Probably the biggest surprise to anyone watching Joe Biden over the past two months—including his political backers—was that he managed to limp through a speech without a major gaffe. Oh, it was uninspiring, listless. But he didn’t have the typical Biden “uhhhh. . . you know . . . ahh, here’s the thing” kind of wanderings we have come to expect of him. For the Left, this was enough to anoint him Cicero. For the Right, it was only a sign that properly fueled with drugs, preparation, and limited very stringently by a teleprompter and, no doubt, days of coaching (and generous editing) he managed to do what Donald Trump does 20 times a week.
Now comes the campaign. Biden has already backed out of going to Kenosha to visit the riot-torn Wisconsin city in the heart of a critical battleground state. Wait a minute, didn’t Hillary Clinton ostensibly lose because she didn’t go to Wisconsin? (One almost expected Biden to pull an Eisenhower here: “I will go to Korea, er, Kenosha.”) This, likely, is an indicator of how the rest of Biden’s campaign will go. Bob, weave, and mostly hide.
Then come the debates. That is if there are any debates. Biden’s team began with a position that there would not be debates unless the Trump campaign met with certain demands that no campaign could comply with, including having “fact-checkers.” (Ah, Joe: that’s what the debate is for—so that you can fact check your opponent).
Generally, the thinking on the debates is that if they occur, they will greatly benefit Biden for three main reasons:
- He will be pre-fed the questions. In addition, the questions for Biden will be the equivalent of the first question asked by the keeper of the bridge in Monty Python and the Holy Grail: “What is your name?” whereas Trump will get the third question, “What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?” I would not doubt that Biden would also have an earpiece with people feeding him answers. Moreover, if Trump began to hammer him, expect the “impartial” moderators to step in immediately to temporarily stop the fight. Even with all that, Biden is at risk of descending into mumbo-jumboland, uttering a string of “ahs” and “ehs” and “you knows.” However, whether he gives a single practical, sensible, or even coherent answer to any question, the Hoax News media will praise his performance as the greatest since Abraham Lincoln skewered Stephen Douglas in Illinois.
- Biden will also benefit greatly from the debates—again, barring a Trump performing a diving seated senton on his pathetic opponent—if he is so incompetent it gives the perception that Trump is bullying a dementia patient. In my view, this is the greatest danger of the debates. It would require Trump to be stoic, unemotional, and to turn Biden's own words on him as much as possible. I am a firm believer in going for the jugular. This is the one time where Trump absolutely cannot do that. It is the only trick Biden truly has that can move the needle among independents.
- The “fair and impartial” moderators will not only stack Biden’s questions for him, but Trump’s against him in such a way that they act as “double-taps” on the President. To quote Trump, “It is what it is,” and there is no way he will even remotely get fair or balanced questions with Biden.
Now, although Biden can benefit from these three factors, President Trump has two major advantages in the debates. One is obvious: he knows his stuff, he knows Biden is lying, and in a fair fight without three referees interceding he would make Biden look like a drooling old fool. Trump showed in 2016 that he is unflappable in these debates. Surely, by now, even the Hoax News moderators know this. That won’t keep them from trying, though.
More important, Trump has a very powerful weapon in his arsenal. His command of the internet allows him to win whether he wins or not on stage. This was evident in 2015-16, when better debaters, such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, may have “won” on points, but lost in the snap-polls that came out immediately thereafter. I have no idea if those polls were genuine or were “cooked” by Trump supporters. It doesn’t matter. The name of the game is showing who “won” in these kinds of insta-polls, and Trump’s machine was far better at it than anyone else, even better than Hillary’s. Regardless of what occurred on the debate stages, Trump did not lose a single debate. How do I know? The “polls.”
Critics might scream, “That’s unfair. That’s rigging the polls.” Really? How is this different than constantly rigging the presidential tracking polls by weighting the Democrats +7, +11, or even +13? Trump’s team (likely Brad Parscale, then later Steve Bannon) realized that it’s all about perceptions.
Need I remind you of the 1960 televised debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy? Nixon looked terrible, having just recovered from phlebitis. Kennedy was tanned, rested, and ready, fresh from a bout of sex with one of his mistresses. Nixon was wan and tired looking, Kennedy, young and healthy, even though they were about the same age. For those who heard the debate on radio, Nixon won two-to-one, but for those who watched on television, Kennedy was the winner. It all came down to perceptions.
Trump will win the post-debate “polls” no matter how he does. That will be a very important factor. Biden will find he has spent his time avoiding a debate when he should have spent his time rigging the post-debate. If Trump avoids the temptation to utterly destroy Sleepy Joe, he will win hands down. Let Biden be Biden. He will destroy himself.
Larry Schweikart is the co-author with Michael Allen of the New York Times #1 bestseller, A Patriot’s History of the United States, and is the author of Reagan: the American President. He is the founder of Wild World of History, a history instructional website for 9-12th graders with curricula in both US and World history, complete with teacher guides, student guides, tests/answers, and videos of all lessons. (www.wildworldofhistory.com)