My quick presidential debate takes:
1) I wish I had those two hours back.
2) President Trump was energetic, but came across as a mendacious bully. His best moment was probably when he challenged his opponent to name a law enforcement organization that had endorsed him and Biden was rescued by the clock running out on the question.
(FYI, I didn’t know the answer either. The right Biden response would be to cite this Fox News story on the 175 current and former law enforcement leaders who endorsed him, and point out that the NAPO endorsed him (and Barack Obama) during both 2008 and 2012.)
3) Vice President Biden was more soft-spoken, which hurt his ability to talk over Trump’s many interruptions, but he did a good job of speaking directly to the American people, rather than wrestling with Trump.
4) Poor Chris Wallace did his best, but the only way to truly moderate Trump is to give the moderator a kill switch for Trump’s microphone.
5) Among the wildest new norm violations by Trump:
A) Refused to commit to accepting the election result
B) Refused to condemn white supremacists
C) Called for the “Proud Boys” to “stand back and stand by”.
Seriously, the smart play would be to just lie and say what a normal president would say, and then break all his pledges after the election (since his supporters would support him regardless).
6) Overall, this was a solid tactical win for Biden, and a strong strategic win for Biden. Tactically, Biden’s performance–especially the way he spoke directly to the American people–seems more likely to appeal to truly undecided voters (the passionate supporters are now irrelevant; does anyone truly believe that those people won’t vote?), and strategically, Trump wasted an opportunity to make his case to undecided voters. Instead, Trump catered to his base of socially conservative voters; his “best” argument for his presidency was simply the appointment of conservative judges.
Donald Trump is losing this election badly. He needs to shake up the race in a big way, and he failed to do that tonight. If this were a boxing match, he needed a knockout, and instead he lost to Biden by decision.