Explainer: How the French snap election runoff works and what comes next

President Joe Biden’s disastrous debate with Republican opponent Donald Trump followed a series of decisions by his top advisers that critics now say were misguided, interviews with Democratic allies, donors and former and current aides show.
During the 90-minute debate on Thursday, Trump, 78, repeated a series of hackneyed, blatant lies, including the claim that he actually won the 2020 election.
Biden, 81, failed to fend them off, and his clumsy and uncertain performance sparked calls for Democrats to abandon their bid for a second term and do some “soul searching” or resignation among top advisers.
“My only request was to make sure he rested before the debate, but he was exhausted. He was sick,” said one person, who said she had unsuccessfully reached out to top Biden advisers in the days before. “What a bad decision to send him out looking sick and exhausted.”
Others were even more blunt.
“In my opinion, he was overtrained and overpracticed. And I believe [senior aide] Anita Dunn… put him in a place that was good for Trump, not good for him,” said John Morgan, a Florida lawyer and top Biden fundraiser.
Morgan suggested that Dunn and other aides “be fired forever and never allowed to return even near the campaign.”
Biden’s debate strategy was signed by campaign chairwoman Jen O’Malley Dillon, who helped him win in 2020 and was appointed in January to boost a lopsided re-election campaign. Dunn, a longtime Biden adviser and former Barack Obama campaign strategist, supported the strategy.
Confidence was high at the event. On May 31, a New York jury convicted Trump of forging documents, while Biden was on back-to-back visits to Europe.
To the surprise of some of Biden’s advisers, his stubbornly low poll numbers began to rise across the country in the following weeks.
Aides set a rigorous schedule for debate preparations, which included Biden at Camp David for six days.
The project involved an internal circle of people, some of whom had been close to Biden for decades: Ron Klain, his first White House chief of staff, Dunn, former White House counsel and Dunn’s husband Bob Bauer, and longtime adviser Mike Donilon, and about a dozen other policy experts.
Biden’s campaign said Friday that no staff changes were being considered. A spokesman for Dunn said multiple aides were involved in the preparations and noted that Morgan was not there.
In an email to O’Malley supporters Saturday, Dillon said internal polling and focus groups showed no change in voters’ opinions in battleground states after the debate. She warned that “exaggerated media narratives” could cause “temporary dips in the polls” but expressed confidence that Biden would win in November.


Biden’s trips abroad, notably to France earlier this month, resulted in social media clips of Republicans making fun of his age, but his team said it also showed him as a strong leader on the international stage.
White House aides who traveled with the president were in good spirits as he headed to Camp David on June 21. They believed Biden would enter the debate with the most valuable political asset: momentum and a tailwind.
Within 14 days, Biden flew to France, back to the United States, to Italy and the West Coast, then headed to his vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, for a few days of rest.
According to several people who observed him during this period, he dragged himself.
As Biden and his advisers settled into Camp David six days before the debate, aides concluded that he had a lot to accomplish, more than his opponent. Trump could simply rail against the current administration, and Biden would need facts and a few tidbits at his fingertips.
They expected Trump to be much more disciplined and prepared than he was in 2020, and believed they would have to counter a series of rapid-fire lies.
In long prep sessions, they bombarded Biden with details and then held mock debates.
Critics now say preparations should have focused on the broader vision he has to present to the country and that Biden did not get enough rest before the debate.
Biden, exhausted, will also come down with a mild cold, White House aides said, something he has suffered regularly during his term after long periods working in different time zones.
As a result, according to critics, candidate Biden was at his worst: he appeared on stage with a pale face, hair disheveled under the collar and a hoarse voice. He often behaved inconsistently.
“I’ve never seen him like this before,” said Michael LaRosa, former special assistant to President Biden and press secretary to first lady Jill Biden.
“He can bypass most people on complicated policy issues,” LaRosa said. “It was always going to be a matter of presentation and cosmetics and superficial judgments that were going to be made about his performance. And he couldn’t clear the bar.”

Earlier this year, some Biden aides wondered whether he should debate Trump at all, arguing that it could give Trump a broad public platform that would hurt Biden.
Then Biden himself, in an April interview with shock host Howard Stern, made a decision on the Trump debate that surprised some advisers. “I’m somewhere,” he said.
With the triumphant memory of his March State of the Union address fresh in his mind, Biden’s team prepared for the debate but took radical steps to control the conditions.
They decided to scrap three long-scheduled presidential debates in September and October hosted by the Commission on Presidential Debates, still looking forward to how the group would handle the 2020 debates.
Trump repeatedly violated the rules of the chaotic first debate of 2020, showing up despite testing positive for Covid-19 and making unforgiving comments about Biden.
His team tried to set the contest on their own terms, with what they considered a more compliant host at CNN. No audience cheering Trump’s insults. Networks and moderators willing to challenge Trump. No Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Mute button.
A day after the debate, Biden bounced back with a powerful speech in North Carolina and a promise to keep pushing, and many donors and Democrats are rallying around him.
But the damage has already been done.
Asked Sunday whether the Democratic Party was considering a new 2024 candidate, Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin told MSNBC: “There are very honest, serious and rigorous conversations going on at every level of our party because it’s a political party and we have different points of view.”
Raskin added: “Whether he is the candidate or someone else is the candidate, he will be the keynote speaker at our convention.”

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