad it had been and how much worse it could get.

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An excruciating TV performance had been designed to showcase strength and offer reassurance around their leader and president. Rather, it imbued a sense of crisis that crystallised overnight.

Party acolytes and opinion formers who wouldn't listen to concerns over the top of the ticket are now screaming for change.

And yet, it was Team Biden who triggered the TV debate. The plan had been to grab the attention of a disengaged American public and shift opinion polls that have shown Donald Trump in front.

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Snap polls in the wake of the debate told them what they'll have seen for themselves - a split screen contrast that cast Trump as the "winner". There may only be three years between the pair but every one of them seemed to show in a stiff and, at times, incoherent Joe Biden.

The Biden who styled himself as the candidate to beat Donald Trump styled himself on stage as the only candidate who couldn't.

Concern among Democrats is compounded by anger that stubbornness and ego will deprive them at the polls and deliver a Trump victory.

It would be quite the legacy for a president who defines November's election as a defence of democracy and himself as defender-in-chief.