Debate Prep: Joe Biden and the 'Expectations' Conundrum

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

The first presidential debate is fast approaching on Thursday, and the stage setting has already begun. 

There's no question the event will be heavily biased toward Joe Biden because the president would only agree to a clash on his terms, and his terms were to have CNN host it. Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, two unabashedly left-wing talking heads will do the moderating. Further, there will be no audience for Donald Trump to feed off of, and microphones will be cut to stop any actual debate from occurring.

Breaking from past precedent, CNN will have commercial breaks throughout the night, conveniently allowing Biden to rest and gather his thoughts between segments. As debates go, it's about as tailor-made for the current president as possible, and that was by design. 

So how will he do? That's an open question, but there's already fear building on the right that expectations have been lowered so much for Biden that all he has to do is remain upright and he "wins" the debate. Notably, that was a concern in 2020 and one that turned out to be very valid.

Biden arguably won the debate, with Trump now admitting in 2024 that he "overdid it" with his interruptions and energy level. 

The biggest concern, though, remains Biden's mental and physical fitness. Have Republicans gone overboard pointing out his senility over the last few years? Is the bar now set so low that Biden not drooling on himself will mark victory? 

The answer is maybe, but I don't think that's the fault of conservatives overplaying the fact that the president is senile. What were we supposed to do? Not report on it? What would have been gained by the public never even knowing of his current condition? That's the conundrum. If you report on Biden's mental and physical decline, you do lower expectations, but if you don't report on it, then his senility ceases to be a factor anyway. 

The truth is, we don't know what Biden will be like on Thursday. It's very likely he'll be hopped up on something as he was at the State of the Union address, which means he'll come out barking like a chihuahua and crash as things drag on. That very well could be enough to get him through most of the debate without the total mental breakdowns he's become infamous for in public. The drug cocktail team will be working overtime, and they are looking to paint their masterpiece. 

Regardless, Trump has to be prepared for Biden to not collapse of his own accord. A disciplined approach that nails the current president on the issues and doesn't let the narrative shift back to the former president has to be the gameplan. Admittedly, that's a lot easier said than done given the circumstances. 


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