The first televised debate of the 2020 US Presidential election went pretty much how most people were expecting. President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden went head-to-head in Cleveland, Ohio, with Fox News anchor Chris Wallace acting as moderator for the 90-minute debate in which both candidates attempted to forge a stronger position in the Presidential election odds.
The pair locked horns on a number of issues, notably the coronavirus pandemic, the Supreme Court, race relations, and urban violence. At times, civil debate went out the window, with Trump frequently interrupting the former vice-president before Biden told him to “shut up, man.”
It was a brash display from the incumbent President, as he sought to use the same debate tactics as he used in 2016 to defeat Hillary Clinton. These include interrupting frequently, targeting his opponent’s past mistakes, and generally belittling his rival wherever possible.
In the debate with Biden, Trump constantly piped up when it was his rival’s turn to speak, and he made reference to Biden’s past voting history in regard to a 1993 anti-crime bill that resulted in higher incarceration rates for minorities. He also brought up the subject of Biden’s son Hunter, who was discharged from the military for failing a drug test.
These kinds of tactics are all geared towards discrediting Biden and deflecting attention away from Trump’s own shortcomings, not least the claims that he has avoided significant tax bills, which the President maintains was perfectly legal and legitimate. Trump’s strategy worked perfectly in 2016, as Clinton found herself battling the ghosts of past indiscretions while in office.
The question lies in whether or not Trump’s three and a half years as President have dented his ability to carry out the same kind of campaign as he did in 2016. Four years ago he was seen as the antidote to the wishy-washy nature of modern top-level politics, a man who was not afraid to shake things up and speak his mind. But his first term in office has not exactly been a walk in the park.
There has been the lingering threat of impeachment which has plagued Trump from the moment he first stepped into the Oval Office, bringing a cloud over his first term and creating uncertainty over whether the President would even make it to another election. Thankfully from his point of view, the articles of impeachment were defeated, allowing Trump to rest easier for now.
The coronavirus pandemic has also seriously dented Trump’s chances in the upcoming election. For many Americans, the President’s handling of the crisis has been far from adequate. There seems to be a disconnect between Trump’s eagerness to open up the economy as much as possible, and his duty to keep the country’s citizens safe and healthy.
All in all, Trump’s first term in office has been far from plain sailing, and that will undoubtedly have an effect on his chances in the election. The terse nature of the first debate is bound to continue right up until Election Day. Trump proved in 2016 that he had the capacity to deal with a dogfight, the question is can he do it again four years on?
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Brett is the Managing Editor of this website. A former business executive turned teacher, activist, and writer, Brett also operates an anonymous Twitter account with a very large following.