Well, well, well. If it wasn’t a decent conversation on a national debate stage. How crazy was that, huh? Seriously, I thought last night was a fairly good conversation over the span of 96 minutes that really illustrated the dichotomy between Donald Trump and Joe Biden that leads us to the final ~2 week stretch of the election. It was entertaining and actually substantive. I think both candidates had effective moments, yet there were many where it was classic comments from each that maybe raised an eyebrow or 2.
Before I fully get into it, I want to give credit where it’s due. Kristen Welker I thought was really good last night. Compared to Chris Wallace, she was incredible. She largely stayed out of the conversation when she needed to and let the candidates argue/debate amongst themselves. But, she also asked fair, pointed questions at each candidate throughout the night. Some topics themselves could’ve been better, in my opinion. I would’ve liked a foreign policy conversation. Also, when looking at the final statistics she asked more follow ups and fact checks to Trump than Biden. But overall, she did a very good job and it wasn’t like it was almost a partisan 1v2 match that it was 3 weeks ago.
A pretty funny, humanizing moment for Trump was when he basically caught himself begging her to ask Biden about fracking but then actually complimented her performance as well. I think pretty much everyone who was watching felt the same way.
And sure, Trump was much more controlled this time and the mute button may have helped to a slight extent, but the simple fact that neither side can say she shied away from fairly tough questions to both candidates shows just how easy it is to really just do your job as a journalist. I think a lot of people from the Trump side don’t mind that “journalists” question and berate Trump with such emotion except for the fact that they refuse to do it for candidates on the other side. Kristen Welker was as fair as almost anyone we’ve seen handle the Presidential race in her 90+ minutes of moderating last night.
Again, part of this was Trump’s wild change in demeanor this time around. He clearly took the advice of basically everyone and did not interrupt Biden nearly as much as the first debate. This was effective for Trump because the shots that he landed were sharp and when he pressed Biden on specific issues it was justified. Biden seemed like he was on defense all night and instead of attacking Trump, he decided to try and connect directly with the American people. It’s an interesting strategy and we’ll soon see if it turns people to get out and vote.
The debate started talking about the pandemic and the economy which was a very good back and forth. Biden didn’t rule out locking down the country and championed masks. Trump talked about how we need to get open and we are “turning the corner”. They are 2 vastly different views and the opinions are so stark. Trump has a positive response in saying we can beat it while getting to work, and Biden has a darker view of our current state and wants to peddle fear in order to gain control of what’s going on. They fought about the responses and Biden tried to play to the idea of “I don’t care about blue vs. red states”. I think that would be an effective strategy if he didn’t then single out red states for having increasing cases in his next breath. He also bragged about New York’s response when that is just such an obvious twist by the media and Andrew Cuomo.
Biden’s only real strategy is using the pandemic as a way to fear-monger his way into the White House. And it definitely could work.
I really think there’s no other way to position these candidates other than that in terms of the pandemic. Trump wants to get back to normal and Biden wants to mold a new normal. Trump wants to follow the data and statistics. Biden wants to follow the scientists. That’s where it lies and that’s probably what will ultimately decide the race. I’m not sure how the American people fully feel regarding this notion but it should become apparent on November 3.
Biden strongly attacked Trump on his COVID response because that’s where he is most vulnerable. But, he didn’t really attack him in a way that stuck. Everyone has heard these blows already and Biden blamed 200,000+ deaths all right on Trump’s shoulders. Sure, Trump could have taken measures initially to help prevent an outbreak but it’s a global pandemic. Acting like no one will fall victim to this virus is just nonsense. Like everyone has said, 1 death is too many. But, we can’t just say irrational statements. Life contains risks. Trying to pull on the heart strings of people may show you’re empathetic, but that’s where Trump’s rebuttals about rebuilding the economy help his case. There’s a more to it than the whole problem being black and white. It’s not politician speak, it’s speaking like what he believes is a leader. Trump can still point out that Biden opposed the travel ban. Biden did get specific with referencing to testing and such, but again, Trump is already doing all this stuff so the only real difference would be Biden’s tone.
And Trump called out Biden for these political talking points and was reminiscent of Chris Christie going after Marco Rubio back in the 2016 primaries. Trump is not a politician, that’s for sure. He clamored at Biden for doing “nothing in 47 years” over and over again. It was effective.
These differences in ideology will be put up to the test on the day of the election. It will also decide the direction of this country for potentially decades to come.
Changing the subject, I audibly gasped when Biden was the first person to bring up the scandal regarding his son Hunter and Rudy Giuliani’s uncovering of his laptop. I wrote yesterday that I wasn’t even sure if the moderator was going to bring it up but it was actually Biden who did that for both her and Trump. I couldn’t believe it. The man was hiding from taking questions about it for nearly a whole week during the final stretch of the campaign. He did deny that he ever took money from a foreign company/country. But he never said that the laptop was fake. During that whole exchange I was wondering if he would say all that under oath.
He also said it was Russian disinformation and that Hunter never made money in China which is a lie. Trump didn’t hand a knockout blow to this story, but he did raise awareness to it which could be all he needed. He was getting no help from the mainstream media in that respect.
When talking about healthcare, Biden seems to have the upper-hand because Trump’s inability to put out some type of plan that he would implement. I find this issue similar to how Trump tackled the economy back in 2016. Health care is different than the economy as a whole but back in ’16 Trump basically said he would repeal NAFTA and renegotiate a trade deal. Now, he’s saying he wants to repeal Obamacare and put in a new plan. The only difference is people trust Trump on the economy a lot more than healthcare. Nothing is too concrete, but his energy and confidence is what he hopes people latch onto. He’s betting on his own charisma. And, we don’t even know how the case will be ruled by the supreme court so we can’t put the horse in front of the wagon. But, if Trump is fighting to reverse the law, he should probably present a plan before it gets overturned.
It’s crazy to me that Trump didn’t mention NAFTA or TPP at all during either debate. Big miss for him and I wonder why he didn’t talk about not only Biden’s potentially compromised relationship with China, but even so his failed policies that led to economic destruction.
Then, there was a short conversation about immigration as well. This is really the first time in the whole election cycle the issue has been brought up. Biden said he would pave a path for 11million illegal aliens to gain US citizenship. He also attacked Trump on a report that over 500 children have been left without parents from being separated at the border. It’s impossible not to feel terrible for these children.
This was pivoted by Trump to talk about the cages that were built under the Obama administration and where Trump had one of his best lines of the night. He pestered Biden by asking, “who built the cages, Joe?”. I don’t remember Biden actually answering that question.
But still, I hope these kids somehow find their parents. It’s also a story that definitely helps Biden’s case.
What also came about this was Trump apparently teaching a lot of “intellectuals” about the word Coyote which is a border smuggler. They are professional human traffickers. They are criminals and are responsible for a lot of the children that are brought over the border illegally. David Hogg, a Harvard student, didn’t know this and apparently has sympathy for these thugs.
Because Donald Trump is so bad that we should root for some of the worst people of all humanity instead. Got it.
I can realize that Trump has said and done some bad things while still recognizing there are others who are a lot worse. Denouncing human trafficking shouldn’t be seen as xenophobic or a partisan issue.
Finally, Trump’s strongest punch of the night was getting Joe to finally put a firm position out on where he stands with fossil fuels and fracking. Dan Bongino said after the first debate how this election is a base election. In the first debate Trump did a good job riling up his base and looked to fracture Biden’s. He did this by going after his far left policies like the Green New Deal. Biden 3 weeks ago largely distanced himself from it and tried to stay relatively moderate. However, last night Trump was able to get a full crack by getting Joe to admit he wants to transition away from fracking and the oil industry.
Biden and Harris have bragged about their bipartisan coalition they’ve created but I’m not sure these statements help keep that fully secured. I just don’t see it. Millions of jobs depend on this industry and I’m not sure if people will put trust in Joe Biden and the government to replace their livelihoods with “green jobs”. If progressives don’t think Joe is far left enough, and moderates think he’s gone too left, then it will be tough to beat a pretty strong based republican party. But, we’ll see if they turn out for Joe anyways out of all their mutual hate for the President.
Joe saying he never said that he’d ban fracking then urging Trump to roll the tape showed that he is kinda just lost out there. I’m not sure why he would invite that type of blow. Telling viewers to go to your opponents website is probably not the smartest winning strategy. He tee’d him up.
I think that’s pretty much it in terms of the debate. I thought it was actually interesting to see the self control by Trump because as the show went on you could start to notice he was getting riled up. Ultimately he contained himself for the most part. It’s funny because Joe was so obviously the opposite. As Trump seemed to be getting stronger Joe was clearly running out of steam. This was evident by him looking at his watch with about 10 minutes to go. You could tell he wanted to get off that stage.
I think the biggest realization to come out of last night, especially after a more civil conversation, was how cheated we all were out of a second debate. Such a disservice to the people to cancel last week like that. The debate commission should face a complete overhaul for many reasons with that being amongst the top.
Also, I wish that the last question posed to the candidates was more similar to the one asked in 2016, even though I know what Welker was going for in her approach to an inauguration speech. Maybe it could’ve been phrased better but I didn’t feel like either candidate fully understood that it was a chance for them to actually pursue unity for our country.
Now until November 3rd there will be much more news to come. From the laptop, to Trump’s rallies, to more peace deals in the middle east. This election will come down to low propensity voters who need to be convinced to actually get out and vote. It’s on the candidates and their teams to make that final push. There are a lot of questions that will be answered in just 11 days and it will be fun to see how it all plays out.
Freedom will prevail, but it’s up to us to pave that path.