Have Fun? Learn Anything?
I bet a lot of you could not stomach watching another debate. Fear not, the short version of a recap follows. You actually missed a pretty good night. Here is my take. Enjoy.
Tell Me Again, Are These Debates Important?
Much at the margins, but yeah, they still count. In this race, the case can be made that almost 30 million Americans have already voted. The number of people who are really undecided could fit into a single city bus with room to spare. But take a look. Trump’s performance in the first debate cost him votes. It cost him even among some who agreed with him but could not abide by his conduct.
Perhaps you saw the clip from the Iowa Senate race debate last week. The incumbent had no idea what commodity prices were on that day. She fell even further behind in polls the next day and likely will not recover. So yeah, they can matter.
Differences Between the 1st and Last Debates
At least this one started out civilly and pretty well stayed that way. Trump’s opening statement was not as bad as it could have been; the follow up weak. Biden’s opening statement was far better, but still not A grade. His first follow up was excellent – one of the best I have heard him make.
Trump remained pretty calm in his presentation, which surprised me. But he ran off the rails by the fourth exchange. And he managed to imply the Gold Star families infected him!
Who Got Hurt (or Hurt Themselves), Who Scored Points?
Trump hurt himself with reasonable people the longer the COVID discussion ran. Biden generally did quite well on COVID. He was focused and articulate pretty consistently. Trump also tried to make the case that he was the more principled fund raiser. Gotta laugh at that one.
Biden did a pretty good job of talking Trump and Russia, and what he would do as President. Trump really flopped on the whole Russia discussion. Hard to imagine anyone outside devotees will be impressed with Trump’s attempted smear of the Biden family. Biden r clubbed him on this, and on personal taxes.
Health care for Americans was a set up that Trump fell into. Nothing he said hit solid ground. Biden did well with the specifics. He seemed to be getting a bit tired at this point, about an hour into the session. But he got his second wind. Overall, health care and the COVID relief bill was a clean win for Biden. Same for the minimum wage debate. Clear win for Biden.
Immigration led with a discussion of the 570+ kids whose families cannot be found. Trump tried to ignore the question. One of Biden’s strongest performances of the night, one of Trump’s absolute worst. Then, it was time to speak to race.
You knew Trump could not handle this. Trump tried to say Biden’s 1994 legislation defined it all. But wait! Not to leave any stone unturned, he reminded us that he had done more for Blacks than any president except Lincoln. Maybemore than Lincoln! Biden certainly did better, especially articulating what institutional racism means.
Best line of the night: “This guy has a dog whistle the size of a foghorn.” Biden had 3-4 great lines like that tonight.
Climate change. You knew how this one was going to go. Trump spent most of his time blaming other countries for the climate change. He trashed the Paris accord. Trump managed to run off the rails, saying that solar was too weak. W ind was too expensive, and killed all the birds. Biden was especially articulate, with lots of specifics and an organizing framework. Overall, this was one of Biden’s strongest segments.
Last Question: What would you say upon inauguration to those who voted against you? A fine choice for a closing question. If you have a chance, listen to the tape on this last part of the debate. The differences were striking. Biden had a marvelous closing line.
Impact on the Down-Ticket Candidates
My estimate is that anything at the top affects the down tickets. But I expect this debate will not change very much. Both candidates reinforced their base a bit, neither of them shot themselves terminally.
The big surprise of the night was that Trump kept himself under control. Outbreaks were few, interruptions were rare. He still made up stuff at a good clip, but no real temper tantrums. He looked frustrated. At the end, he looked downcast. Biden did better across the board. Trump has had worse nights, but he could not help going to his personal list of whines and attacks.
Kudos to the moderator. Kristen Welker came much closer than anyone to keeping things moving and under control than her predecessors. Best job of the 3 debates (including VP) by a moderator.
The last vote is cast in 12 days.
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