This result is not a resounding vote of confidence among likely voters for Joe Biden and his ability to debate President Trump. One could wonder how yesterday’s speech on his climate change proposal might drive that number lower. With several gaffes reading from a teleprompter, Biden took no questions from reporters after unveiling a $2 trillion package. It seems freeform interactions are being discouraged by the campaign, which should raise concerns.
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 54% of Likely U.S. Voters think Biden is capable of debating the president. Thirty-six percent (36%) disagree and say he is not capable of such a debate. Another 11% are not sure.
Presidential candidates have had televised debates since Kennedy and Nixon in 1960. It is the way many voters assess candidates and their policy proposals. It may not be a perfect forum, but it is a staple. That they are more infotainment than substance is a function of the quality of the moderators, but that does not make them less relevant.
Unless you live and breathe politics, you might not know the history of Joe Biden being soft on China. His acquiescence may matter more to voters after Beijing caused a worldwide pandemic and the realization we are dependant on them for essential supplies. Likewise, because of media bias, it one of the only forums where President Trump can make his case to the voters based on his record and agenda in his own words. This kind of information is why debates matter.
The New York Times tried to give Biden an out by setting preconditions for the debate that President Trump must agree to. The two conditions are the president disclosing his tax returns and agreeing to fact-checking during the debate. This idea was proposed because even supporters are worried about Biden being extemporaneous for a few hours without preplanned questions.
There may not be any excuses as far as voters are concerned. Rasmussen Reports found 68% of voters think it is important for the debates to occur. A full 56% percent believe it would hurt his candidacy not to debate Trump.
A refusal could undoubtedly increase the chances of additional voters questioning his ability as the pretext is rather thin. Fact-checking occurs in post-debate commentary, and Trump’s tax returns are a years old conflict that is in the courts. His failure to provide them did not prevent Hillary Clinton from debating him. Why should it be a precondition for Biden now?
A previous poll from Rasmussen showed that 38% of all voters believe Joe Biden has some kind of dementia:
Critics contend that Biden’s frequent gaffes and confusing statements suggest he has dementia. Sixty-one percent (61%) of all voters believe it is important for Biden to address the dementia issue publicly, with 41% who say it is Very Important.
He should at least take the Montreal Cognitive Assessment that President Trump did in 2018. It is used to detect cognitive impairments like dementia, as well as other mental and physical illnesses.
The media at the time called the test insufficient, which is absurd given its broad diagnostic use. It would be interesting to see their take if Biden struggled with it. Perhaps that is why the campaign is not being proactive in addressing the issue publicly.
It is likely refusing a debate on flimsy pretext would increase the level of concern. It may also increase demands for the campaign to address it. It will be interesting to see how Biden’s handlers move forward. He has made public speeches and appearances, so the COVID-19 excuse is gone. One way or another, Biden is going to have to leave his basement again to prove his cognitive ability.