What to look for in the first US Presidential Debate 2020: the multitude of issues, scandals and unfolding news events, Biden’s potential for a gaffe, fact-checking Trump in real time and personal attacks.
Ahead of the 2020 US Elections’ first Presidential debate, there are several key questions. Will Biden be able to prioritize and allocate enough time and energy to the multitude of issues, scandals and unfolding news events, as well as have enough time to lay out his own vision? Will he grow weary, and lapse, potentially committing a gaffe, and playing into the Trump narrative of ‘slipping’ cognitively? Will he, and moderator Chris Wallace, be able to fact-check Trump in real time? And will the attacks become personal – particularly against Biden’s family?
Presidential debates used to be highly consequential. This time around, the number of undecided voters has shrunk to a miniscule portion of the electorate. People aren’t watching so much to make up their minds, as to see their candidate perform, and articulate their sentiments. Voters are looking for a consolidation of their ideas, and hoping for some act or moment of one-upmanship over the opponent.
Watch: How Trump and Biden are Preparing for the First US Presidential Debate 2020 | Live
Trump versus Biden Round 1: What to expect?
There will be little to gain, or anything new substantively. Viewers will want to ascertain the ability, coherence and stamina of Joe Biden, and see how the two men spar against each other. Style, emotion, discipline and contrast – these are the chief attractions of the debate.
As a man who is naturally affable, of strong faith and has been to the depths of despair in his personal life, Biden is probably the ideal person to be pitted against Trump. He is there to provide an alternative to aggressive posturing, impulsiveness and personal attacks. He is there to epitomize civility and comity and the potential for the renewal of American public life.
As a man who is naturally affable, of strong faith and has been to the depths of despair in his personal life, Biden is probably the ideal person to be pitted against Trump.
Biden will not be afraid to engage and to fight, but not in the sense of being dragged into the gutter. Whilst not as satisfying to partisans and the media, it is, ultimately, appropriate. He will cringe and shake his head at the most preposterous assertions, but rein in the kind of instincts that will have millions of viewers berating the TV and squirming in their chair. As a consequence, the debate will ultimately be unsatisfying as a spectacle, but will get the job done for Biden. Given the dynamic of the race, an underwhelming series of debates, without any significant moments, is close to the ideal situation. Biden will be generally happy to maintain the status quo, and so will Democrats.
Biden will be hard-pressed to debunk, defuse and expose the President’s accusations and assertions in real time. With an avalanche of issues, he will also have to balance and prioritize in real time. He will have to remember not to devote too much of his time to countering his opponent, at the expense of laying out his own agenda.
Expected Takeaways for Voters from the First Debate
The chief talking point hanging over the debate seems to be Biden’s propensity for Gaffes, and whether this could confirm the Republican’s narrative that the former Vice President’s mental faculties are slipping.
Trump has an opportunity to use his caustic and belligerent instincts effectively against Joe Biden. Although not always accurate, and often crass and repetitive, Trump can nonetheless devote his energy, strategically, to wearing the 77 year old former Vice President down by interrupting, contesting, and incessantly being contentious and provoking, techniques that, cumulatively, might sap his opponent’s focus and energy, and create the circumstances for a lapse or spell of fatigue. Were this a conventional series of debates, against anything resembling a conventional opponent, such gaffes or stumbles might seem catastrophic. But the standards of discourse and etiquette have been so degraded in recent years, a couple of stumbles might not have such impact among all the cross-chatter, aggravated interjections, boasts and the uncertainty around real-time fact checking from the moderator, Chris Wallace.
Millions of voters, who have battled it out in verbal stoushes with family members at Thanksgivings, Christmases, will tune into the debates, bristling with enmity and tension, wanting their opinions, prejudices and quirks affirmed and to see rhetorical fireworks and incisive ripostes and damning slams. Instead, they will be subjected to two septuagenarian grandpas with raspy voices repeating the same arguments and talking points they’ve been trotting out on the campaign trail for months. There is unlikely to be a game-changing moment. There might be one or two senior moments.