Why Biden did the debate throwdown, Trump agreed, and the risks for each side

Candidates debate when they have to debate.

That’s why Donald Trump didn’t participate in the primaries.

That’s why Joe Biden surprised everyone yesterday by agreeing to two debates, even as he battles terrible poll numbers.

And why did President Trump’s request for a side-by-side comparison — which even came up as a debate on my show — so readily accede?

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Former President Donald Trump and President Biden have agreed to debate. (Getty Images)

With such speed that it raised questions of “rigging,” the two sides agreed within hours to go head-to-head on June 27 on CNN and September 10 on ABC (the four networks considered eligible). Jake Tapper and Dana Bash have been announced as moderators.

While key details are still being worked out, President Trump appears to have agreed to two key conditions from Biden. And this person is not a person who likes others to make the rules.

First, Biden doesn’t want an audience. He doesn’t want a President Trump who draws large crowds to his rallies and whips his supporters into jeers and hollers. (President Trump has said he wants a large venue for “excitement.”) The president wants a quiet discussion focused on policy.

Second, Biden wants a mute button. This means that when one candidate is speaking for her allotted 60 or 30 seconds, the other candidate’s microphone will be turned off. This is to prevent a repeat of the first debate in 2020, when Trump constantly interrupted and talked about Biden and moderator Chris Wallace. There’s no way the former president would be happy about that.

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All of this became public yesterday morning at 8 a.m. ET when Biden posted a short and sarcastic video.

“Now he’s acting like he wants to argue with me again. Well then, thank you for your time today.”

By the way, this guy doesn’t do Clint Eastwood very convincingly.

“I’ll do it twice. Let’s set a date, Donald. I hear you’re free on Wednesday.” (In case you were wondering, the joke was that Biden’s message The hush money trial is not being held on Wednesday, as it was yesterday when it would actually be reported.

Trump-Biden debate

At the second and final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on Thursday, October 22, 2020, then-Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden answered questions and President Donald Trump will be watching. (AP Photo/Molly Gash, Pool)

President Trump said on Truth Social that “crazy Joe Biden is the worst debater I’ve ever faced” and that he accepted it, although he said “you can’t put two sentences together.” I answered that I was.

The importance of these two events cannot be overstated, and is more important than any election debate since 1980, when President Ronald Reagan told Jimmy Carter, “Here we go again.” It could be the difference between winning and losing.

Biden was expected to lose the election. Even before Trump’s hush money trial began, he was shielded and barely made the news. His team must have belatedly realized this. Joe had to do something to turn things around.

The Biden campaign believes his superior knowledge will be evident in a no-frills debate. There is also belief that the more the public knows about Trump being locked up in a Manhattan courthouse, the better for the president.

On the other hand, Mr. Trump’s overwhelming physical presence and exaggerated style will contrast well with Mr. Biden’s aging good looks and thin voice (although they are only three and a half years apart in age). ).

And believe me, having sat down with Donald for an hour interview, he can stay focused and disciplined when he wants to.

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This likely sounds the death knell for the Commission on Presidential Debates, which has been in charge of fall events since 1988. The committee has become something of a dinosaur, with large audiences packed into its three debates in October (after early voting began). Moreover, the hosts (with the exception of the late, great Jim Lehrer), who were chosen from the usual suspects, were often mistrusted. That’s why both candidates are championing bipartisan commissions.


There are already rumors that President Trump might find a reason to back out, but I don’t think that will happen. And I didn’t think the other person would get involved.

But Biden’s calculations required him to roll the dice. We’ll soon find out if his gamble pays off.