Biden needs his high-stakes debate gamble to pay off, even if it won’t upend the race

    Chris Szagola/AP images, Julien de Rosa/AP images, Tyler Le/BI

    Joe Biden got his wish to hold the earliest major presidential debate ever.Even the president’s allies admit the debate will unlikely dramatically alter the race.But Biden needs his debate against Trump to shake things up and quiet the remaining skeptics.

    President Joe Biden needs his debate gamble to pay off.

    Biden, who views his life as shaped by fate, decided to try to upend his reelection campaign by scheduling the earliest major presidential debate. He also got his requests to boot the audience, mute the mics, and strongarm Fox News out of potentially hosting the entire affair.

    His campaign, according to The New York Times, recognizes that in the short term, the first faceoff with former President Donald Trump is unlikely to change the current dynamics of the race.

    National polling shows the race in a virtual dead heat. There’s been less polling of the battleground states, but on average, Trump holds a narrow lead in the states expected to determine the race. According to RealClearPolitics’ averages, Michigan and Wisconsin are too close to call while Trump holds an extremely narrow lead in Pennsylvania.

    Studies have shown that debates have only a modest effect on the outcome of presidential elections. Voters are often swayed more when they know less about a candidate. Americans don’t need to get to know either man. In fact, it’s expected that the decisive swath of voters could be people who loathe them both.

    Biden continues to face questions about whether he will be replaced. (He won’t.) The lingering doubts are largely due to factors like the president’s abysmal approval ratings, which have never recovered from the post-Afghanistan withdrawal. At this point, Biden and his allies have also massively outspent Trump. Their attack ad advantage is set to dissipate in the face of Trump’s gigantic fundraising haul after becoming the first former president to be convicted of a felony.

    According to The Times, Biden’s team hopes the debate will jolt Americans into paying more attention to the race. History shows that the traditional fall presidential debates are one of the few live, non-sporting events watched by tens of millions of Americans. Studies have also shown that debate watchers tend to be people who are already more politically engaged — not usually the group that decides elections.

    No one knows what Trump is going to do.

    Biden knows his best chance of benefiting from his gamble will be across the stage. His campaign even chose the podium position over the final speaking order, handing Trump the last word of the night.

    Incumbent presidents typically struggle in their first debate (just ask Obama or, better yet, Trump), but Biden has spent days prepping at Camp David for his first exchange with Trump since 2020. Trump, never one to want to be seen as over-preparing, said on Tuesday evening his whole life was debate prep.

    “I’m not sure you can lock yourself in a room for two weeks, or one week, or two days and really learn what you have to know,” Trump told his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski during an interview on NewsMax.

    PRESIDENT TRUMP: I’ve been preparing for this debate for my whole life. I’m not sure you can lock yourself in a room for two weeks and learn what you have to know. I’ve been through it… I know the subject. They may get cute—it’s CNN—but they have a lot at stake to be fair.

    — Trump War Room (@TrumpWarRoom) June 26, 2024

    Americans aren’t surrounded by the crush of Trump news like they once were. A breakout moment could easily remind voters why they soured on the former reality TV star in the first place.

    Trump’s over-the-top, constantly interrupting performance in the first 2020 debate was widely panned. Now, Biden has a record of his own. Republicans are nudging Trump to train his focus on lighting the president on immigration and the economy — issues where polls show he has a big advantage.

    Staying on message has never been part of the Trump brand. In recent days, the former president has tried to pivot a little by playing the traditional expectations game before the debate begins. The former president has talked up his successor despite spending years portraying him as too feeble to do the job. Trump’s allies are also working the referees, CNN moderators Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, in an effort that would have made the late Bobby Knight blush.

    “We’re going to stop this interview.” Trump spokesperson Karoline Leavitt goes on CNN and keeps attacking CNN debate moderators Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. Anchor Kasie Hunt gets fed up and dumps Leavitt from the air.

    — Mike Sington (@MikeSington) June 24, 2024

    But there’s always a but. After all, we’re talking about the man who talked about the size of his penis during a 2016 GOP primary debate.

    Trump, his senior aides, and official GOP accounts are senior campaign aides, and official GOP accounts are pushing a right-wing conspiracy that Biden is going to juice before the debate like a 1990s-era MLB star. The former president has even demanded that Biden take a drug test.

    If that becomes the night’s story, Biden would be happier than getting a double scoop. And then, his bet could pay off.

    Read the original article on Business Insider


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