History has taught us that the winner of a presidential debate is not always immediately obvious. The first modern debate was between Richard Nixon and JFK. Most people thought Nixon had won. Nixon had better answers and looked to be in control. But they were wrong. JFK won and he won big. He won partly because he looked young and healthy while Nixon looked pale. But mostly he won because people accepted him as capable of being president. He managed to pass that hurdle.
The debate Tuesday night is a real game changer for obvious reasons. However, few of the pundits have figured this out yet. It wasn’t until I started watching some of the focus groups that I realized what happened. Seldom in our history has a debate been viewed almost the same by everyone who watched it.
Prior to the debate a lot of people hated Donald Trump, primarily for his abrupt personality. Even Trump supporters can understand this. Trump can be extremely rude and annoying. He also brags about himself all the time and no one likes someone constantly tooting his own horn. Biden, on the other hand, was always described as “likeable.” Granted he might be showing some signs of senility and he was surrounded by radicals totally out of touch with mainstream American, but he was a nice guy.
Well Tuesday night changed that, and it changed it forever. While virtually every member of every focus group hated the way Trump acted, they also hated the way Biden acted. I didn’t hear a single person say that they liked Joe Biden. They didn’t. They hated him just as much as they hated Trump. He was equally rude and insulting.
If Biden had remained cool the results could have been very different. If he had just continued to create the impression that he was a nice guy, dealing with a rude bully, he might have won the day. But he didn’t do that. Instead he was even more rude and insulting than Trump. It was Biden who started interrupting Trump. He was even more insulting that Donald Trump. He told him to stop. He called him a clown. He interrupted Trump just as much as Trump interrupted him, Trump was just better at it. In the end, everyone described this the same way, as an absolute train wreck. This was hard to watch. Insulting. Embarrassing. A wrestling match, etc. etc.
But no one was calling Biden a winner. They all saw him the same way, as a rude bitter whiner. They hated Trump, but they hated him before the debate. The difference, and it is huge, is that now they also hate Biden. No one watching this debate liked Biden. All of them realized he was just as nasty as Trump, just as rude, just as insulting. At the end of the night, everyone agreed on one thing: they hated both.
Whether accidental or not, Trump absolutely destroyed the false image that Joe Biden is a nice guy. He isn’t. He is an ass. Many people said they would prefer another option, any other option. Many of them said they continued to be undecided. But no one and I do mean no one, thought Biden won. No one said Biden looked more presidential. That he showed more dignity. That he was a nice guy getting hammered by a jerk. Hammered by a jerk, yes, but responding by acting the same way, just with less skill.
Two men walked out on that stage last Tuesday. One of them, Donald Trump, was hated by a lot of people before he opened his mouth. The other, Joe Biden, considered to be a nice guy, not necessarily up to the job. When it was over those people who hated Trump still hate him. The difference is that by the end of the night, they also hated Joe Biden.
Years ago, I predicted that people would support Trump, despite all the obvious baggage, because they would ultimately choose pure competence. This election has changed dramatically because Joe Biden threw away his ace in the hole. He threw away the illusion of being a nice guy, liked by everyone who knows him. After this, no one likes Joes Biden. The only question now is who they hate more. That used to be an easy call, after Tuesday night most people hate both. Incredibly, Trump managed to get people to hate Biden as much as they hate him. I doubt anyone thought that was even possible.
That means this election will get down to one question. Who is better equipped to do the job? Who has a vision for American like my vision? Who is likely to make things better for me? If that is the main factor in this election, Trump wins in a landslide.
Trump did not win the debate Tuesday night, but Joe Biden definitely lost. This changes everything and that will become increasingly obvious. When choosing between the lesser of two evils, people always go with the option less threatening. Always.
This was clearly the ugliest debate in U.S. history. It was a real dust bowl. But when the dust cleared, the real winner emerged and that was Donald Trump, not Joe Biden.