by Frank Schnittger
Fri Oct 23rd, 2020 at 04:09:09 AM EST
The second and final presidential debate was a more "normal" debate with much less interruption and incivility. Republican supporters will breath a sigh of relief that Trump didn't implode again. However the longer the debate went on the more frustrated he became, and started to look more surly, bitter, divisive and angry, especially when Biden was speaking.
Even when invited to say how he would bring people together in his inaugural address he engaged in bitter recrimination, while Biden gave his usual bringing people together speech. When challenged about the 500 children separated from their parents - Trump just said "good".
The debate won't do much to change the trajectory of the campaign, but that must count as a defeat for Trump. He needed Biden to implode, and yet Biden probably gave his strongest performance to date, and was willing to say he would phase out the oil industry over time despite his reliance on winning Pennsylvania.
For much of the debate Trump seemed to be running against Obama, which seems a strange strategy given the former President's popularity. He claimed he had done more for Blacks than any President since Lincoln and was the least racist person in the room which seemed a direct insult to the moderator who is a women of colour.
Much of Trump's shtick seemed to be to attack Biden's record in politics and his family as corrupt, when that is probably Trumps least favoured terrain to fight on. Once again Trump promised to release his tax returns when he has failed to do so for 4 years. Trying to smear his opponent with allegations that aren't clearly evidenced seems a poor strategy for winning the affections of most Americans.
Trump once again claimed the pandemic was fizzling out and that a Vaccine would become generally available within weeks when both claims are so obviously untrue. He again misquoted and attacked Dr. Fauci when he is one of the most trusted pandemic experts in the US.
One of the attractions of Trump to many in his base is that they perceive him as "an Alpha Male". But for much of the debate Biden seemed in control and Trump was the surly outsider throwing insults without having much of substance to back them up. Having attacked "sleepy Joe" "hiding out in his basement" for so much of this campaign, he gave Biden a low bar to clear. While Biden stumbled a little on a couple of his answers and looked at his watch on one occasion, Ricky Santorum, CNN's conservative panellist, seemed to be really clutching at straws to mention it. I'm sure many viewers were doing the same...
The CNN poll showed Biden as the winner with 53% to 39%. This is based on a panel who watched the debate made up of 31% Democrats, 30% Republicans and the rest independents - slightly biased towards Republicans based on current voting patterns. 73% of Biden's attacks were deemed fair whereas only 50% of Trumps attacks were deemed fair. Neither candidate's favourability ratings were changed significantly by the debate.
The race had tightened slightly in the run up to the debate with Biden's lead declining in the 538 average from 10.7% to 9.9% and the Real Clear Politics average declining from 10.3% to 7.9% so to a small extent Biden needed to halt the decline. Most observers seemed to conclude he did enough to steady the ship.