US Presidential race heats up as Donald Trump, Joe Biden prepare for first debate
- Tuesday’s debate will finally allow Americans to see Joe Biden and Donald Trump clash head-to-head
- The television extravaganza comes in the backdrop of Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett as replacement for late Supreme Court liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg
- Biden leads the polls against Trump, both nationwide and in most swing states
The US Presidential election enters a new phase this week as incumbent Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden are set to hold their first debate, a television extravaganza that will finally allow Americans to see the two clash head-to-head.
Tuesday’s debate, coming in the backdrop of Trump’s nomination of conservative Amy Coney Barrett as replacement for late Supreme Court liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, could yet upend an already nail-biting contest.
77-year-old former vice president Biden leads the polls against Trump, both nationwide and in most swing states set to provide the decisive electoral college count on November 3.
However, Trump is campaigning hard and with his skilled showmanship and debate tactics, he will hope to come back on top following the debate in Cleveland.
With the COVID-19 restrictions forcing it to be a mostly long-distance election season, the debate on Tuesday has increased significance on the first of the three 90-minute debates as Americans will witness two men blame each other for posing an existential threat to the US.
Trump sees his move to nominate Barrett, which can potentially tilt the Supreme Court to the right for years to come, as a boost to his re-election campaign.
The debate can be very unpredictable though, as Trump will have to acknowledge the 200,000 coronavirus deaths, the economic fallout and the constant scandals and the fatigue among swaths of the country at the constant scandal and upheaval roiling his administration.
And despite his confidence in his on-stage prowess, Trump will be faced with a very different challenge as he will not get the usual fawning treatment he enjoys from Fox News or at his rallies.
Here, he will be facing Biden, who is attempting to portray him as “toxic” in front of the country.
“When Joe Biden walks onto the debate stage, it will be the first moment in four years where an American has the opportunity to confront Donald Trump for what he's done,” said Steve Schmidt, a Republican strategist turned outspoken Trump opponent on MSNBC.
Biden, as the frontrunner, mainly needs just to keep steady.
But he'll be up against a man many would call the best provocateur in the business.
"There is virtually no doubt that Trump will try to bait him," David Barker, director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University, said.
"Biden does have a history of being thin-skinned, and most of his most memorable gaffes have come when he is responding to a question or comment that has gotten under his skin."
Trump has spent months denigrating Biden's mental state.
He says the former vice president is "shot." He questions whether Biden took drugs to boost his performance during the Democratic primaries.
Biden, though, has been through the crucible of the Democratic primary debates earlier this year. He's also been making a string of generally well received speeches on the campaign trail.
Trump comes with his own weaknesses. Although he often takes questions from groups of journalists, it's rare that he'll do the riskier one-on-one televised session with a tough interviewer.
Neither has he had to debate an opponent face-to-face since Hillary Clinton back in 2016.
"Normally, that first debate is the toughest for the incumbent," said Aaron Kall, director of debate at the University of Michigan and co-author of "Debating The Donald."
"When you are the president, you are kind of in a bubble and historically that first debate usually goes better for the opponent."
In the days leading up to the Cleveland clash, the Trump campaign has been busily trying to reset expectations, suddenly painting Biden as a master performer.
"We have to be prepared for the tuned-in Joe Biden," Trump's campaign communication chief Tim Murtaugh said.
The debate moderator, Fox News host Chris Wallace, has set topics ranging across several of the most explosive political and social issues in the country: -- The Trump and Biden records, -- The Supreme Court, -- The COVID-19 health and economic disasters, -- Race relations and urban violence, -- The integrity of the election, which intelligence agencies say is being undermined by Russia in particular, and which Trump claims will be "rigged" by Democrats.
Whether Wallace can keep both men moving along, however, is an open question