No matter what your political outlook is, last night’s presidential debate was hardly an inspiring affair. A weak moderator, a boisterous President and an ex-Vice President struggling to keep up with the onslaught from his right.
Naturally, I thought the debate was going to be an unmitigated disaster for the Biden campaign. His mental health clearly in decline, it would take a miraculous effort to even keep up with Trump, never mind a Trump on his devastating A-game.
But we didn’t see that. What we did see was a strategic own-goal from the Trump campaign, in my opinion. It was very clear from the opening exchanges that Biden was ripe for the taking – he appeared to be slow and deliberate in his responses from the get-go. The best tactic would be for President Trump to wait for Biden to slip up, then pounce ferociously.
What we saw, however, was a belligerent Trump, who wouldn’t hardly let Biden finish a sentence. I have no doubt Biden would’ve slipped up catastrophically eventually, but he wasn’t given enough time to do this, therefore there was very little for Trump to exploit.
On the other hand, every great point that Trump made was nullified; what he said could have been devastating with the right delivery, but shouting and yelling over Biden at every opportunity made the attacks less effective, and repeating them 10 or 15 times each lessened the effect even more. I hope in the next debate Trump is coached to be more patient and wait for the window of opportunity to present itself, because with Joe Biden, it will always come.
On the other hand, the Biden campaign will probably be somewhat pleased with the result of the debate. Expectations could not be lower, and if Biden made himself look like he was in any way ‘compos mentis’, he would surpass this low bar. What we saw was a candidate that was slow, flustered at times, but on the whole could string together a few sentences with little trouble. He came across as aged, possibly tired, but not incompetent.
The one thing Biden was unable to do, and I would question if he would ever be able to do, was deliver the killer knock-out blow. This means that at best, his proverbial “ceiling” is to not come across as a punching bag. That’s not to say he didn’t deliver some great points, I found his “It’s who you are” riposte to be a stand-out moment. However, his vulnerabilities were on display for all to see. Beyond calling Trump a “clown” or a “racist”, he offered only token resistance to the Trump tornado.
Can we therefore say there was a winner of this debate? I cannot honestly say that, in my evaluation, either of the candidates won. But what I can conclude, is that there was perhaps a loser, and a candidate who didn’t lose as badly.
Trump missed an open goal, and will need to work on his strategy to end the lacklustre Biden campaign. If he can learn some patience, and not feel the need to defend himself and his inflated ego at every possible opportunity, he may yet emerge victorious.