The president of the United States and Republican candidate in the elections on November 3, Donald Trump, and the Democratic candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden, celebrate this Tuesday in Cleveland, in the key state of Ohio, the first of the three debates elections planned before the elections. It is the first time that the two have seen each other personally during the campaign, and the two have come under considerable pressure, so a rough and tumble encounter is anticipated. full of hard attacks, they could easily get into personal ground.
On the table are, first of all, 205,000 deaths and 7.1 million cases which is already leaving the coronavirus pandemic in the country. The federal government’s handling of the most devastating crisis in recent US history will be one of the central elements of the debate, which will also address the anti-racist protests that have been tearing the nation apart for months, and the violence registered in several cities on the occasion of the demonstrations against police brutality.
The uncertain situation of the economy (hard hit by the pandemic), the questioned “integrity” of the elections as a result of the latest controversies about voting by mail, and the no less controversial renewal of the Supreme Court (key to vital issues such as the health system Obamacare), after the death of Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, they complete the planned topics, along with a block on the political history of both candidates.
One of the extra balls will almost certainly be the scandal around Trump taxes after the informational bomb launched just this Sunday by The New York Times, by revealing that the tycoon accumulates millions of dollars in debt, or that in 2016 and 2017 he only paid the treasury $ 750.
It will be a debate, in any case, in which there will be no shortage of throwing material. And the two candidates have been willing to use it.
Jump into the mud
Moderated by journalist Chris Wallace, from the conservative Fox News network, the debate will last 90 minutes without advertising breaks, and will be divided into six 15 minute stretches each one corresponding to as many topics.
It will not be easy, however, to prevent the discussion from getting out of hand, as both Trump and Biden are prone to throwing themselves into the mud when challenged. The democrat has already warned him: “I hope I don’t bite the hook and get into a fight with this guy. It’s going to be difficult, because I think he’s going to be screaming, “he said during a virtual event a month ago.
In fact, and according to Efe, all the observers consulted by the agency expect a “belligerent” debate. Alan Schroeder, a professor emeritus at Northeastern University and an expert in televised debates, points out, for example, that “the two candidates they find it difficult to contain their emotions, and I think things will get ugly, especially in the case of Trump, whose style is based on insults and teasing of schoolyard. The challenge for Biden will be to stop these abuses without losing her temper. “
The weeks leading up to the debate have set the tone for the quote: Trump has accused Biden of getting high to improve your performance and has unsuccessfully requested that both of them be tested for narcotics before the meeting, while the Democratic candidate has taunted the president for his slow going down a ramp in June.
The animosity between the two is such that Biden has even referred to a possible debate in literally boxing terms: “They asked me if I would debate with this gentleman, and I replied: ‘If we were in high school, I would take him behind the gym and I’d give him the beating of his life ‘”, he said jokingly in 2018. “I know how to handle bullies”, he claimed during a fundraiser this month.
Jennifer Mercieca, an expert in political rhetoric at Texas A&M University, believes for her part that the Cleveland debate will be “even more combative” than those Trump had with Hillary Clinton in 2016. “I am concerned that Trump mock Biden’s stutter, and I wouldn’t be surprised if things got this ugly, “he told Efe.
According to the newspaper The Washington Post, Trump plans to launch personal attacks against Biden and his family, specifically, against his son Hunter, the president has accused, without providing evidence, of having incurred “corruption” when he worked for a gas company in Ukraine while his father was vice president of the United States.
Biden’s campaign knows that Trump will go to the jugular and he wants the former vice president to focus on “the issues that really matter to voters,” such as the economy and the management of the pandemic by the current government, according to the newspaper.
Trump, for his part, dedicated part of this weekend to preparing for the debate, but in mid-September he presumed that he would not need too much time, because he considers that “do what you do” prepares you to spare for exchange.
The president has also lowered expectations about the possible performance of his rival, accusing Biden of having low energy (Trump often refers to the Democratic candidate as Sleepy -sleeping- Joe), of doing few campaign activities, and of an alleged decline in mental acuity. That strategy, however, could go wrong for you.
“Lowering the bar so much for Biden means the Democratic candidate has less to prove “, and that a decent performance could be considered a victory, Tammy Vigil, a professor of political communication at Boston University, told EFE.
However, if Biden “fucks up, or does something that might challenge his cognitive ability, that will reinforce the narrative that Donald Trump has created, “Mitchell McKinney, an expert on presidential debates at the University of Missouri, also told Efe.
Few votes to decide
Biden comes into this first debate with a slight advantage over Trump in polls. According to the last BBC polls aggregate, the Democratic candidate would currently have 51% support, compared to 43% of the president, who, on the other hand, describes as “false” the polls that are adverse to him. Polls also suggest that Biden has a wide lead in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, three industrial states in which his Republican rival won by margins of less than 1% to secure victory in 2016.
Regarding the so-called “pendulum states”, in which Trump won comfortably in 2016, with a margin of between 8% and 10%, the polls cited by the BBC indicate that, for the moment, the president and Biden are practically tied.
On the other hand, it seems unlikely that the debate will move a significant number of votes, since the proportion of undecided is even lower this year than in 2016 and many Americans have already started voting.
The expectation Before this first debate, however, it is maximum, in part “because the conventions were virtual” and campaign opportunities have been limited, according to Aaron Kall, debate director at the University of Michigan and editor of a new book. titled Debating with Donald.
“The first debate in the 2016 presidential election was watched by 84 million people, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the audience is superior this time, “he adds.
Two more chances
In his latest book, Kall recalls that presidents seeking reelection in the United States often overestimate your ability and they end up “doing badly in the debates, especially in the first one”, as happened to Barack Obama in 2012 or Ronald Reagan in 1984.
If it also happened to Trump, he would still have two other opportunities to correct himself, with the debates of the October 15th in Miami and the 22 en Nashville (Tennessee).
In Biden’s case, his allies are clear on what to avoid: “When you get in the mud with a pig, the pig has a good time and you end up covered in mud “, Democratic Senator Chris Coons said on Friday, in statements collected by Efe.