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Biden Fails To Impress In First TV Debate With Trump

Biden, Trump TV debate
FILE PHOTO: Media crews work at the press room in the McCamish Pavilion on the Georgia Institute of Technology campus ahead of the first 2024 presidential debate between Democratic presidential candidate U.S. President Joe Biden and Republican presidential candidate former U.S. President Donald Trump in Atlanta, Georgia REUTERS/Marco Bello/File Photo

Donald Trump is not known for remaining calm.  But during Friday’s debate with Biden, the former president who had continuously interrupted the current president and peppered him with personal slights in the 2020 debate – had undergone a makeover.  He was calm, relatively unruffled in contrast to Biden’s floundering and general bumbling on what is considered the biggest stage in the US election before the final show.

President has a ‘slow start’ against Trump

Vice-President Kamala Harris seemed to confirm the Biden disaster by admitting the president had a “slow start.” More serious was Democratic party donor Mark Buell telling the New York Times whether the time had come to “put someone else in there.  Democracy is at stake here and we’re all nervous.”

Biden was nervous, slipping over words even calling “billionaires, trillionaires” at one point. He seemed unable to score points on key issues such as Trump’s stand on abortion. Biden could not catch Trump even when he said that the Democrats would provide abortion eight to nine months after birth. Rather than taking him to the cleaners, Biden was seen as not being forceful enough. He seemed confused when he meandered from abortion to immigration.

Trump made his point, stating: “I really don’t know what he said at the end of that sentence, and I don’t think he did, either.”

TV debates remain crucial to the US presidential race

Are the TV debates that crucial? Pundits will draw you back to September 26, 1960 where a sweating, word-tripping Richard Nixon was seen as nervous. This was a big factor in his loss to Kennedy.

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In the 1980s Reagan with years of acting experience behind him came off looking better than Carter. In 2016, pundits contend that between Trump and Hillary Clinton, the former president shone in an arena which is his medium.

He insinuated himself into Clinton’s frame and called her a “nasty woman” while she was trying to answer a question. He promised to “build a wall” and make Mexico pay for it. These ideas made good television and showed him as somebody not part of the corrupt political status quo. Clinton eventually won the debates but Trump’s ideas came off as fresh.

Forget Trump: Biden defeated Biden

In the current debate, Trump although he attacked Biden on his son Hunter, it was really Biden who defeated Biden. The only good news for Biden is that the TV debate took place relatively early in the presidential race with the next round in September. But could the image of a bumbling Biden end up being seared into public memory?

The other problem is that it will force Super political action committees, that are already nervous about Biden, to start asking questions. That is a bad sign. The biggest loss for Biden is that even in the age of social media, TV is a major factor to decide how the president performs under pressure. As the social media threads indicated, Biden had failed even amongst the Democrat camp to do that.

The president can still battle this perception, but he has his work cut out. Biden has had the tag of “weak president” hanging over him for some time now since the ill-ordered exit from Afghanistan and the handshake with Saudi Crown Prince MbS – whom he had denounced for “human rights violations”. Add to that his inability to get the Israeli prime minister Netanyahu to back off on the Gaza war.  The TV debate was a chance to erase that image and he failed.