President Trump has had an issue with career professionals since he took office.
This debate went like how I expected the first debate to go: Biden better on the merits but both guys playing to their preferred ways of speaking to the public, their core audiences. Trump wasn’t out of control like he was in the first debate. I thought he might be just as feral; but he wasn’t. I got that wrong.
But that’s a crazy standard. In the first debate Trump showed his absolutely worst self, someone who simply has no business being President. It pushed him from clearly losing to landslide defeat territory. Trump held it together for the first twenty minutes before sliding into conspiracy theories and nonsense. But he never got near the fusillade of petulance and predation we saw three weeks ago. He was better here. But so was Biden.
Biden was sharper in this debate than three weeks ago. I’m not sure whether that’s because he was barely allowed to speak and constantly interrupted last time. But he was better.
9:31 PM: Still claiming he’s under audit.
9:25 PM: For the first fifteen minutes Trump did a pretty good job being relatively normal and non-feral. But then after about 15 minutes in the feral-o-meter started to tick up minute by minute.
9:24 PM: Trump on Fauci: “I think he’s a Democrat but that’s okay.”
8:58 PM: I realize that I look forward to this debate with a sense of dread. That’s not because I think it will go badly necessarily – badly in the sense of making a bad election result more likely. But I recognize that is one more big opportunity for this predatory degenerate to inflict more harm on the country.
Kicking an issue to a fancy commission is a notorious method for taking it off the table and putting it out of play with little political cost. That can be handy! But if you want the issue in play, Joe Biden’s plan for a blue ribbon commission on reforming the federal courts is a bad sign of where he’s headed.
Tonight, the candidates will make their closing arguments. But it will likely be a far-cry from the professional demeanor of attorneys making their final cases in the court room.
Ever since the debacle of the first presidential debate we’ve been hearing that President Trump has to be nicer in the next face off and let Joe Biden (or even just the moderator) talk. Numerous articles in recent days purport to quote top Trump advisors saying this, demanding this. I have no doubt they’re saying this and may even believe it. But it seems basically a certainty that in tonight’s final debate – likely the last chance to change the dynamic of the race – President Trump will be every bit as aggressive, feral and rage-soaked as he was three weeks ago.
Indeed, we should expect it to be worse.
Two points on the latest polls. The first is that President Trump does appear to have regained a small measure of support in recent days – very small and it still leaves him in landslide loss territory but it seems to show up as some real movement. At the same time, I keep seeing polls in which the “likely voter” screen shows a slightly better result than the “registered voter” screen. Most of you know that that inverts the rule of thumb in which Republicans – who tend to be older, wealthier, more fixed in communities – do better on likely voter screens. This suggests a non-trivial turnout advantage.
Yesterday, President Trump tweeted a disingenuous rallying cry to residents of states like New York, California and Illinois — messaging that won’t do much for him in the relatively blue states that are home to some of country’s largest deep blue cities.
We are rightly focusing on President Trump last night telling rally goers he’d never be in their dump of a town if the election weren’t going so badly for him. But let’s not miss the more important and lasting part of this message. President Trump is already previewing one explanation and justification for his defeat: COVID. He was cruising toward reelection, he claims, when COVID struck. For him, there’s the added feature that it was the handiwork of his purported arch-enemy China.