On 22 October, US President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will meet for their second and final debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, with Kristen Welker of NBC moderating. American academics have discussed whether the faceoff could be a game changer.
On Monday, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced rule changes referring to what appeared to many to be a messy first presidential debate which saw the participants continually interrupt each other. According to new rules, each nominee will be muted by the moderator while the other delivers their two-minute remarks at the beginning of each of the debate topics. Last Friday, Welker unveiled six themes: “fighting COVID-19”; “American families”; “race in America”; “climate change”; “national security”; and “leadership”.
In response to the Commission’s announcement, the Trump campaign expressed disappointment over the abrupt change of rules, as well as the absence of foreign policy from the list. Although the issues outlined by Welker are thought be most to be worthy of discussion, “almost all of them were discussed at length during the first debate won by President Trump over moderator Chris Wallace and candidate Joe Biden”, according to a letter from the Trump campaign. Trump supporters suggested a purported political bias by the moderator, who is claimed to have come from an “established Democratic family” which has donated thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates, including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, according to The New York Post.
Trump’s Three Winning Cards
Regardless of the last minute rule changes, the Trump campaign agreed to participate in the Thursday debate, with just two weeks remaining before the 3 November Election Day.
“The rule change for the next debate could actually prove to serve the president well”, believes Anthony Angelini, a GOP political consultant. “When the war of ideas is really delved into, the president usually wins […] The more Biden is allowed to speak uninterrupted, the more he will dig himself into a hole. Let Biden talk. He will just embarrass himself”.
The political consultant suggested that foreign policy would have been an easy win for Trump: “He is the first president in a generation to not start a new war”, Angelini highlighted. “He has signed historic deals with Israel and the Arab World. His priorities are by far in the right place as far as unilateral policy goes”.
Another suggested win for Trump, according to the pundit, is the economy. Angelini does not believe that “anyone actually blames [Trump] for the virus and the deaths”. As the COVID pandemic continues, Americans will be looking for someone to rebuild the economy, and Trump appears to be the man for the job, Angelini believes.
“Trump is the president who inherited a bad economy and fixed it by tax cuts and deregulation”, the political consultant claimed. “Biden is the vice president whose administration inherited a bad economy and prolonged it by 8 years”.
Trump, according to the pundit, is likely to touch upon the Hunter Biden laptop allegations, according to Angelini. A scandal erupted last week after The New York Post released what it claimed to be “smoking gun emails” from Hunter Biden’s laptop which are alleged to indicate a pay-to-play scheme involving the ex-vice president, Joe Biden, his family members and unnamed foreign individuals.
The 14 October bombshell allegations which were immediately banned by Twitter and prevented from broad circulation by Facebook as fake news, was followed by a Breitbart release of emails purported to belong to Hunter Biden’s former business associate, Bevan Cooney, who is currently serving a sentence for fraud. On 20 October, Trump lawyer Mayor Rudy Giuliani announced that he had handed Hunter Biden’s laptop over to the Delaware police, citing allegations of sexually explicit materials involving underage girls on the device.
The office of the Director of the National Intelligence and Trump appointee John Ratcliff has made it clear that the aforementioned materials are not part of a so-called “Russian disinformation campaign” as was earlier claimed by some House Democrats.
“Biden will and should be pressured to answer for his son Hunter’s myriad of scandals“, the GOP consultant points out. “I am sure Trump will hound him for this and rightly so. Biden will deflect but the more Trump says ‘Hunter’, the better it will be for Trump”.
Biden & Trump Will Fight for Undecided Voters in Seven Swing States
Given that the upcoming debate has been preceded by a record high early voting turnout, it appears that most Americans have already made up their minds as to who pick to be the next president of the United States.
“Biden is ahead of Trump in public opinion polls nationally and in key states”, says Eric S. Heberlig, a professor of political science at the University of North Carolina. “There are fewer undecided voters than usual at this point in the campaign. So there may not be many people willing to make their vote choice based on how each candidate performs in the debate. This means that Biden can take a few risks in the debate and, if he doesn’t make any major mistakes, will consider the debate a success”.
Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley has recently warned against trusting national polls which claim that the Democratic candidate is leading the incumbent president by two-digit numbers. “Please take the fact that we are not ahead by double digits”, she noted last Friday, cited by a New York Times reporter. “Those are inflated national public polling numbers”.
Polls can be wrong, presumes Bill Ravotti, a political analyst and former GOP nominee for the US Congress. Many Americans are reportedly afraid to openly show their support for Trump out of fear of “getting physically assaulted or a brick thrown through their windows”, he suggests, adding that “others are afraid to voice their opinion for losing their job in corporate America”.
“Ignore the national polls”, argues David Schultz, author and professor of political science at Hamline University. “In the US, the popular vote does not select the president and instead it is the electoral vote. The way the electoral vote works in the US is a candidate must secure 270 electoral votes total across the 50 separate state elections”.
The final presidential debate, according to Schultz, is about moving a few undecided voters in seven major battleground states; Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. By placing his bet on swing states in 2016, Trump came out on top despite losing the popular US vote to Hillary Clinton by a wide margin.
“What we know is that in at least 43 states the outcome is effectively certain and the race is down to about seven states”, he says. “It will be a few undecided voters in these states that decide the election. In most of the critical swing states the polls suggest a tight race and either candidate can win”.
The political scientist notes that Trump needs to hope that this final debate would both motivate his base of white working class without college degrees to vote in heavy numbers and discourage college educated suburban women – said to be Joe Biden’s critical base – to stay home.
“This latter group stayed home in 2016 and handed the victory to Trump”, he remarks. “Biden needs to get these women to vote, along with young people and people of colour”.
The debate comes down more to mobilisation to get out and vote, as opposed to switching voters’ minds, according to the professor, who believes, however, that undecided voters “generally decide either not to vote or vote against the incumbent president”.
“I don’t think many people will be changing their minds”, said Ravotti. “It is very tragic how the young generation of brats on the left have joined militant college professors in embracing Communism, which is what Americans once defended against. Biden is not playing with a ‘full deck’ and is simply a placeholder for the antifa-like Kamala Harris. Let’s hope voters can think for themselves and are not misled by far-left media”.