The debate last night was Donald Trump’s last chance to change the election trajectory. His debate defeat, however, was total.
Based on the CNN Instant poll after the debate, Joe Biden won the debate, 53% to 39%. This poll had a sample of 32% Democrats, 31% Republicans, the rest Independent, so Republicans can hardly credibly attack this poll.
Just as revealing, however was a CNN panel of undecided voters in North Carolina. When asked after the debate whom they viewed as the winner, eight said Biden, two called it a draw, and none said Trump. When the panel was asked if any had decided whom to vote for as a result of the debate, seven said Biden and none said Trump.
Trump needed a decisive victory in the debate to change the trajectory of the campaign. He failed abjectly.
True, Trump behaved much better in this debate than in the first, but that certainly is a low bar to climb. Still, he projected himself very poorly, coming over as an angry, dishonest man without any empathy whatsoever. The constant smirks on his face were repulsive. By contrast, Biden’s projection was that of a warm, empathetic man with character, competency, and integrity.
Trump could not get away from his total predilection for dishonesty. As the CNN fact checker, Daniel Dale put it, Trump engaged in a bombardment of lies.
Trump gave absolutely no vision of what his goals would be for a second term. By contrast, on the major issues of the Coronavirus and healthcare, Biden’s responses were both concise, yet programmatic.
On the healthcare issue, Biden scored a virtual knockout. Trump has talked about repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare). ObamaCare now is in jeopardy of being abrogated by the Supreme Court in view of the scheduled confirmation by the Senate of the new Supreme Court Justice, Amy Coney Barrett. Trump has had four years to offer a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, but he has failed completely in this regard. And Biden made that point abundantly clear.
On the Coronavirus, Biden pointed out the essence of the Trumpian failure. Trump claims that we should learn to live with the virus. Trump, however, has taught us how to die with it.
The real star of the debate was the moderator, Kristen Welcker. An African-American, Welcker had to be well aware of Trump’s outrageous record of abuse of African-American women journalists, including Yamiche Alcindor, Abby Phillips, and April Ryan.
Yet Welcker was unintimidated by Trump. She controlled the discussion and asked superbly relevant questions. Her performance was the finest moderating job in the history of presidential debates.
The worst example of Trump’s lack of empathy was the way he was totally dismissive of the horror of the 540 children separated from their parents at the border and the inability to find the parents. Trump was not just lacking in empathy: He was downright inhumane.
The most absurd exchange was Trump’s claim that he has done more for African-Americans than any president since Abraham Lincoln. That is news to the African-American community, which in the recent NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll indicated an overwhelming preference for Biden 91% to 4%.
African-Americans are well aware of Donald Trump’s lifelong record of bigotry (his record of discrimination against African-Americans as a Brooklyn landlord, his advocacy of the death penalty for the innocent Central Park Five, and his leadership in the anti-Obama Birther movement) and his alliance with the White Nationalist movement as president.
Trump also displays an appalling ignorance of history when he compares himself with Lincoln. Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson succeeded in enacting the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 (public accommodations), 1965 (voting rights) and 1968 (housing). What has Donald Trump done concerning the African- American community that compares with that?
Trump’s false claims about Joe Biden having a connection or financial stake with Hunter Biden’s business involvements were totally refuted both during and after the debate. First, Biden’s claim that he had never received any income from a foreign source was totally credible and provable from his tax returns, which, unlike Trump, Biden has fully disclosed.
Even more effective was a Wall Street Journal investigative report which appeared after the debate last night, proving conclusively the falsity of Trump’s allegations regarding Joe Biden and Hunter’s involvement with a Chinese oil company.
There was one issue which Trump will try to use against Biden during the last week of the campaign in Texas and Pennsylvania: Biden’s positions on 1) phasing out fossil fuels (i.e. the oil industry) by 2050 and replacing it with zero emission fuels; and 2) opposing the spread of fracking on federal lands. These positions may damage Biden’s prospects in Texas but not in Pennsylvania.
In Pennsylvania, fracking is proving to be an economic drag.
As a result, a recent CBS News poll shows that a majority of Pennsylvanians oppose fracking.
Furthermore, Biden’s targeted areas for votes include Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia suburbs. The oil regions of the state have never been projected as voter-rich areas for Biden.
Bottom line: Biden will win this election comfortably. I plan to give you my electoral vote breakdown before the end of next week.
Alan Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.