Tuesday’s Presidential debate could be make-or-break for both Trump, Biden

A lot’s on the line for both President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden tomorrow night, as they are set to spar over a variety of pressing issues in the first presidential debate between the two.

According to the Pew Research Center, the first Clinton-Trump debate in 2016 garnered 84 million viewers, while the third only received 71.6 million. While 71.6 million is still a staggering figure for a televised political event, no candidate wants the nearly 13 million voters to make up their minds after the first debate in case either candidate were to have performed poorly.

Going into the debate, Biden holds a 47-45 pre-debate lead over Trump, according to a new Harvard CAPS-Harris poll reported by The Hill. Whereas Biden’s support has fallen by three points, Trump’s has increased by two, eroding much of the massive lead that Biden maintained over the summer.

Will Trump absolve himself of any wrongdoing for his recently leaked tax returns? How will Biden go after Trump about the Supreme Court? And, finally, can Biden ease the Democrats’ anxiety that he can’t go toe-to-toe in a debate with the hard-hitting Trump?

As of last week, we already know the general topics that moderator Chris Wallace will ask both candidates about. What remains unanswered, however, are these questions:

Will Trump absolve himself of any wrongdoing for his recently leaked tax returns? How will Biden go after Trump about the Supreme Court? And, finally, can Biden ease the Democrats’ anxiety that he can’t go toe-to-toe in a debate with the hard-hitting Trump?

Trump’s Tax Returns

First off, it will not be a surprise if moderator Chris Wallace asks Trump about his tax returns, following Sunday night’s New York Times explosive expose on his leaked tax history. Wallace has an adequate amount of time to formulate some questions about the details of this breaking election development, so it is reasonable to expect the veteran news anchor will ask the president about them.

These sudden revelations about his tax returns is not a good look for the incumbent president, to say the least. Trump and his team must prepare to fend off any questions from Wallace and accusations from Biden on the matter. If he fails to give a satisfying answer, this could negatively impact voters’ trust in Trump as a person, especially since a fundamental part of his pitch to voters in 2016 was that he has been a successful billionaire businessman, voters may come to doubt whether he was ever “successful” or a “billionaire.”

SCOTUS

Biden has gone after Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) about them appointing a new Supreme Court justice during an election year, something which McConnell and most other Senate Republicans in 2016 advocated for following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

While McConnell has just enough votes in the Senate to appoint Judge Amy Coney Barrett, it will be fascinating to see how Biden will go after Trump over the controversial move, since it is highly unlikely that whatever he says about the Supreme Court during the debate will sway any moderate Senate Republicans.

However, depending on what Biden says, he could potentially convince enough swing voters that this move by Trump and Senate Republicans is a mere, dishonest power grab. If this were to happen, these swing voters could possibly punish Trump and vulnerable Senate Republicans who up for re-election at the ballot box, come November 3.

Seeing as though a slim majority of voters disapprove of this election-year court move by Republicans, according to Monday’s Monmouth University poll, this could have a potentially adverse effect for Trump in swing states. However, this could be canceled out by a high conservative turnout since this prospect of appointing a whopping third conservative Supreme Court justice has reinvigorated Trump’s grassroots base.

What will define Trump’s legacy has yet to be fully solidified. However, placing the 48-year-old conservative judge on the Supreme Court will guarantee a massive conservative stronghold on policy for decades to come, something which will outlive Trump and his presidency.

Biden’s Mental State

It is an open secret in Washington—among Republicans and Democrats alike—that Biden, who is 77 years old, might fail spectacularly against Trump in the debates.

Ever since declaring his candidacy in 2019, Biden has faced routine criticism from seemingly everyone that, because of old age, his mental acuity and ability to speak clearly have severely declined since his Obama years. Throughout the 2020 campaign, there have been incidents upon incidents where Biden completely has garbled his words, misspoke, or failed to clearly elaborate his views on the issues. This has, infamously, made Biden gaffe-prone.

Trump and his supporters have routinely brought up the issue of Biden’s mental state on the grounds that it renders him unfit to govern the country. In the typical Trump style, the president has given the former veep the monicker: “Sleepy Joe.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) has recently raised alarms throughout Washington that the Democratic Party higher-ups may not have confidence in Biden’s debate skills when, twice in one month, she publicly urged Biden not debate Trump. Her reasoning follows that a truthful debate with Trump is impossible because he cannot be trusted to speak truthfully.

“Not that I don’t think [Biden] would be excellent,” she said on Friday to CBS’s Gayle King. “I just think that the president has no fidelity to fact or truth, and actually in his comments the last few days, no fidelity to the Constitution of the United States. He and his henchmen are a danger, but their comments are a danger to our democracy.”

Since we are talking about tomorrow night’s debates right now, there is no question that at the very least the first debate will go on. Depending on how smoothly things go tomorrow night, it wouldn’t be entirely out of the question for the Biden campaign to withdraw from the following two presidential and the soul vice-presidential debate.

The debate will be held in Cleveland, Ohio, and is scheduled to air from 9 to 10:30 pm (Eastern Standard Time).

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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