It has been two-and-a-half weeks since my last column. Perhaps this is because I did not realize how hungover I was from Donald Trump’s constant interruptions in the first presidential debate. But not to worry—the Commission on Presidential Debates heard my complaints and decided to mute candidate microphones during parts of last week’s debate.
As such, the second Trump-Joe Biden debate was generally free of the interruptions that plagued their first debate. With this in mind, allow me to examine the candidates’ performance on each of the six major topics. Since I have received some questions, a clear win in a category is worth one point, an advantage in a category for one candidate over the other is worth .75, and a tie is worth .5 for both candidates.
COVID-19: Given that Trump’s handling of the virus is generally frowned upon by the American public, this category should have been Biden’s to lose. However, the early muting of microphones actually seemed to help Trump, who somehow came across as the more poised candidate on COVID-19. The president’s penchant for debating with insults hides how well-spoken he actually can be (“the cure cannot be worse than the problem itself”), and this was on full display in comparison to Biden here. When Biden accused Trump of viewing the map of COVID spikes divisively, the former vice president immediately followed it up by blaming red states for the spikes. Call it a victory for Trump, but this is more of a loss for Biden than anything else. Score: 1-0 Trump
National Security: Biden argued the Russian and Iranian influence in our elections from the standpoint of “interfering with our sovereignty,” while Trump attempted to dodge the question by mentioning Biden’s ties to a former Moscow mayor. Given the Russian attempts to interfere in 2016 and their effect on the first two years of Trump’s term, this was not a good look for the president. Trump made it clear that the questions into Hunter Biden’s alleged corruption persist, but Hunter’s father gets the point here. Score: 1-1
American Families & The Economy: The healthcare segment played out more like a blame game, with both Trump and Biden accusing the other of attempting to eliminate protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Moderator Kristen Welker pressed both candidates on the elusive second stimulus bill, but both responses were underwhelming. The only things separating Trump and Biden here were Trump’s mention of thriving 401K’s and his “who built the cages?” immigration question to Biden. For these, I give the president an edge. Score: 1.75-1.25 Trump
Race in America: The candidates took different approaches here, with Biden explaining that he never had to teach his daughter to put her hands on the wheel if stopped by police, while Trump cited his accomplishments in criminal justice reform. What I learned from this segment is that neither candidate ranks anywhere near the top of today’s social justice fight, but Biden acknowledging his mistake in voting for the War on Drugs definitely turned the tables in his favor. Score: 2-2
Climate Change: Trump touted energy independence and said that windmills kill too many birds, while Biden correctly identified global warming as a threat to future generations. The former vice president unveiled a plan to invest in 50,000 charging stations to “take control” of the electric car market. Biden cited a Wall Street Journal study about the job creation of his proposed climate change plan, and I cannot disagree with its potential for success. Still, Trump does deserve some credit for visibly flustering Biden by attacking his inconsistent fracking stances. Score: 2.75-2.25 Biden
Leadership: Biden recovered beautifully from Trump’s fracking attacks at the end of the climate change segment. Trump destroyed his closing statement by responding to the “inaugural address” question by attacking Biden. Then the former vice president casually delivered, vowing to return decency and honor to a country that has lacked it for the past four years. Final Score: 3.75-2.25 Biden
What’s next? Today’s confirmation vote of Amy Coney Barrett… eight days before the most consequential election in a generation. I’ll have my predictions on the latter by the end of this week!