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My thoughts on the second and final debate:

First of all, and let's just get this established, Joe Biden was the clear winner in public opinion. All four national polls of viewers taken on the subject indicate that, by a double-digit margin, Biden was perceived as the "winner" of this debate. This includes Politico's (54% to 39%), CNN's (53% to 39%), YouGov's (54% to 35%), and the Data for Progress survey (52% to 40%) all. What's more, there's no indication of a reduced margin compared to the first debate either. Biden's margin of perceived victory in the YouGov survey, for example, was wider than in the analogous survey taken immediately after the first debate (which had been 48% to 41%) while the CNN survey appears more favorable to Trump than in the first debate only because they sampled more Republicans this time around (D+1 here compared to D+14 in their poll from last month). Nothing has changed. Nobody should be panicking and no Trump voters should be happy.

People (including the press) act like if Trump just becomes temporarily more civilized for an hour and a half, that's enough to sell people on the merits of the administration's herd immunity strategy. It's not, and you can plainly see as much in the survey results linked above. People still prefer to live, believe it or not. There is no getting around the coronavirus issue. You cannot blandly weasel your way out of the fact that you're actively trying to take away 20 million people's health insurance in the middle of a pandemic, failing to negotiate a new covid relief bill demanded by more than 70% of Americans (instead the confirmation of an unpopular new Supreme Court justice is being prioritized), and desperately attacking the most trusted man in America on this issue, Dr. Anthony Fauci (who enjoys a 68% personal favorability rating) because your do-nothing strategy has manifestly failed miserably. Nobody (or at least nobody new anyway) is buying his bullshit, and least of all on the #1 issue on their minds.

It was obvious from this debate that even Trump himself has figured out that his campaign strategy has clearly failed, as he notably dropped all references to "law and order", the main throughline at the Republican National Convention  two months ago, as well as all claims of voter fraud, in this debate, apparently sensing that these two core components of his re-election argument up to now aren't getting anywhere. When you drop your core argument less than two weeks out from election day...well I think that says everything that needs to be said both about where you stand...and about what you stand for. The main takeaway I got from this debate was that Biden is running on something (e.g. stimulus package, PPE surge, green infrastructure program, raising the minimum wage in a way that would directly benefit me personally, etc.) while Trump is running on nothing. Whatever you think of the message Trump offered in 2016, you can't deny that he had one and that it came through more clearly than Hillary Clinton's. In 2020, by contrast, Trump has no message, no second-term program, on offer. It's his opponent this time around who offers a discernible vision for a better future. People I think can sense that difference.

Also, let's be clear: this debate was only more civilized than the September debate because the moderator now had, and used, the power to cut off the mics of the candidates when it was not their turn to speak. Had this ability not existed, I guarantee you this debate would've much more closely resembled what we saw last month. The credit is owed not to Trump, but to the Commission on Presidential Debates and debate moderator Kristen Welker for forcing this debate to resemble the standard PBS style. In point of fact it's a miracle we even got a second debate considering that the sitting president withdrew from last week's debate, thereby cancelling it. As much is pretty ironic considering that it was Trump and the Republicans who just spent the whole summer demanding that the Biden team agree to additional debates beyond the usual three and warning that Joe Biden would surely pull out of the existing ones at that. The sheer hypocrisy cannot be overstated, and serves as really a microcosm of the sort of projecting that so many conservative orators against cancel culture engage in.

Speaking of, Trump withdrew from last week's debate officially because it would've been virtual, but in reality because key members of his debate prep team were sick with covid at the time, in case you can't figure out what the actual reasoning was. The actual truth there, problematically, tends to undermine Trump's message that there's nothing to this covid situation and everything is fine. He reiterated at Thursday's debate how we're "rounding the curve". It must be the longest curve on Earth (perhaps shaped something like this), considering that the nation immediately thereafter recorded a record single-day case load for new coronavirus infections: more than 83,000 new cases in one day were confirmed yesterday, the day after Trump's reassurance at the debate.

Anyway, no, Trump will not be re-elected. That matter is pretty well settled now, I firmly believe. He will instead fall into the fairly rare category of sitting presidents who both survived long enough to serve a second term and failed to win re-election after seeking one. Just three other American presidents have accomplished such a feat in the last century: Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter, and George Bush Sr.

Last edited by Jaicee - on 24 October 2020