The Presidential Debate Results: Joe Biden Falls in the Orchestra Pit

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Well, predictions are predictions, but sometimes reality overwhelms them.  And sometimes you get some predictions right, and others wrong.  As I did.

Here is what I got right.  As I predicted in my earlier column, “I think Biden is the key” to the debate results.  I also said “(t)he yuge danger for Biden is if he does exhibit a major sign of dementia, or enough minor signs to be embarrassing.  As Roger Ailes, a campaign expert if ever there was one, once theorized, in his 'Orchestra Pit Theory,' (o)n a debate stage, the candidate who 'falls in the orchestra pit' will get more coverage than a candidate who talks about foreign policy.”  

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Finally, I said, “There is simply no way to guarantee that Biden will not fall in the orchestra pit.  It may not be likely to happen, but it could happen.”  

So, I definitely got those right.  But not so much the other ones.

Certainly, the Thursday 2024 Presidential debate will not be largely inconsequential, as I thought, like most Presidential debates have been.  Because Joe Biden “fell in the orchestra pit”, his hopes for the debate actually helping him have totally evaporated, and his obvious senility has been dramatically exposed to all observers, even Democrat partisans.

(And the latter are not taking it well.)  

The question we are all now waiting on is how the polling will be affected by Biden’s abysmal performance.  Ignore the instant polls; it will take a few weeks to ascertain the real result of this debate disaster (for Joe Biden).  Most observers reasonably expect that Biden will be hurt in the national and battleground polling.  He currently is behind Trump by 1.8 percent in the RealClearPolitics average, and behind Trump by 3.2 percent in the battleground state polls (these are worse results than he was down pre-Trump New York convictions).

And remember, to win an electoral college majority by winning most of the battleground states, Biden must be up in the national popular results by at least 3 points.

I certainly believe this debate will hurt Biden in these coming polls, although I have no idea by how much.  (I am being brave here, and making another prediction.)  I can’t stand Joe Biden, yet after five minutes of watching the debate, I was embarrassed for him, and for our country.  It was painful.  It is simply not credible to assert that Joe Biden is currently running the country, or even contributing significantly to the running of it.  Everyone now understands this.  It is also not credible to assert he can do either for another four-year term (although some people will never want to vocalize these facts).

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However, a lot depends on the state of the current political environment.  

I am a strong believer in the political alignment theory of American politics, and since the 1990’s, the last realigning elections, the Democrats have had a narrow edge in the popular vote, with about 48 percent, to 45 percent for the Republicans, with the remainder being swing voters.  Republicans have been stuck between 45 percent – for John McCain – and 51 percent – for George W. Bush.  Under the 90s alignment, the two parties have been dramatically polarized, and the dramatic swings that occurred during the prior elections (which can be seen in the swings from the Presidential elections of 1972 to 1976 to 1980), and the Republican landslide elections of the 70’s and 80’s – under the post-1968 alignment – have all but disappeared.   So, in these times, it may be impossible for Donald Trump to explode into the stratosphere in the polling, into landslide territory.  

But what is intriguing about the 2020 election is that: 

  1. We are 30 years since the 90’s realigning elections
  2. We are seeing great movement in the political party coalitions, like that which occurred during previous political realignments

Realignments tend to happen every 30 years or so, as enough old voters pass on and are replaced by new, and different, voters, who are not stuck in the old alignments.  Indeed, over the past few elections, suburban voters, blue-collar white voters, black voters, Hispanic voters, Asian voters, and Jewish voters all appear to be moving in the coalitions.  And all except suburban voters seem to be moving in the Republican direction.  If a new alignment favoring Republicans is produced, Joe Biden’s collapse in the 1st Presidential debate of 2024, and the general incompetence of his record, could lead to a big polling lead for Donald Trump.

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Well, we shall see what happens.

So, let me pivot to two pieces of advice for Donald Trump, considering what I think is happening.  

First, if I were him, I would choose Senator Marco Rubio for Vice President.  Why?  Well, Hispanics are the most numerous swing voting group in the upcoming election, more than African Americans, and it is possible that having a Spanish speaker as VP will be helpful in appealing to them.  

Also, Rubio is reported to get along with Trump since his campaign battles with him in 2016, Rubio has an extensive and good foreign policy record, Rubio has an extensive record as a public official, Rubio rarely makes mistakes (i.e., he does no harm, the number one criteria of VP selection), Rubio is appealing to suburban voters, Rubio has appeal to (Bush) establishment Republicans, and finally, on the issues, Rubio fits in well with the MAGA coalition.  

No offense to any other potential VP candidate, but of all of them, I strongly believe Marco Rubio most assists Donald Trump in his desire to win the 2024 election (and don’t worry about the Florida residency problem).

Second, if I were Donald Trump, I would cancel the next Presidential debate with Joe Biden.  Trump has the edge over Biden in all the polling, and Biden is still facing huge issues that imperil his prospects.  Now, after the debate debacle, Biden drastically needs something to change the fundamentals of the race.  Another debate could do that, so there is absolutely no reason to give it to him.  Trump has scratched his itch to have a debate; there is no need for another.  

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Here is what Donald Trump should say, at one of his rallies, to announce this dramatic decision.  

“I just can’t justify another debate with senile Joe Biden.  He looks and sounds terrible, and the American people don’t want to see another sad debate.  Plus, it isn’t good for the United States to be parading around the incompetence of the sitting President to the rest of the world.  In fact, it is dangerous, with the tyrants of Russia, China, and Iran all watching this sad spectacle and plotting against us.  And it is a medical fact that a person will never get better from his or her senility, so Biden is not going to get any better in the next debate.  He just may be able to hide it better.  Maybe.  I know it, he knows it, and now all the American people know it.”

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