Patrick Semansky / AP
This was possibly the worst presidential debate in American history.
If this was supposed to be a boxing match, instead it turned into Trump jumping on the ropes, refusing to get off, the referee trying to get him to get off and Biden standing in the center of the ring with gloves and a confused look. her face.
Trump doesn’t play by anyone’s rules, not even the ones he agreed in advance. He is proud of this. But even by his standards, what Trump did on Tuesday night went beyond many limits.
He is president. More than 200,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus pandemic. And instead of a serious debate about the direction of the country, Trump has sent him off the rails.
More charitable, both former Pennsylvania Republican Senator Rick Santorum and former New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie, who helped Trump prepare for the debate, said it was “too hot.”
“I think the president went overboard tonight,” Santorum told CNN.
Here are six insights from the first Trump-Biden debate.
1. Even for Trump, he went too far
For part of the debate, Trump appeared to be controlling the stage. He constantly interrupted and tried to distract, divert and intervene. This is fairly typical of Trump behavior, but some things in particular were great.
When Biden, for example, talked about his late son Beau’s military service, Trump talked about Biden’s other son, Hunter, and talked about his past use of cocaine. He has failed.
Biden, looking directly at the camera, turned something he rarely talks about into a positive, understanding moment.
“My son, like many people you know at home, had a drug problem,” Biden said. “He got over it. He fixed it. He worked on it. And I’m proud of him.”
Later, when Trump was asked to denounce white supremacists and militia groups – and especially the far-right extremist group Proud Boys – he said this instead: “Proud boys, stand back and watch.” And then he denounced the leftist groups. (Proud Boys is now using Trump’s words as part of a new logo.)
Furthermore, Trump would not urge his followers to remain peaceful while the votes are counted, even if there are delays in communicating the results.
“I urge my supporters to go to the polls and watch very carefully because that’s what has to happen,” said Trump, adding, “If it’s fair elections, I agree 100%. If I see tens of thousands of ballot papers are being manipulated, I can’t accept that. “
2. Trump probably did nothing to expand beyond his base
Trump’s base will likely love his performance. But entering the debate, Trump was behind in the polls. It is not a secret.
He needed to try to win back the suburban and independent voters, both of whom he won in 2016 and who have largely abandoned him in this cycle.
So who exactly was this performance for?
Trump repeated his “law and order” appeal to white suburban voters and tried to force Biden to repeat the words. But Biden didn’t take the bait and pivoted, calling for “law and order with justice, where people are treated fairly.”
And Biden said this about Trump and the nature of his appeal.
“He wouldn’t know a suburb unless he took a wrong turn,” Biden said. “I grew up in the suburbs. This isn’t 1950. All these dog whistles and racism don’t work anymore. The suburbs are generally integrated.”
3. Biden has missed opportunities
This hasn’t been Biden’s cleanest debate. He wasn’t bubbly, he was often baffled – as was Fox News moderator Chris Wallace – by Trump’s antics.
“Do you want to shut up, friend?” Biden said as he tried to make a point. He has also called Trump a “clown” more than once.
Biden missed some opportunities. For example, when Trump was talking about the role of masks in preventing the spread of coronavirus, Biden could have stepped in more forcefully to talk about Trump’s largely unmasked demonstrations. When Trump claimed his rallies did not cause damage, Biden could have pointed to the spike in coronavirus cases following Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The former vice president had some stumbles and some moments that weren’t big for him, like not responding if he added judges to the Supreme Court – “pack the court” – if Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s candidate to succeed. to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, it is confirmed.
This was likely overshadowed by Trump’s behavior, but for the next debate – if there is one – Biden’s team will have to try to refine their situation.
4. Trump tried to tie Biden to the far left, but it didn’t work
Trump did his best to portray Biden as a socialist, or at least tied to the “radical left”. But problem after problem – “Medicare for All,” the defunding of the police, the Green New Deal – Biden renounced the policies Trump’s campaign tried to do to him.
Biden has just reasserted his positions and they all line up in the center of the electorate, much more than Trump’s political positions do.
This could have hurt Biden with the progressive left, particularly when it comes to the Green New Deal, if Trump hadn’t been Trump.
5. Trump’s response to his handling of COVID-19 has been more or less the same
More than 200,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, and coronavirus cases are rising again in parts of the country.
Yet Trump’s tactic in defending himself against his handling of the pandemic has been to insult Biden’s intelligence.
“Did he panic or just looked at the bag, either, why guess what?” Biden said. “Many people have died and many more will die unless you get much smarter much faster.”
Did you use the word clever? “” Trump asked rhetorically, adding, “You’ve graduated or the lowest or nearly the lowest in your class. Never use the word ‘smart’ with me.”
Trump said he disagreed with his own experts on the timing of the vaccines, insisting that it would soon be widely available. But making rosy claims to the public is exactly what got him in trouble after Bob Woodward’s latest book, Anger, revealed that Trump privately knew the virus was worse than he publicly hinted.
He tried to argue that Biden would make the pandemic worse. “Two million would have died now,” he said.
But Trump is president and, on average, a majority of Americans say they disapprove of the work he’s doing in managing the coronavirus.
6. Good luck to the next moderator
Before the debate, Wallace said his goal was to be “invisible”.
In the end, she might have wished she was. The role was no easy task and the next presidential debate, October 15, will be moderated by C-SPAN’s much milder Steve Scully.
After the first presidential debate in the 2004 election, Internet conspiracies abounded about a mysterious bulge in the back of President George W. Bush’s jacket. Some believed, baseless, that there was a communications system rigged by White House advisors to educate him.
Bush rejected it, wisely.
“I guess the assumption was that if I went off course they would … kind of like a hunting dog, they would sound a buzzer, and I would be right,” Bush said later.
Maybe something to look into.