And the winner is….. see below. The first, and maybe the last, 2020 presidential debate is in the books. Who won; who lost?
First, my general impressions:
- I didn’t care for the free-flowing format. It encouraged too much interrupting and talking over one another and not enough clear, substantive discussion of the issues. At times, I felt like I was watching a rerun of a Jerry Springer show.
- Biden had a low bar to clear with respect to demonstrating his cognition, and he did so. He had a few stumbles but no major gaffes.
- Trump was the more aggressive debater. I felt that some aggression was a plus, but, at times, perhaps it was too much. Once he even clashed with Wallace. No doubt, his supporters would approve, but I’m not sure about the undecideds.
- Both frequently interrupted and talked over the other. I don’t blame Chris Wallace. He tried valiantly to control the process but often to no avail. He did the best he could, but the format had been agreed to by both campaigns beforehand.
- Biden was the more disrespectful, personally. He called Trump a “racist,” “stupid,” a “clown” and a “liar.” At least once that I recall he told Trump to “shut up.” Probably, he was following his advisors’ advice to be tough and aggressive, but I don’t think disrespecting the president like that was the way to go.
- Biden dodged the questions about packing the Supreme Court, banning fracking and corruption regarding payments to Hunter Biden.
- Biden outright lied when he said the Hunter matter had been resolved with no corruption found.
- Trump’s response to the question regarding his taxes was weak. That issue will likely not go away.
- Trump had a strong defense for Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination. He could have buttressed it, however, by pointing out that historically there have been some 29 previous instances in which presidents of both parties have put forth election-year SC nominations.
- If you’re looking for a sound bite that will resonate, Trump’s comment that he “accomplished more in 47 months that [Biden] did in 47 years” would be it. It may not be quite up there with Reagan’s “there you again” or his promise “not to exploit for political purposes my opponent’s youth and inexperience,” but it was effective.
- Biden was caught between a “rock and a hard place” on a few other topics. For example, he disavowed the Sanders-Biden Manifesto which as a blatant contradiction; he failed to express support for the Green New Deal, which he had championed in the past; he had a weak answer on law and disorder in the streets; he had no effective retort to Trump’s claim of multiple endorsements by police unions; and he dodged the question about Antifa, characterizing it as “just an idea.” All those will likely anger his supporters on the “left.”
- Both candidates made errors of fact or gave disingenuous answers as politicians often do. It would have been illuminating to have instant factchecking.
Who won? Was there even a clear-cut winner? I think it is all in the eye of the beholder. Biden supporters will breathe a big sigh of relief that he got through the debate without a major gaffe. As I said, he had a low bar, and he cleared it. Moreover, the mainstream media and twitter crowd will likely declare him the victor.
Trump supporters will point to the various instances where Biden either could not answer a question or gave a disingenuous answer. Also, some of Biden’s answers may have alienated his base, especially the ones on Antifa, the Green New Deal and the Supreme Court.
I suspect that undecided voters, and, yes, there still are a few, probably did not see enough to sway them either way. There were no knockout blows. Now, it’s time for the “spin doctors” to do their thing. It’s always humorous to see them tell us what the candidates “really” meant. It will be interesting to see how, or if, the debate results translate to the polls. They don’t always. The post-debate polls should be out soon, maybe even today.
In summary, I think the debate , though entertaining, did not accomplish what debates are supposed to do – namely, give viewers a definitive sense of the candidates views on the issues and help them decide for whom to vote.
I hope the other debates, if there are any, will resolve matters further.