Friday, October 23, 2020


I watched the debate last night and felt Joe Biden acquitted himself well -- he made it clear that his mind is sharp, his ideas are good, and he's fundamentally a decent man who wants to heal the country. Unlike last time, Donald Trump mostly waited his turn to speak, and his attacks were pointed and well delivered -- but as the night wore on he was the increasingly obnoxious, wearying rage monster America got tired of years ago, a guy who won't stop arguing even after he's ruined everyone's mood and cleared the room. The country still believes, wrongly, that he's been a good steward for the economy, and he might have eked out a win based on that if the pandemic and George Floyd's murder hadn't intervened. But he's been underwater in approval polls since his inaugural, and he's trailed Biden badly since last year, so there's a very good chance he'd be losing. He has a new riff -- heard in the Lesley Stahl interview and also in the debate -- suggesting that his poll numbers were rising early this year and people who hadn't liked him were coming around to him. That may be true, though it's more likely that he was getting a poll bounce from being impeached and then acquitted, as Bill Clinton did, and he would have gone right back to his baseline as soon as that faded. (And his baseline was far lower than second-term Clinton's baseline.)

My point is: Most Americans don't like Donald Trump. They don't want every issue turned into an anger junkie's battle against a demonized enemy, especially when they don't agree that the enemy -- immigrant children and the parents from whom they've been separated, people who wear masks -- is an enemy. Beyond the issues, they're tired of the style. It's emotionally demanding when most people have enough problems of their own. It's infantile.

(A significant percentage of the country does like Trump, and finds his style bracing and energizing. But while a majority of white men in America might feel this way, a majority of Americans overall don't.)

So I went to bed last night reading debate reactions like this:

And woke up to a lot of reactions like this:

Translation: Last night wasn't a very good night for Biden, but it wasn't that bad.

Joe Biden did a better job in the final debate on Thursday, according to a CNN Instant Poll of debate watchers. Overall, 53% of voters who watched the debate said that Biden won the matchup, while 39% said that President Donald Trump did....

All told, ... the debate did not do much to move impressions of either candidate. Favorable views of Biden before the debate stood at 55%, and they held steady at 56% in post-debate interviews. Likewise, Trump's numbers held steady, with 42% saying they had a favorable view of the President in interviews conducted before Thursday's debate and 41% saying the same afterward.

More debate watchers, though, said Trump's performance raised concerns about how he would handle the presidency (55%) than did Biden's (41%).
This won't surprise you:
Women were more likely than men to say that Biden did the better job in the debate (60% of women said Biden won, 35% Trump, while among men, 47% said Biden won, 44% said Trump did).
And in a CNN undecided voter panel in North Carolina:
CNN’s Gary Tuchman was running the panel, gathered outside in socially-distanced chairs outside on the Davidson College campus....

“I want to ask you now, this is what our viewers have been waiting for, and that is this question about who you think won this particular debate,” said Tuchman, asking the voters to raise their hands to show who they thought won.

“Who thinks Donald Trump won this debate?” asked Tuchman. “I don’t see any hands. That’s a zero.”

Nine of the voters thought Biden won, and two said they thought it was a draw.
There'll be other responses, but Biden last night seemed ready to govern like a thoughtful adult, while Trump still appears to be looking for a bar fight. Biden won last night.

No comments: