Politics

The First Presidential Debate was a Complete Mess

America and the World Embarrassed of the Trainwreck that was the First Debate

By: Sammy Quarrato

Viewership stayed relatively consistent throughout the entire debate. Credit: axios.com

Before we get into the substance of the debate itself, it was an absolute disaster for all people on different sides of the aisle.

The most split snap poll came from CBS/YouGov which asked debate watchers whether Biden or Trump won the debate: 49% for Biden, 41% for Trump and 10% stated it was a tie.

In the same poll, 69% of debate watchers were annoyed while 83% of watchers stated the debate was generally ‘negative’ in tone.

A CNN snap poll had Biden at 62% and Trump at 27%, more than double for Biden, a big reason being that expectations were lower for Biden to perform well due to his mostly poor primary debate performances and gaffes.

Trump has the reputation of being dominant, quick to respond, funny, and dare I say charming at times. He was even correct with some of his rhetoric in 2016.

The CNN Snap Poll also showed that about 57% of people who watched the debate said their choice wasn’t changed much by it, 32% stated that they were more likely to vote for Biden while only 11% said the same for Trump.

Biden didn’t necessarily win the debate, it was more that Trump lost the debate and blew himself up by coming into the debate way too hot.

According to The Washington Post, “A review of the debate shows the candidates interrupted either Wallace’s questions or their opponent’s time more than 90 times in the 90-minute debate — literally an interruption a minute. But Trump was responsible for more than three-fourths of them: 71, compared with Biden’s 22.”

Being an aggressive debater is not a negative by any means; it’s what got Trump to go up in polls and gain recognition as a candidate. If anything, Biden should have been more aggressive on the issues that Trump had no leg to stand on such as COVID and his tax returns.

The issue is that the lines of attack he did in this debate and overall election cycle compared to his in 2016 were far weaker and didn’t land as strongly.

He criticized Hillary Clinton for being for NAFTA and TPP which exported jobs, especially from the midwest. She voted for the Iraq War which was based on lies and she was extremely corrupt, taking 250k from Goldman Sachs for a private speech. These were all valid criticisms, even though when he became president, he would be just as corrupt as Hillary Clinton, if not more.

This time, he would go accuse Biden of being a ‘Marxist-Socialist,’ controlled by the ‘Radical Left,’ and ‘Soft on Crime.’ These attacks have been used on Democrats for decades.

They don’t work because the only people who tend to believe these smears are hardcore conservatives, the base of the base if you will.

This is especially relevant for Biden because he has a record of being one of the most  bipartisan (I use this negatively) senators in the country, working with Republicans on a regular basis.

One of the bills he wrote was the 1994 Crime Bill which largely contributed to mass incarceration in the United States, making us have the largest prison population out of any other country and contributed to the War on Drugs.

Trump attacking Biden on that front would have been a very effective move, but he failed to bring up the First Step Act which helped free some of the inmates who had nonviolent drug offenses and immediately contradicted his point by stating that Biden is controlled by Antifa.

Essentially, he attacked Biden on being too strong on crime right after he stated he was too weak on crime. You can’t be both, you have to pick one of the lines of attack.

The subject of ‘Law and Order’ favors Biden’s direction anyways. Polls have consistently shown that Americans favor Biden on the subject of crime than Trump, usually by about 8%-15% on average.

A particular debate moment highlights this when Chris Wallace asked if President Trump would condemn white supremacists and groups such as Proud Boys and he essentially failed to do it on the debate stage by exclaiming “Stand back and Stand by” and that ‘Somebody has to do something about Antifa.’

Even Fox News partisans such as Brian Kilmeade from Fox and Friends stated that, “Donald Trump ruined the biggest layup in the history of debates by not condemning white supremacists.”

He would soon state that he ‘strongly condemns’ white supremacists a couple of days after the debate, but the damage was done. The Proud Boys made a shirt with the lines that Trump stated in the debate.

Biden was also correct on the debate stage when he stated that Antifa was an ideology, not an organization. It’s anarchistic, there’s no structure, no leader, no membership card, no requirements, no website, and the Proud Boys have all of that with a hierarchy.

COVID was also a winning argument for Biden, with 200k dead and an economic recession that won’t end until the pandemic is taken care of. 

Trump lied about it and he knew he did due to him being on the record on the Woodward tapes stating that he always wanted to downplay it.

Trump brought up H1N1 which was a shot in the foot since only 14,000 people died from H1N1. It was deadlier and an economic recession didn’t occur due to it as Biden rightfully pointed out.

An extremely ironic part of the debate was when Trump mocked Biden for wearing a mask and socially distancing, all of this occurring while he most likely had COVID on the debate stage, coming late to the debate and going by the honor system to get in.

Only some nights later, he was diagnosed with COVID.

In the 2016 election results, Trump performed better than expected when it came to the demographic of white women with college degrees and only lost by 7 points. He also performed well in the suburbs and won by about 5 points. 

He won the white women and white women without college degrees demographics by 10 points and 27 points, respectively.

They have been shifting away from him since then, as 2018 had these demographics of women heavily shifting to Democrats which got them to win the House. Now Biden is polling 66% to 33% on women against Trump according to a CNN poll from 10/01-10/04.

Trump’s performance put emphasis on this demographic of women where he went after Hunter Biden’s cocaine addiction while the suburbs have been struggling with the opioid epidemic, his failure to respond to COVID properly, his dog whistling of ‘low-income housing coming to the Suburbs, I’m for Law and Order,’ and overly aggressive style of debate.

Trump did keep making Biden punch to his left, saying he wasn’t for Medicare for All which polls consistently between 60%-70% and going against a Green New Deal which also polls in the high 50s to mid 60s.

He also kept bashing Bernie, not defending him or thanking him, which if it weren’t for COVID and the economic crash, would be a losing strategy if he didn’t have such a lockdown on the election.

Trump also stated that mail-in ballots and absentee ballots would cause a massive amount of fraud, according to The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank which has been following mail-in ballots since 1976, out of 2 billion ballots, the fraud rate was about 0.0000007%.

He is also the president which indicates he could do something about it, which Wallace pushed him on, but didn’t really give a solid response to the question.

Republicans used to have an advantage with mail-in ballots, especially in states such as Florida, but now it’s almost entirely Democrats who will be using mail-in Ballots, which is a lockdown vote and cannot be changed.

The issue of climate change was also brought up where Trump would downplay the effects of climate change on the environment, specifically about the situation in the west coast.

Biden’s plan would be much better for the environment, wanting to rejoin the Paris Climate Accords and invest more into renewable energy for jobs, aiming to achieve carbon-free electricity by 2035 and retrofit 4 million buildings.

Though he stated that he wouldn’t ban fracking where it actually performs better than expected in the state such as Pennsylvania, although 52% are opposed to fracking according to a YouGov poll from this year.

Amy Coney Barrett’s potential Supreme Court confirmation was also brought up in the debate where it was rightfully stated by Biden that she has said on record that she would end the ACA which would have Americans lose protections from pre-existing conditions and their health insurance, all this being said during a pandemic while Trump is failing to deliver another stimulus check.

She is also infamous for her desire to remove Roe v. Wade and choice to side with GrubHub when workers for the company wanted to get overtime pay but stated that they were private contractors, not employees which means they didn’t have the same protections as regular workers would.

The debate was overall a win for Biden due to him leaving it without any serious damage to his campaign and was already winning in the polls before going in and is now leading in the national average on RCP by almost 10 points, more than double Hillary’s lead on Trump four years ago.

With the election closing in and time ticking, Trump needed a decisive debate win. That just simply wasn’t the case.

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