Five Things Trump Did Wrong in First Biden Debate — And How To Fix Them

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President Donald Trump had 90 minutes to make his case for people to re-elect him during a Fox News debate on Tuesday night, but he fell short.

Trump made more than his share of mistakes during the first presidential debate against former Vice President Joe Biden. Here is a look at where he went wrong and where he needs to do better in upcoming debates.


1. Interruptions

A well-timed interruption can devastate your opponent. Making dozens of interruptions devastates your audience.

Sixty-nine percent of respondents in a CBS News poll said they were “annoyed” by the debate, which isn’t hard to understand.

Moreover, while it’s important that Trump gets his message across to voters, constantly interrupting the gaffe-prone Biden isn’t a good idea. When Biden speaks, he makes mistakes. Some of them are doozies. But he can’t make them if he’s being talked over.

Biden also has a record of nearly 50 years in Washington D.C. — and a lot of positions he no longer holds that he has to defend.

Instead, Trump gave viewers an opportunity to say he wasn’t fair to Biden in the debate — without scoring any knockout blows in the process.


2.  Playing Cute With Amy Coney Barrett and Roe vs. Wade

When asked about his U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, Trump shouldn’t have downplayed the opportunity that she has to overturn Roe v Wade; he should have embraced it.

Instead, Trump said:  “There’s nothing happening there. And you don’t know her view on Roe v. Wade. You don’t know her view.”

This sounds more like a debater’s trick than straight talking.

For one thing, Barrett’s presumed opposition to Roe v. Wade is how the country sees it. While no one knows for sure what a Supreme Court justice will do on the bench, Barrett comes across as sure-fire anti-Roe. (More reliably anti-Roe, it would seem, than either Neil Gorsuch or Brett Kavanaugh, for instance.)

Moreover, abortion is a winner for conservatives during a debate. Many Democrats want no restrictions on it and have to use euphemisms to talk about it (reproductive freedom, my-body-my choice, bodily autonomy, reproductive freedom, a-woman-and-her-doctor, and on and on). They sound uncomfortable because everyone knows what abortion really is:  killing babies before they’re born.

Finally:  This issue helps make Trump viable in rural Midwestern areas he needs to win big again in November. Don’t run from it. Emphasize it.


3.  Criticizing Chris Wallace

Moderating this debate was an incredibly tough job, and Trump did himself no favors going after the guy trying to keep it all together — including on Twitter this morning after the debate.

Chris Wallace is one of the more impartial journalists on TV news. He uses accurate and uncomfortable facts to set up his questions. He’s tough — and that’s a major reason why the Biden campaign doesn’t want their candidate doing TV interviews with them. Wallace also isn’t a diehard liberal.

A question Wallace asked Hillary Clinton about late-term abortion in October 2016 may have helped Trump win the election. It surely brought the difference between the two candidates into sharp focus for rural voters in places like western Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Partisan popgun-slinger Chuck Todd may be the moderator for Trump to go after.


4.  Health Care

Republicans had a huge advantage when Democrats wanted to implement the Obama-era Affordable Care Act because voters are averse to change and there were many flaws with the legislation.

However, Trump and Republicans have said they would replace it with something better, and yet they haven’t offered a comprehensive plan. Yes, lowering prescription drug costs and transparency in billing is nice, but health care is an issue Democrats win on.

During the debate with Biden on Tuesday night, Trump touted his decision to remove the individual mandate from Obamacare. That was a good first step. But it’s not exactly a plan.

Republicans seem cowed by polls showing that a small majority of Americans now favor Obamacare. But that has more to do with fear of health insurance coverage getting worse than with any affection for the current federal program.

Advice for Trump:  Google “universal catastrophic coverage.”

Heck, even saying he favors a federalist approach to health insurance might sound attractive to voters in a country where Vermont has single-payer, Massachusetts has a public option, and Wyoming has a free market.


5.  Calling Joe Biden Dumb

Does Joe Biden say stupid things?

Yes. A lot.

However, Trump likely isn’t winning anyone over when he talks about Biden graduating near the bottom of his class in law school.

The GOP shouldn’t be the party of credentialism; it should be about who is right and who is not — and about who can do the job and who can’t.

The presidency doesn’t require any special academic training. Indeed, most Americans today look back fondly on the last president who didn’t attend college, Harry Truman.

The presidency is more of a wisdom test than an I.Q. test. And here Biden fails. Joe Biden is a profoundly unwise man. Drawing that out of him should be a major goal for the next debate.