The first Presidential debate of 2020 was a brawl. President Donald Trump serially interrupted former Vice-President Joe Biden, while Biden personally insulted Trump with name-calling. Biden called Trump a liar, racist, and clown. Social media users found it cute to say “nobody won and everybody lost.” But that’s not true.
“Biden was able to convince more of those in his party that he was the winner of the first debate than Mr. Trump was able to convince people in his party. Ninety-two percent of Democrats who watched say he won, compared to 82% of Republicans who say Mr. Trump won. Thirteen percent of Republicans called the debate a draw, although independents gave Mr. Trump the edge.
“On balance, more debate-watchers said their opinion of Biden improved than said that about Mr. Trump. Three in four Democrats said the debate gave them a better impression of Biden, while Republicans were a bit more divided about their candidate. Fifty-two percent of Republicans said the debate made them feel better about Mr. Trump; 42% said their view of him had not changed. Few in each party came away with a more negative view of their party’s candidate after the debate.”
Independents gave The President the edge. This race is tight and about 300,000 independent voters, in 5-6 swing states, will select the next President. If you hate or love Trump, last night didn’t matter nor will the second, third, or 25th debate between both of them. Here is the truth — you don’t matter and the people who DO matter responded positively to the President during the first debate.
That’s why Biden’s handlers don’t want more debates.
One thing I have learned about Trump is that he is a guerrilla fighter — he uses his opponents’ strengths against them. If you don’t like rambunctious debates, you should want MORE debates. Imagine how boring two dozen debates would be, about policy, held every Monday and Thursday night, for the 12 weeks from the conventions until election day. Both candidates would be respectful, stay on topic, and really drill down on policy — you might actually learn something and decide which candidate is more aligned with you.
Presidential campaigns however, create a “Hail Mary” scenario by limiting the number of debates. I love the old television series West Wing because it is a seemingly accurate depiction of campaigning and governance. Even on the “high & mighty” series of West Wing, the “Hail Mary” scenario of debates is on display, in both the preparation and execution of the “Big Event”. Just two days ago, The New York Times reported about how Biden was preparing for the “biggest debate of his life.”
For years, news media have said that candidates should prepare for debates like it was a Super Bowl but play like it was a World Series. Trump ain’t gonna have none of that. He recognized that the system rewarded the Hail Mary pass four years ago when he won late-breaking voters by rattling Hillary Clinton in the debates. He did the same thing last night and my guess is that he will win those late breaking voters again. Trump plays by the rules as they are written, no more, no less.
Decorum? Tradition? Custom? Hogwash!
Trump plays by the rules, and he plays to win. Biden’s handlers know that. Expect them to try to change the rules a lot.