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Biden-Trump: What Happens Next?

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On the heels of a fractious presidential debate came the news that Donald Trump had tested positive for COVID-19. Where does this leave the presidential contest?

There were ten takeaways from September 29 debate:

1.Trump's demeanor: Donald Trump was very aggressive throughout the debate; he was constantly on the attack, interrupting 18 times. Imagine trying to retrieve a large weasel from his den and you'll get the sense of how vicious Trump's manner was. (He sneered at Biden throughout the 90 minutes.)

Trump's strategy seemed to be to throw Biden off his game and cause him to have a "senior moment" that Trump could use in his TV ads -- that accuse Biden of senility. This strategy didn't work. As a consequence, Trump came off as a bully and Biden as an adult struggling to participate in a normal presidential debate.

2. Biden's manner: While Trump glowered, Biden ran through a normal range of expressions: seriousness, bemusement, exasperation, intensity, etcetera. Biden tried to follow the debate rules while Trump didn't.

At first, Biden seemed a bit flustered by Trump's constant interruptions. Then he responded with his own zinger, "Will you shut up, man." Then he peppered Trump's interruptions with zingers: "Wrong guy, wrong time, wrong place." "Will he just shush for a minute?" "Trump doesn't have a plan." "He panicked." "Trump doesn't know what he's talking about." "He's a fool," "Trump is lying." "[He's writing] the art of the steal." "Trump is a clown..."

3. Moderator Chris Wallace: I had high hopes for Chris Wallace -- an experienced moderator -- but these hopes were dashed early on. Wallace let Trump get away with constantly interrupting Biden and, in general, destroying the debate format. The contest was so fractious that some observers are calling for the next two presidential debates to be cancelled or there to be some dramatic change in format -- such as the moderator having the ability to turn off the participants's microphones, when necessary.

4. Trump blew his best chance: For the past several months, Biden has been ahead of Trump, nationally, by about 8 percentage points. The Cook Report (Click Here ) projects that Biden will win with, at least, 290 electoral votes -- versus Trump's 163 -- with 5 states as tossups (Florida, Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina, and Ohio). The current Real Clear Politics state poll averages show Biden ahead, or tied, in each of these states.

Donald Trump is losing the presidential election. To win, he has to expand his base. The October 29th debate was an opportunity for Trump to cut into Biden's lead, but Trump did not take advantage of this. The after-debate CNN Poll (Click Here ) found that 60 percent thought Biden did the best job in the debate, versus 28 percent who thought Trump did. (65 percent of respondents thought that Biden's answers were more truthful than Trump's versus 29 percent that thought that Trump's responses were more truthful.) An Ipsos/538 poll (Click Here ) had similar results.

Several important national policies were discussed during the debate:

5. Obamacare: It was clear that Donald Trump wants to end Obamacare and will ask SCOTUS to do this during the hearing scheduled for November 10. Trump said: "Obamacare is no good...it's a disaster. It's too expensive. Premiums are too high, that it doesn't work. So we do want to get rid of it. Chris, we want to get rid of that and give something that's cheaper and better." Biden responded, "He's been promising a healthcare plan since he got elected. He has none."

6. Coronavirus: At this writing, the US has 7.5 million coronavirus cases and more than 212,000 deaths. Joe Biden said, "When [Donald Trump] was presented with that number [of deaths], he said, 'It is what it is.' Well, it is what it is because you are who you are. That's why it is. The President has no plan... He panicked or he just looked at the stock market. One of the two. Because guess what? A lot of people died and a lot more are going to die unless he gets a lot smarter..."

Biden and Trump have very different approaches. For example, on wearing masks. Biden said, "Masks make a big difference. [Trump's] own head of the CDC said if we just wore masks between now, if everybody wore a mask and social distanced between now and January, we'd probably save up to 100,000 lives. It matters." Trump responded, "And they've also said the opposite." Biden followed up, "[Trump's] been totally irresponsible the way in which he has handled the social distancing and people wearing masks, basically encouraged them not to. He's a fool on this."

In retrospect, Trump's debate position was that the pandemic was winding down -- nothing to be afraid of. Considering this, it's ironic that Trump has contracted COVID-19.

7. The Economy: The moderator asked, "The president says it's a V-shape recovery, you say it's a K-shaped recovery. What's the difference?"

Biden responded: "The difference is millionaires and billionaires like him in the middle of the COVID crisis have done very well. Billionaires have made another $300 billion because of his profligate tax proposal, and he only focused on the market. But you folks at home, you folks living in Scranton and Claymont and all the small towns and working class towns in America, how well are you doing?" Biden continued, "We handed him a booming economy, he blew it."

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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.
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