The second and final presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden will be held in Nashville tonight. Here are a few things to look out for as the two White House aspirants meet on the same stage less than two weeks before the Nov. 3 election.
Will Kristen Welker Be Another Chris Wallace?
NBC News reporter Kristen Welker is hosting the debate, and the question of her impartiality immediately comes to the fore. Establishment media organizations have flagrantly displayed an anti-Trump bias since he first decided to run for the presidency in 2015. In 2020, the phenomenon has taken the form of serving as a protective layer for a gaffe-prone and remarkably low-energy Biden campaign. This was never more evident than in the first debate in Cleveland on Sept. 29 when Fox News anchor Chris Wallace repeatedly attempted to rescue Biden just as the candidate was noticeably struggling. An interjected “we’re done, sir” or “I want to get to another subject” allowed Wallace to extricate Biden time and again.
Welker has selected six topics for discussion during the debate, NBC reports: “fighting Covid-19, American families, race in America, climate change, national security and leadership.” Three have the prospect of being thoroughly uneventful.
The coronavirus issue has been beaten into the ground by lengthy discourse at the first debate, the vice presidential debate between VP Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and at various nationally televised town halls featuring either Trump or Biden. There is simply nothing new to be said on the topic at this point. It will be played up once again, however, for a couple of reasons. One, Democrats continue to believe this is a winning issue for them and a way to severely ding the president. Two, Biden will be allowed to make pat, safe statements that will keep him from getting in trouble on more contentious topics. Prolonged repetition of what has been stated many times already serves as a form of protection for the candidate.
Race and climate change have similarly been the source of endless verbiage since the earliest Democratic primary debate back in June 2019. Democrats highly value climate change as an issue, far more than the American public does, while a belief in the existence of “systemic racism” in America is core political orthodoxy in the party.
At least these two issues will allow Trump to expand the conversation into more meaty subjects, such as the rioting and violence in American streets in the name of social justice since the death of George Floyd in late May, and fracking, an issue on which the former vice president is particularly vulnerable. Nevertheless, we now will have two presidential debates with no focus on immigration, a vital issue in the minds of tens of millions of Americans.
Biden Approach: Full Negative on Trump
From the beginning of the general election season, the Biden campaign has been more about “He’s Not Trump” than any specific policy agendas it seeks to advance. Painting a dystopian gloom-and-doom vision of life in Donald Trump’s America was the overriding theme of the Democratic National Convention in August.
It’s too late to change course now, assuming the campaign even wanted to. Biden is flat-out running as the anti-Trump, so expect him to go negative on the president far more than he touts himself. NBC moderator Welker will likely assist him with this through the questions she asks and how she seeks to control response times. The mute button that is being ridiculously introduced will be used to try to make Trump appear as the petulant child the media dearly long to cast him as.
There is a flip side to this, however. Trump feeds on attacks against him, and he is quite used to how they work after having had to deal with them nonstop since the summer of 2015. There is no reason to believe a mute button will be more than he can handle. The first debate showed that Biden doesn’t seem to have it in him to put up a spirited back and forth with an energetic Trump. He’ll get to talk uninterrupted now. Boosted by a mute button to keep a chirping Trump at bay, can the 77-year-old muster the fire needed to convincingly slam the president? Or will his two-minute response times sound canned and pre-packaged? Biden must come across as authentic and spontaneous as he hits out at Trump.
Trump Approach: Here’s Hunter
Hunter Biden’s laptop has become the October surprise of this race. Joe Biden’s youngest son has become a fountain of opportunity for Trump to directly accuse the former vice president of criminal corruption. This is ideal messaging for a president who has identified himself as a staunch foe of the Swamp.
Trump will be able to bring up the explosive topic one way or the other, no matter how hard Welker may try to suppress it, and Biden will not be able to get by with the “Hunter overcame drug problems and I am proud of him” spiel that he utilized at the first debate. The allegations are much more pronounced and pointed now.
Look for Biden to try to dismiss the affair as a “right-wing conspiracy theory,” as his campaign spokesman has already done. This will be the telling moment for Welker. NBC News has already been carrying water for Biden in its coverage of the laptop revelations. Here is how it first reported the news as it broke on Oct. 14:
“President Donald Trump on Wednesday seized on an unverified report about Joe Biden’s son Hunter, using it to repeat his often-told conspiracy theory about the Ukrainian energy company Burisma.”
NBC News national security reporter Ken Dilanian took the non-neutrality to an even greater level on Oct. 15, reporting that “two people familiar with the matter told NBC News” that federal investigators were probing whether the laptop was “linked to a foreign intelligence operation.”
“Many commentators have said it is hard to believe that Hunter Biden would abandon a Mac laptop full of incriminating information at a repair shop,” Dilanian wrote. “Some have speculated that the material could have been hacked from Hunter Biden’s accounts and put on the laptop as a cover story to offer a plausible explanation of how the material became public,” he continued in his efforts to scuttle the authenticity of the laptop.
This is the news outlet that employs the moderator for tonight’s debate. If Welker pulls a Chris Wallace to aid Biden as Trump furiously tries to bring up his son, will such overt deflection hurt the Democrat far more than a strong, forthright and detailed exchange with Trump on the explosive controversy?
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