My analysis of the final debate can be compressed into one conclusive statement: Donald Trump won. Many pundits and Biden backing outlets are calling it a draw, meaning only one thing; the President must have truly performed.
Let’s rewind briefly and remember the first debate. The stand out moments were the interruptions and insults, their multiplicity as well as the sartorial gaucherie of the format. Much of the criticism was levelled at the moderator: Chris Wallace and the Commission on Presidential debates’ rules. For the final debate with Kirstin Welker presiding as moderator, the indecorum had practically vanished. She has been praised for her handling of the discussion and the Commission praised for employing mute buttons for use during the opening statements for each question. In all honesty however, the candidates themselves were likely embarrassed by the feedback from the first debate and were attempting, at least for the most part, to avoid a repeat. The second debate was of course cancelled due to Trump’s refusal to participate virtually due to his covid-19 diagnosis.
This brings us to the final debate where as I previously indicated, Trump dominated. Take some of the topics that should have been weak points for the President, such as the coronavirus pandemic. While Biden once again tried to paint Trump as a liar who downplayed the virus, Trump hit back much harder this time by drawing attention to Biden’s apparent indictment of the President’s travel restrictions from China: his cries of xenophobia and fear-mongering the day after the ban. It’s worth noting that Biden denied this, however the damage was seemingly done as the former Vice-President’s confidence was clearly diminished after this exchange.
Even on the issue of race relations, a perceived weak point in the President’s record, Trump was able to list his accomplishments with regard to ‘historically black Colleges and Universities’, ‘opportunity zones’, prison and criminal reforms while slamming Biden for the 1994 crime bill which lead to the incarceration of ‘tens of thousands of young African Americans’. Biden responded by calling the move a mistake and jokingly calling the President Abraham Lincoln, a wisecrack that Trump abruptly shut down thereafter. This lead the President to strike while the iron was hot and paint Biden as the Washington insider, being a politician for 47 years with little accomplishment in the areas he is currently purporting to champion, ‘he’s all talk, no action’.
Climate change came up again and Biden once more would have likely won the hearts and minds of a majority of Americans on this issue. However, the American public rate the issue as being less important than many others this cycle and in actual fact, the President was able to focus the discussion on Biden and Harris’ previous opposition to fracking. Fracking is a contentious issue in the state of Pennsylvania, a constituency Trump is pinning his hopes on winning in order to obtain a majority in the Electoral College. Pennsylvanians have disproportionate numbers of workers in the fossil fuel sector. Biden, on an issue that should have been a strong point, was on the defensive again.
Accusations of corruption cropped up throughout the debate where Biden appeared to leave the discussion heavily scathed as Trump was able to reel off specific instances of potentially corrupt acts involving his son and brothers whereas Biden’s specifics consisted only of listing countries where Trump had bank accounts in the past.
On the issue of restoring the character of the nation, a central theme of the Democrat’s campaign, Biden was on message. Unfortunately for him, many even on his own side see this issue as empty and not enough to win over the country that voted Trump into office in the first place. All in all the race is well and truly NOT over. Watch this space…