It’s not clear if Tuesday night’s spectacle was actually a debate or simply a shouting match. Moderator Chris Wallace struggled to control the evening, although his abrupt pivots between topics and seemingly loaded questions made the night even more difficult. Quite frankly, many viewers probably tuned out before the event finished.
What’s more clear, however, is that it’s unlikely Trump gained any new support as a result of his performance. You might even say Trump lost the debate, if you insist on framing it in a win-loss manner. Betting markets certainly thought so, where the odds of a Biden victory rose to 60.1% from 54.5% after the debate based upon RealClearPolitics’ average of betting lines.
So what happened? Shouting aside, were there any important takeaways? Let’s break down what we gleaned from the evening. We’ll take a look at personality, policy, and examine the impact on election odds as we inch ever close to November 3.
Trump’s Temperament Likely a Big Negative
It seems that Trump anticipated coming into this debate and overwhelming a purportedly senile Biden. However, Biden was mostly able to remain cool and collected amidst Trump’s frequent verbal assaults, having obviously prepared for the type of match he might be in for. This appeared to throw Trump off, who subsequently became caught up in launching character attacks, shouting over Biden and Wallace, and acting somewhat belligerent.
This is important, because many undecided voters have likely been hesitant to support Trump due to his personality. Trump’s over-the-top behavior for most of the debate likely didn’t do him any favors in winning over voters who are concerned about his presidential character. Moreover, any who doubted the mental capability of Biden were likely reassured to see him well-prepared, cogent, and poised. However overly rehearsed Biden may have seemed, he clearly had the ability to prepare for the debate and execute on his plan throughout a nearly two hour grudge match.
On Personality: Biden wins, and potentially gains support from undecided voters.
Trump Failed to Capitalize on Policy Points
Unfortunately, Trump was so caught up in his attacks that he failed to manage any victories in pressing Biden on policy points. Indeed, the only really focused answer on virtually any topic came when Trump was asked to denounce white supremacists – the stage and crowd waiting with bated breath – and Trump failed to do even this.
Meanwhile, Biden was allowed to escape giving any definitive answer on whether or not he intends to pack the Supreme Court, end the filibuster, support the Green New Deal, denounce ANTIFA and the violent protests, support law enforcement, and more. These issued were raised, but Trump often got sidetrack arguing about Hunter Biden or something else before Biden was forced to conclusively respond. Indeed, Trump’s constant interruption likely saved Biden from gaffes as Trump rarely left Biden alone for long with his own thoughts.
Biden’s refusal to take a position on packing the Supreme Court could have massive ramifications. If Democrats gain full control in the election and Biden gives in to the far-left’s demands, we could see a complete reshaping of our judiciary that caters overwhelmingly to liberal ideology. This seems like an important issue that voters should be aware of, and Biden has been allowed to escape answering this question.
Further, Biden claimed during the debate that he “does not support” the Green New Deal, but his own website claims that “Biden believes the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face.” This has massive implications for traditional energy producers, who could face highly uncertain futures in a large-scale push to alternative energy. What is Biden’s actual position? It remains unclear.
Moreover, Biden’s platform supports higher taxes for some individuals, raising the corporate tax rate, and strengthening the power of unions – all things that could undermine the future economic growth of the US. However, none of this was meaningfully discussed at the debate. Biden’s path toward socialism and a potentially growth-starved US got virtually no airtime.
On Policy: It’s a draw. Biden doesn’t deter any undecided voters with lack of policy talk, Trump doesn’t gain.
What some thought would be a blowout win for Trump against a decrepit Biden clearly did not come to pass. Going forward, it seems unlikely that Trump could meaningfully recover from this performance in future debates, assuming people even tune in. Viewing aside, many people are already beginning to cast their mail-in ballots, so future debates may have incrementally less impact anyways. It seems prudent to consider a slightly higher chance that Biden wins the election in November.
However, it is still likely to be a close race. Indeed, the polling average in swing states shows a smaller marginal lead for Biden over Trump now than they did for Clinton over Trump in 2016. In 2016, Clinton was ahead by 3.8 points on average in the top battleground states with about a month until the election. At present, Biden holds a slightly lesser 3.5 point lead in the same battlegrounds.
How do you think the debate went? Did anything done in the debate move you toward one candidate or the other? Let me know in the comments below.