Election 2020

Here's How We Know Trump Won the First Debate

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

President Trump didn’t always respond effectively or in a timely manner to Joe Biden’s false accusations. Biden’s insults and interjections were the polar opposite of presidential. Chris Wallace might as well have worn a Biden campaign button. But through all the noise of Tuesday night’s debate, complete with the usual partisan post-mortems featuring Biden supporters mostly assessing Biden as the winner of the debate and Trump supporters mostly assessing Trump as the winner, there seems to be a far better metric by which we can definitively determine last night’s winner.

Matt Lewis of The Daily Beast, a Never Trumper, concluded that Biden “won the debate” but added the caveat: “If Joe Biden were looking for a pretext to skip the next two debates, he found it.”

If the candidate you support won the debate, why wouldn’t you want them to participate in the remaining debates?

Yes, the debate was heated, and the candidates interrupted each other a lot. But, we went through this during the Democratic primaries, too. Candidates are desperate to get their time to speak and fight with the moderator about the rules. Get over it.

But Matt Lewis isn’t the only Biden supporter suggesting that Biden put a lid on future debates. According to a report from Politico, after the debate concluded, “some Democrats wondered whether Biden should only participate if there are more stringent conditions placed on Trump,” in order to “keep the night from devolving into chaos.”

The Biden campaign, for its part, reaffirmed its commitment to the next two debates, but Biden campaign surrogates are ready to throw in the towel, under the guise of blaming Trump for the debate “devolving into chaos.”

Top Biden campaign surrogate Senator Chris Coons, for example, doesn’t seem to think Biden should commit to future debates. Simon Rosenberg, formerly of the DSCC, said the Biden campaign should demand rules changes.

Biden’s allies in the media similarly called on Biden to skip the remaining debates.

“There is no reason, not one, that Joe Biden should participate in another debate,” Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe tweeted.

Former McCain presidential campaign alum Steve Schmidt tweeted, “Trump is unhinged, sweating, angry and blustering. He is losing. He is falling apart. This debate is a disgrace. There should be no more. Let this be the closing argument.”

Another anti-Trump conservative, Bill Kristol, wrote in the anti-Trump publication The Bulwark that “There should be no more ‘debates.'”

“For the sake of the country, Joe Biden should refuse to appear again on the same stage as Donald Trump. Biden can have weekly or twice weekly town halls,” Kristol said.

But he also wrote, “As for the debate’s effect on the horse race, I suspect Biden ended up benefitting.”

So why does he want Biden to skip the remaining debates?

You don’t call for your candidate to skip the remaining debates if you think they help your candidate. You just don’t. Advocating that a candidate for the most important and powerful job in the country skip the debates because “Trump is a bully” is a de facto admission that your candidate isn’t up to the job.

The left has been calling Trump a bully for years, to what effect? His debate performances against Hillary Clinton were similarly panned.

After the first debate between then-candidate Trump and Hillary Clinton, Newsweek noted that Trump “interrupted Hillary Clinton 51 times during the presidential debate, prompting critics to lambast his attitide [sic] as sexist and misogynist.”

Trump hasn’t changed much stylistically, but in 2016, you didn’t see Hillary’s allies suggesting that she skip the final two debates.

For the record, I thought Hillary won the first debate with Trump—and the second. The third, I thought was a draw.

What Biden’s allies won’t say publicly (and maybe not even admit to themselves privately) is that they don’t believe Biden can handle any more debates with Trump. If Biden can’t go toe to toe with President Trump, he can’t handle the presidency. That’s what Biden’s supporters are afraid the debates will prove.

Based on their reactions after this first debate, it’s clear the first debate proved that already.

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Matt Margolis is the author of the new book Airborne: How The Liberal Media Weaponized The Coronavirus Against Donald Trumpand the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis

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