Hugh Jim Bissel and some of his Republican strategist friends have spent today thinking about the debate, and how it went wrong. They have reached some conclusions and shared them with Politico, which has shared them with us.
Last night Donald Trump made a gigantic and tragic error. By constantly interrupting Joe Biden, he kept Joe Biden from speaking at length.
And if Joe Biden had spoken at length, then the whole world would have seen clearly what a senile old fool his is.
Perhaps you think I am making this up. No. This from Politico: “[Trump’s] strategy confounded supporters who had giddily approached the first debate thinking it would be a prime opportunity for voters to see the 77-year-old Democratic presidential nominee stumble through answers with rambling responses and cringe-worthy gaffes.”
If you watched the show last night, I would not be surprised if you have the same intuition I had: that not a single solitary person switched to Trump, but a few probably switched to Biden from pro-Trump or undecided. The results illustrated in the graphic—and described in Mr. Bump’s piece—confirm that intuition, to the extent it really needs confirmation.
In case you missed last night’s shit show, you can check out the video above.
What was Trump up to? Occam’s Explanation
The simplest explanation for Trump’s bizarre behavior is that he believed his own bullshit about Biden’s purported dementia and was trying to get under Biden’s skin, so that his opponent would have a meltdown.
Occam’s Explanation—a Humorous Footnote
The wingnuts today are circulating cutesy emails claiming that Biden’s calm and composed demeanor is proof positive that he was hopped up on drugs to a fare thee well.
What was Trump up to? Other Explanations
The talking heads are saying that Trump was trying to
make rational dialog look ridiculous, and thus discourage people from voting, and/or
prepare the public for a massive shitstorm beginning on election night.
To the extent there was any strategy to Trump’s ranting – and I think it was mainly instinctual – it was to create chaos in the hopes it would throw Biden off his stride and prompt some scattered or damaging moment. That didn’t happen. It was really just Trump yelling. That was the strategy his surrogates previewed. And if he had triggered some embarrassing flub perhaps it would have been a winning strategy. Everybody knows Trump’s a bully and a loudmouth. That’s not new information. But maybe it would be worth it if he forced some major error from Biden. He didn’t. And so what we had was Trump ranting, visibly angry, launching off on numerous digressions, lying. It was ugly, unhinged and exhausting – a good summary of Trump’s entire presidency.
One thing that struck me was that the few times when Biden was able to speak uninterrupted for 30 or 60 seconds he was actually devastating against Trump. I was thinking, Trump’s right to keep interrupting. When Biden gets to talk it’s terrible for Trump.
Biden spent a lot of time simply laughing at Trump. That made for a good visual and it also clearly enraged the President. That spurred Trump to be even more self-injuring. It made him more spluttering. Donald Trump is the President of the United States. And yet half the time during this spectacle he looked like the loudmouth yelling taunts and insults outside a party he’s pissed he wasn’t invited to.
He looked weak and angry.
There are definitely people who think Biden didn’t seem strong enough reacting to or containing Trump’s tirades. Basically I don’t think this is right. Clearly Biden isn’t really quite able to keep up with Trump’s antics. I don’t say that because of age. It’s just characterologically beyond him, for better or worse. But Biden’s not running for arguer. He held his own and simply showed himself to be a very different kind of person, a very different kind of potential President. That’s a win for him.
Trump talked a lot more. In a sense he did ‘dominate’ the debate. But most of it was self-injuring.
The Times claims that it got the documents from a person “with legal access” to them, a person who then turned the tax returns over to the Times. If that’s true, then maybe a great bloody big investigation would be in order—to find the person who coughed up the documents to the Fourth Estate, and to discover how many laws she violated when she did the coughing.
Biden and vice-presidential nominee Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) lead Trump and Vice President Pence by 53 percent to 43 percent among registered voters, statistically unchanged from the 12-point margin in a poll taken in August just before Democrats and Republicans held their conventions. Biden and Harris also have a 10-point advantage among likely voters, 54 percent to 44 percent. …
A sizable gender gap continues to fuel Biden’s lead, with women making the difference in the current state of the race. Trump has a lead of 55 percent to 42 percent among male likely voters, but Biden has an even larger 65 percent to 34 percent advantage among female likely voters. Trump’s lead among men is about the same as his margin over Hillary Clinton in 2016, but Biden’s lead among women is more than twice as large as Clinton’s was then. …
Post-ABC polls released during the week found very tight races in Florida and Arizona, while polls the previous week found Biden with a slight lead in Wisconsin and a large lead in Minnesota. Averages of battleground-state polls generally find a closer race than in the country overall, a sign of Trump’s continued competitiveness.
Interest in the election has climbed to near-record levels, with nearly 6 in 10 registered voters saying they are following the election “very closely,” higher than any in other presidential election at this time in the cycle dating back to 2000. …
Enthusiasm among Trump supporters is higher than among Biden supporters, a pattern that has been seen throughout this election year. Among registered voters, 65 percent of those currently favoring Trump say they are very enthusiastic about that support. Among those backing Biden, 47 percent of registered voters say they are very enthusiastic about their support for him.
Despite lacking fervor for Biden, the former vice president’s supporters are intensely concerned about Trump winning a second term, with a 70 percent majority of Biden voters saying Trump’s reelection would be “a crisis for the country.” By comparison, 59 percent of Trump voters say a Biden victory by would result in such a crisis. Among voters who support Biden but are “somewhat enthusiastic” or less about his candidacy, 56 percent say a Trump victory would mark a crisis.
The poll was conducted after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg but before Trump’s Saturday nomination of federal Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the high court. But it finds that 64 percent of Biden supporters say the court vacancy makes it “more important” that he win the election, compared with 37 percent of Trump supporters who say the same about their candidate. Among all adults, Biden holds an eight-point advantage over Trump on whom Americans trust to handle the Supreme Court appointment.
Trump and his enablers may take comfort that he is still within the margin of error in Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, and Texas. Very minimal comfort. Because last time around he was way ahead in those states.
Cause, Meet Effect: Part the First
Trump is telling everyone who will listen that mail-in ballots are a scam and that the election is rigged against him.
Democrats understand that every sentence out of his mouth is a lie. They understand that the election is no longer the proverbial CHOICE between Biden and Trump, nor is it the proverbial REFERENDUM on Trump alone.
No, Trump has made the election about a different CHOICE: either Trump or democracy.
This will give Democrats an additional incentive to show up and vote.
Republicans, who still believe Trump, will understand that it makes little difference whether they vote or not, because the election is already rigged; that they should not vote by mail; and that they should not vote in person, either, because of the medical risk. Therefore, Trump’s repeated statements should serve to depress the Republican vote.
Those Pro-Choice Trump Voters
This morning, the talking heads were telling us that about 20 percent of Trump voters in states like Iowa are pro-choice. These folks are probably not going to like what they will hear on Saturday afternoon.
What Could Stop Biden?
Right now, pretty much all the evidence points to Biden’s having the Big Mo. What could stop the forward momentum? Nothing readily foreseeable, I submit, except possibly a poor debate performance. Let’s all watch on Tuesday night and cheer him on.
Cause, Meet Effect: Part the Second
Orange Man seems determined to go on with the big superspreader Nuremberg rallies. Plenty of time for folks to get very sick. Plenty of time for lots of news coverage.
I stand by what I have said in recent posts. In essence, (1) shit-faced panic is pretty much never a useful response in any situation, especially a situation where panic is actually justified. And besides, (2) in our present proto-crisis, panic is not justified. Because President Trumpashenko is a dummkopf, and because the good guys hold many more cards than the bad guys.
As to the second point, for example, you will note that, before he rigged the recent election in Belarus, President Lukashenko did not declare repeatedly that he was going to rig the election—thus giving his opponents ample time to take protective action.
As terrifying as all this is, it’s important to remember that Trump and his campaign are trying to undermine the election because right now they appear to be losing it.
Trump is down in most swing state polls, tied in Georgia and barely ahead in Texas. His most sycophantic enabler, Lindsey Graham, is neck-and-neck in South Carolina. The president is counting on his new Supreme Court nominee to save his presidency, and she may, if the vote count gets to the Supreme Court. But a rushed confirmation is unlikely to help Trump electorally, because in polls a majority of Americans say the winner of the election should make the appointment.
Trump may be behaving like a strongman, but he is weaker than he’d like us all to believe. Autocrats who actually have the power to fix elections don’t announce their plans to do it; they just pretend to have gotten 99 percent of the vote. It’s crucial that Trump’s opponents emphasize this, because unlike rage, excessive fear can be demobilizing. There’s a reason TV villains like to say, “Resistance is futile.”
“We cannot allow Trump’s constant threats to undermine voters’ confidence that their ballots will be counted or discredit the outcome in advance,” Michael Podhorzer of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. recently wrote in a memo to allies. Podhorzer said that the organization’s polling suggests that “this close to the election, we do Trump’s work for him when we respond to his threats rather than remind voters that they will decide who the next president will be if they vote.”
This doesn’t mean people shouldn’t be alarmed. I’m alarmed every minute of every day. Trump is an aspiring fascist who would burn democracy to the ground to salve his diseased ego. His willingness to break the rules that bind others gives him power out of proportion to his dismal approval ratings. He blithely incites violence by his supporters, some of whom have already tried to intimidate voters in Virginia.
Yet part of the reason he won in 2016 is that so few of his opponents thought it possible. That is no longer a problem. Since then, when voters have had the chance to render a verdict on Trump and his allies, they’ve often rejected them overwhelmingly. Under Trump, Democrats have made inroads into Texas, Arizona, even Oklahoma. They won a Senate seat in Alabama. (Granted, the Republican was accused of being a child molester.) Much attention is paid to Trump’s fanatical supporters, but far more people hate him than love him. …
Still, Trump can be defeated, along with the rotten and squalid party that is enabling him. Doing so will require being cleareyed about the danger Trump poses, but also hopeful about the fact that we could soon be rid of him. …
Shortly after Trump was elected, the Russian-born journalist Masha Gessen published an important essay called “Autocracy: Rules for Survival.” Gessen laid out six such rules, each incredibly prescient. The one I most often hear repeated is the first, “Believe the autocrat,” which said, “Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization.”
Right now, though, I find myself thinking about the last of Gessen’s rules: “Remember the future.” There is a world after Trump. A plurality of Americans, if not an outright majority, want that world to start in January. And whatever he says, if enough of us stand up to him, it can.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican who has steadfastly refused to require residents to wear masks, tested positive for the coronavirus, his office said Wednesday. …
On Friday, he and several other Missouri Republican candidates appeared together at an event called the “TARGET BBQ” in Springfield. A photo posted on Parson’s Twitter pages shows Parson on a stage with four other statewide officeholders seeking reelection: Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and Attorney General Eric Schmitt. They appear to be a few feet apart from each other, but none are wearing masks.