We’re just a day away from the first 2020 presidential debate between Former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump. The debate is taking place in Ohio, a pivotal state for the President to hold in his re-election battle. We’ve already covered topics such as how to watch the debate and when it starts, but here is a preview of what you can expect and what to watch for.
Up to this point, even as late this past weekend, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated plainly that she does not believe Joe Biden should participate in the debates with the President. We also covered other prominent Democrats who say Biden should skip the debates. It doesn’t appear, at this point, barring some late-breaking decision by the Biden campaign, that the first debate will be canceled or that Biden will decide not to participate.
First 2020 Presidential Debate
President Trump and Former Vice President Joe Biden
Date: Tuesday, September 29, 2020
Time: 9 pm ET (8 pm CT, 7 pm MT, 6 pm PT)
How to Watch: ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and more!
Location: Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH
Moderator: Chris Wallace, Fox News Host
More details including start time, live stream, and how to watch…
Both candidates have their strengths and weaknesses, and both candidates have a unique style when it comes to debating. It’s likely that the President has spent much less time in formal debate prep, opting for an off the cuff strategy which is less-rehearsed. Biden, on the other hand, has reportedly spent days prepping and rehearsing his strategy for his first debate against President Trump.
President Trump’s Strategy
For President Trump, analysts and Republican strategists believe the economy is his strongest suit. Remind voters, who are still in a Covid haze, about the unprecedented economic growth of the first three years of his presidency. According to Brett O’Donnell, a GOP debate coach, the economy is where the President can shine:
“If the president sticks to talking about the economy, he has a distinct advantage,” O’Donnell, who previously coached George W. Bush, Mitt Romney and others, said. “He built an economy that was, by all accounts, one of the greatest in the last few decades. And so if he can make the case that he will be the best person to get us back to that economy, following the coronavirus crisis, then I think he has an advantage.
He added, “I think if he is forward-looking and uses what he did on the economy, that could be very helpful to him.”
O’Donnell also believes Trump has the advantage when it comes to the Supreme Court.
O’Donnell’s point is that the economic numbers are on the side of the President, so he needs to hammer that point home. The question voters are asking now is which candidate can help push the country out of the economic situation created by the Coronavirus and back to widespread prosperity again.
On the matter of judges, O’Donnell believes that Biden’s decision to avoid releasing a list of potential Supreme Court nominees leaves him a weakened position with voters. Why would he hide a list or avoid naming names the way President Trump did in 2016 and 2020 even before Justice Ginsburg’s passing?
The President will also likely spend a significant amount of time pointing out Biden’s flaws from the past few decades and is likely to highlight the 1994 crime bill as a demonstration of how Biden has hurt minorities.
Vice President Biden’s Strategy
For Joe Biden as the challenger, the strategy will be primarily one of restrained offense. Biden has a long political record to defend, of course, but he’s on stage to argue against President Trump’s record. During Biden’s mock debate sessions, the former vice president is being prepped for how to handle any personal insults that could come his way:
Biden’s campaign has been holding mock debate sessions featuring Bob Bauer, a senior Biden adviser and former White House general counsel, playing the role of Trump, according to a person with direct knowledge of the preparations who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal strategy. Bauer has not actually donned a Trump costume in line with Trump stand-ins from previous years, but he is representing his style and expected strategy.
“I’m sure the president will throw everything he can at (Biden). My guess is that they’re preparing for that — bombarding him with insults and weird digressions,” said Jay Carney, a former aide to Biden and President Barack Obama.
Biden has primarily one main objective, to prove to voters that the “Sleepy Joe” caricature created by President Trump is false, and to reassure voters that he’s capable of the job despite his age. In that respect, Biden’s bar is rather low and has continually been set lower by the Trump campaign in recent weeks.
Biden needs to attack the President on matters that resonate with voters such as the Coronavirus response, health care, and issues of character. On the issue of the economy, Biden will assuredly argue that it’s due to the President’s failings that the virus created such an economic upheaval across the country.
What Does “Winning” Look Like?
How does a candidate “win” a debate? The answer to that question is usually partisan in nature, but on some occasions, it’s clear to both sides which candidate had a weak night. Back in 2012, most viewers felt as though Mitt Romney got the best of President Obama during their first debate encounter, and most analysts tended to agree. In fact, that was the high point of the campaign for Romney, who then went on to lose the election despite a single strong debate performance.
For President Trump, “winning” this debate against Joe Biden means exposing Biden as a creature of Washington with a career that spans nearly fifty years. The President needs to effectively ague why Biden, who has had plenty of time in Washington, hasn’t solved all these problems he now complains about. Anything from race-relations to the economy, Biden spent decades in the Senate and 8 years as Vice President.
For Vice President Biden, “winning” will mean an ability to brush off concerns about age or mental acuity and successfully make the argument that the President has left the country in worse shape than it was when President Obama left office. Biden will argue that the economic growth since 2016 is only benefitting the wealthy and that middle America hasn’t benefitted from the same set of policies, such as President Trump’s tax cuts.
Tune in Tuesday night at 9 pm ET to watch how it all unfolds. We will have all the details including live stream links and everything else you need to know.