Patrick Semansky / AP
This was perhaps the worst presidential debate in American history.
If this was to be a boxing match, it instead turned into Trump jumping on the ropes and refusing to come down. The referee tried to persuade him and Biden stood with his gloves on and a confused look in the middle of his face.
Trump doesn’t abide by anyone’s rules, including those he’s previously agreed to. He’s proud of that. But even by his standards, what Trump did Tuesday night crossed many lines.
He’s the president. More than 200,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus pandemic. And instead of having a serious debate about the country’s direction, Trump sent it off the rails.
Most benevolently, both former Pennsylvania Republican Senator Rick Santorum and former New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie, who helped Trump prepare the debate, said he was “too hot”.
“I think the president dubbed his hand tonight,” Santorum said on CNN.
Here are six food stalls from the first Trump-Biden debate.
1. He also went too far for Trump
For part of the debate, Trump looked like he was in control of the stage. He kept interrupting, trying to distract, distract, and intervene. That’s pretty typical Trump behavior, but some things were particularly outrageous.
For example, when Biden talked about his late son Beau’s military service, Trump went into Biden’s other son, Hunter, and brought up his previous cocaine use. It backfired.
Looking straight into the camera, Biden turned something he seldom talks about into a positive, personable moment.
“My son, like many people you know at home, had a drug problem,” Biden said. “He overhauled 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 the right-wing extremist group Proud Boys in particular – he instead said, “Proud boys, stand back and stand by.” And then he denounced left groups. (Proud Boys now uses Trump’s words as part of a new logo.)
In addition, Trump would not ask his supporters to remain peaceful with the vote count, even if there is a delay in reporting the results.
“I urge my supporters to take the polls and watch very closely because that is exactly what has to happen,” said Trump, adding, “If it’s a fair election, I’m 100% on board. When I see tens of thousands Since ballot papers are manipulated, I cannot agree to that. “
2. Trump likely did nothing to expand beyond his base
Trump’s base is likely to love his performance. But by the time Trump got into the debate, he was lagging behind in the polls. It’s not a secret.
He had to try to win back suburban and independent voters, both of which he won in 2016 and which largely abandoned him during that cycle.
Who was this performance for exactly?
Trump repeated his “law and order” appeal to white suburban voters, trying to force Biden to repeat the words. But Biden didn’t take the bait and turned around demanding “law and order with justice where people are treated fairly”.
And Biden said this about Trump and the nature of his calling.
“He wouldn’t know a suburb if he didn’t take the wrong turn,” said Biden. “I grew up in the suburbs. This is not 1950. All those dog whistles and racism don’t work anymore. Suburbs are by and large integrated.”
3. Biden missed opportunities
This was not Biden’s cleanest debate. He wasn’t crisp and was often confused by Trump’s antics, as was Fox News presenter Chris Wallace.
“Are you going to shut up man?” said Biden as he tried to make a point. He also called Trump a “clown” more than once.
Biden missed a few opportunities. For example, when Trump spoke about the role of masks in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, Biden could have stepped in more forcefully to speak about Trump’s largely maskless rallies. When Trump claimed his rallies did no harm, Biden could have pointed to the surge in coronavirus cases after Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Okla.
The former vice president had some stumbling blocks and moments that weren’t great for him, such as not responding to adding judges to the Supreme Court – “pack the court” – when Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s candidate for succession by Ruth Bader Ginsburg is confirmed.
That was likely overshadowed by Trump’s behavior, but for the next debate – if there is one – Biden’s team must try to sharpen it.
4. Trump tried to tie Biden on the far left but it didn’t work
Trump tried his best to paint Biden as a socialist, or at least to sign him to the “radical left”. But from issue to issue – “Medicare for All,” which the police defused, the Green New Deal – Biden rejected the policies that the Trump campaign tried to let him have.
Biden just repeated his positions, and everyone agrees with the middle of the electorate, far more so than Trump’s political positions.
That might have hurt Biden with the progressive left, especially when it comes to the Green New Deal, if Trump hadn’t gone quite like Trump.
5. Trump’s response to his handling of COVID-19 has been similar
More than 200,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 and coronavirus cases are rising again in some parts of the country.
Yet Trump’s tactic in defending against the management of the pandemic has been to insult Biden’s intelligence.
“He panicked or just looked at the stock market, one of the two, you know what?” Said Biden. “A lot of people have died and a lot more will die unless he gets a lot smarter a lot faster.”
“Did you use the word ‘smart’?” Trump asked rhetorically, adding, “You have either the lowest or almost the lowest degree in your class. Never use the word ‘smart’ with me.”
Trump said he disagreed with his own experts on a vaccination schedule and insisted that it be widely available soon. But making rosy claims to the public is exactly what got him in trouble after Bob Woodward’s latest book. Anger, revealed that Trump knew privately that the virus was worse than he publicly announced.
He tried to claim Biden made the pandemic worse. “Two million would be dead now,” he said.
But Trump is president, and on average, a majority of Americans say they disapprove of the work he’s doing in dealing with the coronavirus.
6. Good luck to the next moderator
Before the debate, Wallace said his goal was to be “invisible”.
In the end, he might have wished he was. The role was not an easy task, and the next presidential debate on October 15 will be moderated by the far gentler Steve Scully of C-SPAN.
After the first presidential debate in the 2004 elections, there were numerous internet conspiracies over a mysterious bulge on the back of President George W. Bush’s jacket. Some unfoundedly believed that there was a communications system put in place by White House advisors to coach him.
Bush cautiously rejected this.
“I think the assumption was that if I went off course, they … would sound a buzzer like a hound and I would jerk back into place,” Bush said afterwards.
Maybe something to investigate.