Trump was marginally better than the first debate, but that performance was so caustic and combustible that it isn’t saying much if this second performance raised that bar.
In the last debate of this campaign cycle, President Donald Trump improved somewhat from his combative and disruptive performance in the first debate, but at this late stage trailing so substantially in the polls, he really needed a game changing moment or a gaffe from his opponent in order to have any realistic chance of reversing his fortunes. The tone of the final debate was more restrained but still full of recrimination and personal accusations. Trump, whilst more disciplined, expended a lot of his time raising conspiracy theories and innuendo familiar to readers of Breitbart, and viewers of Fox News, but not familiar and not especially relevant to the vast majority of Americans tuning in looking for reassurance and solutions in the months in years ahead. Both campaigns were able to claim some sort of victory, but with Joe Biden managing at least a draw, he will have emerged in the most favorable situation.
Trump, whilst more disciplined, expended a lot of his time raising conspiracy theories and innuendo.
President Trump’s tone was more restrained, sometimes insistent, sometimes with a kind of needling insinuation. It was marginally better than the 1st debate, but that performance was so caustic, so combustible and turned off so many voters that it isn’t saying much if this second performance raised that bar.
The Final Debate: Trump vs Biden
Trump was on the defensive for significant stretches, with the first segments of the debate devoted to Covid-19, a subject he is gratingly wishing to move on from. Although he was more cogent in his discussion than last time, it is, nevertheless, a subject most voters give him low approval ratings for, and the social distancing of the candidates, and the moderator, stood as a metaphor for the administration’s shortcomings, and the ongoing gravity of the situation. Biden was able to comport himself well during this sequence, without making an emphatic appeal or delivering a memorable line. He was a little lackluster, which can be attributed, in part, to a conservative strategy of first doing no harm as the clear frontrunner in the campaign; but it would have improved his performance dramatically if he had memorized, and recited, the general timetable of failure delivering a litany of particular dates and key moments. It was a very conservative and minimalist performance designed, perhaps, to minimize his shortcomings and prevent any gaffes, at the expense of any compelling engagement with his opponent. Nevertheless: much of his stump speech, large swathes of which he must have committed to memory, including tracked and approved applause lines, went unexpressed during the debate.
Watch: What Trump’s Body Language Revealed At The Last Debate
This dynamic is particularly strange given that most people who are politically engaged, were they to scroll through their Twitter feed for all of five minutes, would be able to pluck out some rhetorical gems which, if delivered on a debate stage would be instantly memorable – and meme-worthy – and deliver a fillip to a campaign, especially since many people gloss over the substantive side of the arguments delivered during a debate and focus on stylistics and dynamics of interaction. It is astonishing that the candidates aren’t loaded up with zingers that are emphatically clever and compromising to the opponent and would be replayed endlessly on cable news.
Biden was a little lackluster, which can be attributed, in part, to a conservative strategy of first doing no harm as the clear frontrunner in the campaign.
Trump Seems To Be Losing His Charm
The ratings for this debate were down from the first, but not considerably so, and it is possible they may eventually eclipse the former once the final tally is in. Typically, The second and third debates tend to have less viewership than the first. There may be several reasons for this. Firstly the second debate was cancelled, and after the shambolic performance in the first, many Americans will have remained dissatisfied and still hungry for answers and context. Secondly, while the American public is familiar with Trump, there would likely be vast numbers who are still uncertain about Biden particularly given the arguments about his mental acuity. Given that this debate had a mute capability, allowing the candidates to speak at greater length, many Americans will have tuned in to see if Biden could handle expressing himself for such a duration over the 90 minutes. Many voters therefore, would have been curious about Biden, and perhaps more focused on his coherency and stamina than in the interaction between the two candidates. If this is the case, then in this regard Biden will have done himself well, having not committed a single gaffe during the 90 minutes.
When the debate concluded, therefore most Democratic operatives and voters will have breathed a collective sigh of relief. The debate was the final public set piece of the campaign and therefore, the last opportunity for Biden to make a gaffe which the Trump campaign could seize upon and use as a means to change the narrative and the trajectory of the race to Biden’s credit, the entire campaign has passed without him making such a gaffe, known as a ‘Joe bomb’. This has been extraordinary discipline on behalf of the candidate and his campaign. When the dust settles, it will be looked upon as a campaign that comported itself extremely well under extraordinary pressure and with the unprecedented scrutiny given to candidates in the modern age. Similarly, whilst trump turned off many voters with his invective and interruptions during the first debate, Biden did not exactly excel in that encounter either. This time around, Biden was able to allay any concerns by not having to engage or strike back at his opponent in a flustered way.
In the final debate, Biden was able to allay any concerns by not having to engage or strike back at his opponent in a flustered way.
Biden scored the most points in emotively expressing the plight of more than five hundred Mexican children separated from their parents at the border. He projected empathy over the coronavirus and was commanding when it came to healthcare. Trump managed a few jabs when it came to foreign affairs and the economy; although, with voters now rating the candidates neck and neck even on this metric, the President is running out of positives to highlight in contrast to his opponent.
With eleven days to go, and fifty million Americans having already voted, the President managed only an adequate performance – which may not be enough to reverse his fortunes.
The President is running out of positives to highlight in contrast to his opponent.