11.40pm According to (Spanish-language) Telemundo's viewers, Trump won the debate, beating Biden 66-34.
10.50pm One final thought on Chris Wallace: Why would you insert Amy Coney Barrett into a question on concerns about mail-in ballots?
This debate was a good example of something we touched on in today's show. The conversation, and the topics of conversation, are all framed in the left's terms: Trump is pressed on his taxes, but Biden gets a pass on his corruption. Trump is ordered to distance himself from the "Proud Boys", whom 90 per cent of Americans have never heard of, but Biden isn't asked about the Democrat mobs 90 per cent of Americans see on TV every night rampaging across Minneapolis, Atlanta, Rochester, Louisville...
10.41pm God, that was awful. Joe was woozy and meandering, but he didn't wet his knickers or drool on the stage, so the press will present it as a Biden triumph ...and a Trump flop that failed to do what he needed and change the "trajectory" of the race.
10.37pm Wallace isn't shy about rebuking Trump for interrupting. Why doesn't he tell Biden to stop saying "Here's the deal"?
10.35pm I'm afraid Wallace is turning into Candy Crowley.
10.30pm Accepting that the suburban moms don't like it, I'm not sure that Trump was obnoxious enough. Wallace became more and more of a lopsided arbiter as the evening proceeded, stepping in to rescue Biden from having to answer Trump's question about his corrupt crackhead of a son (a question that was far more sharply formulated than Wallace's) in order to talk about "climate change".
And the correct answer to the "climate change" question is that this is an indulgence that no serious power has time for after 2020 - except insofar as the warm-mongers' lack of forest management is destroying the American west and obliges Californians to ask themselves whether they wish to virtue-signal unto death.
10.25pm Biden: We can create millions of jobs by paying people to "weatherize" the homes of people who don't want their homes weatherized. Fewer and fewer people in America are engaged in primary wealth creation, but sure, this'll get us back to the world's leading economic superpower.
10.23pm Biden to the Brazilians: "Here's $20 billion. Stop tearing down the forest."
10.22pm This stupid deference to "climate change" which always rates Number Thirty-Seven on voters' list of concerns - and that was before the pandemic, China, lockdown and looting.
10.17pm Wallace: "I'd like to talk about climate change. The fires raging across the west..."
You've just taken a side, Mister Moderator.
10.15pm There's fifteen minutes to go. Why can't Wallace ask Biden whether he'll pack the court? That would be the biggest change to America's institutional norms in a century. Okay, asking about Hunter, okay, that would make Chris feel a bit icky. But why not a straight-up question on court-packing?
And why, if Trump has to be asked directly about white supremacists and Charlottesville, does Biden not get a question about antifa/#BLM and Minneapolis/Portland/Rochester/Your City Here?
10.10pm When Chris Wallace tried to shut up Trump and said, "If you'd like to change places, sir," Trump should have called him on it, and said: "Sure."
10.05pm From Walt Trimmer in the comments:
Trump is losing the suburban female bloc. Trump should say less and force Ol' Joe to fill in the silence. But that's not going to happen.
That's the toughest thing for anybody on a stage to do. It requires enormous self-discipline. This is the point in the evening when Joe usually falls asleep, but if anything Trump seems to have kept him awake well after his bedtime. The Trump interruption-avalanche was designed to get Biden to say something idiotic or ugly in the first half-hour that would be the audience takeaway. Biden never quite fell into the trap.
10pm I get that Trump is struggling with key demographics - like "suburban women", who supposedly find him "obnoxious". Tonight is unlikely to change their minds on that. But the only alternative is Biden, and he's doing a very good impression of an old lame incontinent pooch wandering around in circles. You feel sorry for him maybe ...but enough to give him the country?
9.50pm "Just out of curiosity," says Trump, "why did the Mayor of Moscow's wife give Hunter three-and-a-half million dollars?" Wallace, affronted at a candidate who asks sharper questions than the moderator, rouses himself to object to Trump straying beyond the bounds of the format. The formats of these debates are bollocks, and I'm glad to see someone punching through them.
9.45pm Trump's answer on the $750 was not good. That year he'd paid millions of dollars to the IRS, and the IRS replied, "Thanks for that. By the way, there's still 750 bucks outstanding." It was an add-on, not his total tax liability. I know whereof I speak because the f**kers did the same thing to me not so long ago. It shouldn't be difficult to put that $750 number to bed.
9.40pm This is difficult to watch, because it's cringey-awful not fun-awful. But the core reality is that Trump is making Biden look like a guy who can't handle Trump. And in a normal political environment that would prove decisive: people don't vote for the beta-male, especially one who seems totally exhausted and is visibly trying to recall his lines and numbers. But these are not normal times, and the inability to conduct a normal presidential debate is a consequence of that.
9.22pm Biden: "Will you shut up, man?"
Trump: "The people understand, Joe."
9.20pm Okay, Biden's already wobbling on the tightrope. In the initial two-minute answer, Joe kinda sorta managed to half-remember the point he wanted to make. In the free-for-all, he's stumbling around and falling back on verbal props - "Look, here's the deal... Here's the deal... Here's the deal..."
Trump seems to grasp that he needs to land a knockout punch, and the best way to do that is to keep interrupting Biden because he's not nimble enough to respond. It risks looking rude, but that's what Biden did to Paul Ryan in 2012.
8.55pm EDT Is "live blogging" still a thing? In the Conrad Black case, I was the first guy to "live blog" a criminal trial, to the point where one of the defense counsel laughed out loud in court reading on his Blackberry my near contemporaneous mockery of the prosecution's closing argument. But blogging faded, and the last time we tried this was Election Night four years ago. Still, we'll give it a go - unless, as my old chums at The Spectator have it, the most anticipated showdown in decades turns out to be just the usual yawneroo. The tediously over-formatted debates preferred by American TV tend inevitably to go that way, and one notes that the choice of topics announced for tonight seems consciously to avoid many subjects that might sharpen the differences - such as immigration, which I hope, notwithstanding its formal exclusion, the President manages to bring up tonight.
For my part, I thought candidate Trump was far more effective in the primary debates (the Rosie O'Donnell answer, the putdowns of Jeb and Rand Paul) than in the face-offs with Hillary (aside from "You'd be in jail", a flash of the old primary Trump). So I'd like to see 2015 Trump on stage tonight. Here's how I put it almost five years ago:
Maybe Rove is right [about message discipline]. But as a practical matter it's led to the stilted robotic artificiality of the eternally on-message candidate - which is one of the things that normal people hate about politics. And Trump's messages are so clear that he doesn't have to 'stay on' them. People get them instantly: On Thursday he did a little bit of audience participation. 'Who's going to pay for the wall?' And everyone yelled back, 'Mexico!' He may appear to be totally undisciplined, yet everyone's got the message.
An apparently undisciplined guy who nevertheless puts over his message brilliantly: that's the most effective Trump.
As for Joe Biden staying "on message", I would be surprised. But the whole Dementia Joe thing is so baked in by now that the "Come on, mans" and the quartermasters-in-the-ladies'-department rabbit-holes may be regarded as charming and endearing. Alternatively, as I posited the other day, it may just be the most ingenious head-fake in political history, and a sharp, focused, ruthlessly forensic Biden will slice and dice Trump in the first five minutes. We shall see.
Mark Steyn Club members are welcome to give their take in the comments below.
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I'll be back tomorrow night for more considered debate analysis with Tucker. Hope you'll tune in.