Winners and Losers of Last Night’s Presidential Debate: A Predictor of What is to Come?

Tone of the Debate Less than Presidential


From Gage Skidmore on Flickr

Hayden Kim, Opinion's Editor


President Donald Trump-

The biggest takeaway from last night’s debate was how Trump revealed his re-election strategy; he intends to pander to his voter base, abandon the idea of swinging the moderate vote in his favor, and maintain the states he won in 2016.

His use of strong language and “guns out” mentality became painfully obvious within the first 5 minutes of the debate. Following a question from Fox News anchor and moderator, Chris Wallace, President Trump constantly interrupted the moderator and former vice-president Joe Biden. In one instance where Wallace asked about President Trump’s Obamacare replacement strategy or lack thereof, he failed to allow Wallace to finish the question and insisted that he had a comprehensive replacement plan, which he has failed to release to the public even now. He constantly made false and downright dangerous claims about his taxes, saying he paid “millions and millions of dollars” in taxes, Biden’s handling of the Swine flu pandemic in 2009 in comparison to Trump’s own handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, and how his removal of the individual mandate on health insurance demonstrated that he has a comprehensive Obamacare replacement, which does not seem to be the case. These kinds of brash comments only serve to further alienate moderates while pandering to his base. Some believe, this will not be enough to win him re-election. Five-Thirty-Eight, a polling and political statistics website, has Trump’s chances of winning all of the states he carried in 2016 at less than 1%, with the chances of Biden winning a state Trump previously won at 92%. The odds are not in the president’s favor and it would be wise of him to alter his strategy and begin heavy campaigning towards moderate Republicans in battleground states like Texas, Arizona, Florida, and Georgia.


Racial and Ethnic Minorities-

When faced with the request to condemn white supremacy, Trump immediately deflected and told his “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what: Somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left. Because this is not a right-wing problem — this is a left-wing problem.” The fact that the leader of the United States, one of the most diverse countries in the world, refused to openly condemn white supremacy and instead attempted to assert that white supremacy a left-wing problem, is downright appalling. The President of the United States has an obligation to the American people to serve all people, including racial and ethnic minorities. He went further and made it seem like he didn’t even know whom to condemn when faced with the question asking “what do you want to call them? Give me a name. Give me a name, go ahead… Who?” Both Biden and Wallace responded saying to condemn white supremacists. He continued to ask “who” until Wallace mentioned right-wing militia. At that point, he asked his Proud boys to “stand by”. When we think we have taken a step forward as a country toward racial equality, we take four steps back with irresponsible, brash, and detrimental comments like these.



Former Vice President Joe Biden-

All Joe Biden had to do was maintain his composure and carefully work around the President’s verbal vitriol; he accomplished this with flying colors. While Biden could have pressed his advantage further, Biden appeared moderate, reasonable, and made it very easy for moderate Republicans and Democrats to vote for him. While Trump’s strategy aims to reinvigorate his base, Biden’s strategy revolves around winning and maintaining the moderate vote. Even before this debate, Biden presented himself as the most moderate among a field of more left-leaning candidates. This position will help him win key votes in states like Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Iowa. One of the highlights of this debate was Biden’s response to Trump when asked why Biden allowed these tax codes which, Biden claims, allowed 91 companies in the Fortune 500 to not pay any taxes. Trump asked, “Why didn’t you do it before when you were vice- president with Obama?” Biden replies that the reason the tax system is broken is  “because you, in fact, passed that. That was your tax proposal.” This shift in blame forced Trump to redirect the debate to how this tax proposal was successful and caused an economic boom. However, this smart response from Biden demonstrated how Biden took the blame-everyone-else approach from Trump and flipped it on its head by deflecting Trump’s own blame back at him. Biden left this debate as the more reasonable candidate and much harder for Trump supporters to explain the rationale behind their candidate.


The Electorate-

This may seem like a broad category of people, but the people who benefit most from Presidential debates are the people who have to choose who is in office in November. Recent polls show that several key battleground states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Iowa, Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina all have single-digit margins between Trump and Biden. For the first time since Jimmy Carter in 1976 when Texas only had 26 electoral votes, a Democrat has a shot at winning the electoral votes from Texas. With the electorate more informed of the goals, attitudes, and political agendas of each candidate, they can make a more informed decision when it comes time to send in their ballots.