Donald Trump Owned the Debate Stage — and Joe Biden Along With It — in the Third Presidential Debate

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

 

I’ll get into the substance of some of the exchanges in articles later tonight and tomorrow after I have a chance to read the transcript.

But in terms of style points and tactics, Donald Trump laid waste to Joe Biden — and the Presidential Commission on Debates — in the Third Presidential Debate.

I’ve been a federal court trial lawyer for 30 years with a pretty good record of success.  I’m not a “plodder” in the courtroom — for me the well of the courtroom is a stage and if you want to win you have to own it.

President Trump owned it tonight.  He “bossed” the debate.

Donald Trump learned from his mistakes in the first debate.  He took on the rules changes imposed by the Presidential Commission and said “Fine, let’s do this.”

I listened to the first 45 minutes while driving, and that gave me only their words to gauge — whether they answered questions, whether they evaded questions, whether their answers were substantive or fluff.

I listened for whether they responded to each other, and when an exchange ended, who got the better of the finish — who made their point and who had to give ground?

This one wasn’t even close.

If there had been a referee, this was a TKO in the 3rd round.

From the very start — WITHOUT BEING RUDE — Trump demanded that the exchanges end on his terms.  Over and over he demanded — politely — that Kristen Welker allow him to respond.  Sometimes 30 seconds, sometimes 10 seconds.  Some of his responses were better than others — some were exceptional.  And I can’t think of a SINGLE instance where Biden demanded the opportunity to come back in himself with something else to say.

By force of personality Trump demanded the final word time after time, Welker was forced to give it to him lest it look like the debate was about her rather than about voters being able to hear from the candidates.

Some of Pres. Trump’s lines are “stock” and worn, but he has a veteran debater’s ability to turn a phrase spontaneously that captures the moment.

I saw the last 30 minutes on television and two stood out — my reaction each time was “Nice — the thought and the verbalization”.

Paraphrasing:  “I ran because of you Joe.  You and Barack did such a horrible job I had to run. I could have stayed in private life, I had a great life.  But you’re the reason I ran. You two were so terrible, you’re the reason I ran.”

The second instance was in the discussion about Pres. Trump having accomplished criminal justice reform, and Joe Biden talking about his plan to go further with comprehensive drug treatment.

Pres. Trump asked the question — which he asked effectively in a few contexts throughout the debate — “You had eight years Joe. If you wanted to do it, if you could have done it, you had eight years and you didn’t get it done.”

Lamely, and without seeing how it was going to be turned around as a bullet right in his forehead, Biden said “We had to deal with a Republican Congress.”

In one of the best moments of the night Pres. Trump slipped the knife right between the ribs.  Paraphrasing again — “You have to convince them, Joe.  That’s what you have to do. You have to talk them into it.  That’s how things get done.”

In both instances, Joe Biden just pulled the blanket over his head and wondered when it was going to end.

All night long it was the same way. Pres. Trump was “Alpha” without going manic as he did in the first debate.  He verbally “stalked” Biden across the stage. Biden looked like he wanted to be anywhere but where he was.

When Joe Biden gets nervous his gaze becomes fixed.  For long periods of time he stared directly into the camera.  When he does that the features of his face narrow.  You have to move your head around and shift your focus to avoid taking on the look of having a “beady little stare.”  BIden had that look nearly the entire 30 minutes that I was able to watch on television.

In tactical terms familiar to MMA fans, Pres. Trump put together an impressive “ground and pound” effort.  He took Biden down, kept him down, and pounded him consistently over 90 minutes.

From an election standpoint, the timing was perfect.  He’s rebounded in the polls in the past few days — not that they are any more accurate now than they were before.  But the contest tonight showed that one of the participants is capable of being President, and the other is not.