American voters who viewed last night’s debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden were left shaking their heads with dismay at the ill-tempered and bitter…
American voters who viewed last night’s debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden were left shaking their heads with dismay at the ill-tempered and bitter nature of the rancorous exchanges between the two presidential candidates. With only 35 days left until the elections on 3 November, the outcome of the 90-minute encounter – the first of three – has been judged to be in 77-year old Joe Biden’s favour but, frankly, neither man came out of the debate smelling of roses.
73-year old President Trump interrupted Democratic candidate Biden over 70 times, triggering a variety of reposts from Biden who variously called his opponent a “racist”, “fool”, “liar” and a “clown”. The moderator of the debate, Chris Wallace, struggled to contain the two men, and significant time was spent in acrimonious exchanges at the expense of serious debate of policies.
Trump launched a series of personal attacks on Biden and his family, criticising Biden’s intelligence, his lack of achievements during his lengthy political career, his son Hunter’s business dealings in Ukraine and China and Hunter’s drug problems. Joe Biden lost his cool on several occasions and at one point told Trump “Will you shut up man”. Trump refused to condemn white supremacist groups and robustly defended his response to the coronavirus pandemic that has cost over 200,000 lives in the United States so far, and there were heated arguments about healthcare and racism.
Biden has consistently been ahead of Trump in the polls with some 50% of people polled saying they will vote for him, and the Republicans are struggling to erode his lead which has been up to 10% in recent months. Trump remains scathingly critical of the polls but, although the polls failed to predict the victory of Trump back in 2016, pollsters are confident that their systems are now much improved and that their data is reliable.
Although national polls are useful they do not necessarily predict the outcome of the election because in the United States the electoral college system is used; winning votes does not always mean you win the election. Ask Hillary Clinton! In 2016 Clinton led in the national polls and in fact achieved some 3 million more votes than Trump but she nonetheless lost the election. This is because under the electoral college system, each state has a number of votes based on how many members it sends to Congress. A total of 538 electoral college votes are available, so a candidate needs 270 or more to win. So-called battleground states are the pivotal states where the voting outcome is uncertain and they are the focus of fierce campaigning. Polls at the moment suggest that Biden is keeping his nose ahead in the race for these states. For example, he leads in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania – three states that Trump won by a whisker back in 2016.
But Donald Trump and Joe Biden are savvy campaigners and know that, with 10% of the voting population undecided, there is still all to play for in the next month. Bookmakers also reckon that it is not a shoo-in for Biden, despite the polls. For example, Paddy Power currently offers odds of 4/6 for a Biden win, with odds of 6/5 for Trump. The odds for Trump were exactly the same before the debate and Biden’s were 8/11 so have only shifted slightly, indicating perhaps that the debates are unlikely to sway the undecided voters. The uncertainty regarding the coronavirus pandemic and its effect on the US economy may well prove to be more important factors for voters.
During yesterday’s sparring Joe Biden turned to the camera and told viewers that the debate should be “about your family, the American people”. In reality, however, the debate, however, singularly failed to inform voters of the policy plans of the Republicans and Democrats to improve the lives of the American people over the next four years of the forthcoming presidential term. Let’s hope the two remaining debates have a different tenor.
Trump and Biden will undertake the second televised debate on October 14, in Salt Lake City, Utah.