I hope that this speaks for folks in both parties: That “debate” was a national disgrace. Donald Trump’s constant interruptions were as cringeworthy as they were infuriating to watch. And please, do not get me started on Chris Wallace. The Fox News moderator showed us nothing to suggest that he had any control over the stage, allowing the president to continuously slam Biden with no repercussions. If last night proves anything, it is that the moderator needs the power to mute candidate microphones.
But as all of the dust settled, it became clear that Biden had a simple path to victory. Save for a few (understandable) moments of frustration, Biden’s calm demeanor and strong eye contact translated well to the screen. It was by no means a perfect debate for the former vice president, but he certainly got the job done and seems poised to extend his lead in the polls.
How did he do it? Just like last week, let’s go through Wallace’s topics and give credit where credit is due.
The Supreme Court: This opening segment was Trump’s only high point of the night, probably because he remained composed and mostly abstained from interruptions. His case for confirming Amy Coney Barrett was stronger than Biden’s case against it, and Trump’s mention of Barrett’s “liberal” endorsers from Notre Dame and elsewhere in academia only strengthened his case. Score: 1-0 Trump
COVID-19: This is where it all fell apart for the president. Biden ripped Trump’s coronavirus response (or lack thereof) apart. Even with mounting evidence that he knew of COVID’s severity in February, the president seems unwilling to admit his negligence. Trump probably sees doing so as a sign of weakness; whether this is reflective of his business past or motivated by ego, I do not know. However, he must understand the public’s sense of panicked urgency to get through this crisis. I figured that Biden had this topic in the bag, and his statements about failing small businesses and the human cost of COVID deaths were more than enough to deliver. Score: 1-1[Text Wrapping Break]
The Economy & The Trump and Biden Records: I will be tying both of these categories together, as the candidates’ records directly relate to their economic stances and achievements. Your evaluation of this category’s winner entirely depends on your view of recovery after the Great Recession. As Chris Wallace pointed out, the Obama Administration created more jobs from 2014-16 than did the Trump Administration from 2017-19. But the unemployment rate evaporated under Trump, while the markets took off. I would ordinarily feel inclined to favor the GOP here, but Biden made his case for helping small businesses and putting children back to school better than Trump. This combined category is worth two points, so I’ll give Biden 1 ½ of them. Score: 2.5-1.5 Biden
Race and Violence in our Cities: Ouch. As if Trump was not already in trouble at this point, his reluctance to condemn white supremacy gave his party a bad name. More disappointing is the fact that Trump has condemned the ideology several times in private interviews, but he could not bring himself to do it immediately in front of a national audience. The president’s “law and order” attack on Biden fell flat when Biden calmly came out against violent protests and defunding the police. Score: 3.5-1.5 Biden[Text Wrapping Break]
The Integrity of the Election: Trump’s concern about voter fraud is considered exaggerated by some, so he needed to make his argument here seem more about electoral integrity and less about voter suppression. While I do not believe that Trump’s argument centered around suppressing mail-in voters, Biden’s plea to the electorate to vote however possible certainly made it seem that way. Trump’s response did not help his cause, as he opted to claim that his votes are the ones being suppressed. Still, it seems neither man has a plan to handle the inevitable post-election chaos. Biden gets three-quarters of a point here. Final Score: 4.25-1.75 Biden
What’s next? A key vice presidential debate on Wednesday, Oct. 7. Can Mike Pence make up some ground? Or will Kamala Harris widen the gap and seal her ticket’s victory?
Have a great week, and happy Spooky Season!