I watched the first presidential debate with some Trump supporter friends on Tuesday. We had high hopes for a blowout where Joe Biden would forget his name or where he was, or claim that 200 billion people have died from COVID-19. Basically, we were focused on Biden because Trump would be Trump. Unfortunately, Trump was more Trump than usual. He was uber-Trump. And we all agreed he’d lost the debate.
No hardcore supporters were going to be swayed. Debates are always for the undecided voters. Trump needed to show that he was in charge, had plans for the future, and that Biden was incompetent. With the polls leaning toward Biden in many key demographics and swing states, Biden simply had to show he was competent. Biden succeeded. Trump failed.
Biden’s Low Bar
Biden had a low bar set for him by the press and by Trump and the Republicans. Pointing out his gaffes and confusion for years, but particularly in the last year, they painted Biden as senile or fast approaching it. For Biden to triumph, he just had to be cogent. One or two minor gaffes would have been acceptable. Stammering, stuttering, or long pauses would have thrown doubt on his cognitive abilities and by extension, his ability to lead the country.
Trump Needed to Let Biden Speak
Trump came out strong. Too strong. He attacked. Constantly. He seemed to want to be in control. Of everything. That’s Trump. But it meant that Biden couldn’t say much without getting talked over and interrupted. Which meant there was less chance for Biden to misspeak. At first, I thought this was a strategic effort to rattle Biden, but it continued long after it was apparent that Biden was not getting rattled. Maybe it even emboldened and focused him, because his answers were almost all on point.
Arguing With Chris Wallace
The same couldn’t be said of Trump. He obviously had talking points about Hunter Biden and Crooked Hillary, and Biden the Socialist, but he threw them in at random times, often speaking over Biden so that his argument, if there was one, was lost on the audience. He went over his time limit, spoke out of turn, and argued with moderator Chris Wallace, who at one point had to remind him that his own team had agreed to the debate rules that he was continually breaking. Trump wanted everyone to know that he was in control—not Biden and not Wallace. Instead, he came across as a loud bully willing to break the rules.
Wallace asked about voter fraud. Biden said it’s a lie, an excuse for Trump to refuse to give up power. Trump’s response was that there is and has been a lot of voter fraud that’s been uncovered. That was a good start, but Wallace asked him again, given that you believe there’s voter fraud, how do you plan to deal with it? Good answers would start with “Here’s my plan …” A good answer would be, “We plan to challenge all close races.” Or “We will litigate anywhere that we see discrepancies.” Instead, Trump kept repeating that there’s lots of voter fraud, despite Wallace’s repeating the request for a plan. Now, even I wonder what exactly Trump will do if the votes don’t go his way.
Wallace also asked both candidates if they would urge their bases to stay calm during what’s expected to be days, weeks, or months of counting ballots. Trump just needed to say “Yes.” He just needed to project calm and give people hope for some peace in the coming weeks. Instead, he kept hammering the implication that the election would not be fair, and that if he didn’t win it might be because the election had been rigged.
Trump made some good points like about failed California forest management policies. Biden made a number of good points, too. Trump challenged Biden over the New Green Deal. Biden claimed he was not for the New Green Deal but later accidentally referred to his economic policy as the New Green Deal. Unfortunately, Trump was speaking over Biden, so the comment was lost in the noise.
Toward the end, Biden repeated the anonymous, debunked rumor that Trump disparaged dead American troops. Biden indignantly referred to his own son in the military who “was not a loser.” Had Trump let Biden finish, he might have scored points with his remark about Hunter Biden who was dishonorably discharged from the Navy. Instead, Trump interrupted Biden, who came back hard about his son Beau who had served honorably and how Hunter had overcome his demons and made him proud. Biden looked fatherly, defending his son. Patriotic, defending the military. Trump looked more like a bully.
But Maybe I’m Not the Average Trump Voter
Four years ago, my candidate was any Republican but Trump. As the selection dwindled to a single nominee, I reluctantly decided to vote for Trump, in large part only because I didn’t trust Hillary Clinton. In the primary debates, I found Trump to be an insulting, barely knowledgeable bully. In fact, these were the characteristics that made him so fun to watch on “The Apprentice,” but so scary as a presidential candidate.
But I believe that Trump’s policies have been very good for the country: improving the economy, curtailing illegal immigration, rebuilding the military, bringing manufacturing back to the United States, brokering peace treaties, and keeping the pressure on Iran.
I didn’t think Trump would win in 2016. But I met others, not just Republicans, who liked his arrogance. They liked his swagger and his blunt talk. So I suppose many voters may have liked what they saw on Tuesday. Maybe the debate appealed to those same voters who turned the election in 2016. I hope.
Bob Zeidman has a Bachelor of Art and a Bachelor of Science from Cornell University. He is an inventor and the founder of successful high-tech Silicon Valley firms including Zeidman Consulting and Software Analysis and Forensic Engineering. He also writes novels; his latest is the political satire “Good Intentions.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.