As the philosophers Pitbull and Ke$ha said back in 2013, it’s going down and I’m yelling timber.
Tonight, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will take the stage to debate in the first of three televised debates between the two presidential candidates. The hour-and-a-half debate with no commercial breaks will be moderated by Fox New’s Chris Wallace, and is sure to feature tough questions and tougher to understand responses.
Both candidates have a lot of convincing to do at this point. The polling suggests moderate voters are breaking with the challenger, a sign that COVID-19 and the economy are taking their toll on Trump’s support. Further complicating things is Trump’s inability to maintain a clear, consistent message. He is all over the place, and while his defenders would say that he’s hitting all the right notes, the voters he needs — that swath of people who are not yet decided — are looking for a reason to stick with him over the seemingly harmless Biden.
The challenger, meanwhile, will attempt to do what he’s been doing for the last week: lay low. If he can deflect and avoid answering tough questions about him while also turning every issue he can on Trump, he will manage to survive the night. Biden’s team has been putting a lid on the campaign frequently over the course of the month, leaving Trump to do most of the work for both sides of the aisle. Democrats are convinced he’s hurting himself and Republicans are convinced Trump is the clear fighter while Biden is weak.
If Biden can deflect and then turn questions on Trump, he will avoid creating news himself, furthering that Democratic strategy here. The problem is that Trump has something Biden lacks: the ability to do well on his feet.
Through a myriad of public appearances, speeches, and media hits, Biden has tripped over himself and his unchecked reactions in several interviews suggest he’s asleep at the wheel when it comes to defending himself. Contrast that with Trump, who is quick to recover and uses that career in showbusiness to turn a phrase and re-train the guns at Biden. Trump is entertaining, and at its heart, America longs to be entertained.
Wallace, meanwhile, has promised no fact-checking during the debate. He will let the candidates speak for themselves and duke it out. That also tends to give Trump the advantage, because he is certainly at home with saying whatever comes to mind without worrying about the facts at hand. Biden’s team will be forced to cram as many points and counterpoints into his head as possible, and as we’ve seen in the months leading up to now, Biden doesn’t do well when there is a gumbo pot full of random assorted counterpoints.
But the ultimate truth of the matter is that there won’t be a traditional winner and loser like we see in primary debates. Both partisan sides will walk away from this debate saying they won, and the spin rooms and network panels will be filled with people who will make that case to the audience.
The audience, however, will be focused entirely on which candidate looks like less of an incapable old fool. Can Biden remain stately yet friendly and appeal to the masses, or will Trump dazzle the audience with his presence?
Who can say for sure? The one thing we know for certain is that whoever wins, the ultimate loser is probably going to be the English language. For God’s sake, we have two candidates who can’t finish a sentence in the same thought they began it with.