Overall, solid performances from both Trump and Biden, they know their respective audiences. The people describing this as “shitshow” etc. seem to be under the mistaken impression this was supposed to be a debate.
Neither are winning, or "debating" for that matter. They're serving comfort food to their respective bases – about equally successfully, I'd estimate. https://t.co/D0kwrQaJ6R
— 🇷🇺 ANATꙮLY 🤔 KARLIN (@akarlin88) September 30, 2020
Both repeated their respective party line on the coronavirus. Trump lasered in from the “China Virus” angle, and mocked Biden for wearing a big mask. This would make urbane Dems aghast, but should play well with the MAGA peanut gallery.
Trump on his tax optimizations: “Unless they’re stupid, they go through the laws.” This will upset “Hajnalcels”, but America’s “Tonies” will nod in understanding.
Trump railed on law enforcement and antifa lawlessness and the radical left – who would, he noted, “overthrow” Biden if given the chance. And correctly so – the Chapos barely like “libs” any more than “MAGA chuds”. Biden for his part went on about dog whistles and racism and white supremacism. Nobody who already has an opinion on the matter will be swayed.
Opinions on climate change are also largely tribally determined in the US, so that would have swayed zero people either way. Trump is basically correct on foreign management but as usual can’t formulate his ideas crisply, which makes it easy for talking heads to deconstruct them.
Both got in some good zingers/”owns” (Trump) and folksy rejoinders (Biden), even if nothing quite lived up to the classic “You would be in jail” from 2016.
- Trump: “I did more in 47 months than you in 47 years.”
- Biden: “Just shut up, man.”
Trump engaged in personal attacks, but nobody expects him to be a “nice guy.” So, whatever. For his part, Biden at the end calmed the “snowflakes” who would have been “triggered” by this debate by soothingly reminding them that they should vote and that the Bad Orange Man can’t stay in power if he loses said vote.
As I said, both know their audience. I don’t know if this knowledge of theirs is intuitive, or logically deduced. While both are well above average, neither man is exceptionally bright, but both do have a certain kind of folksy charm, so I would sooner bet on the former. But this isn’t that important.
Both were sharp and belied fevered claims of “dementia” on both sides. But this was always just a cope, especially on the part of Trump supporters whose candidate is trailing Biden by 7% points in polls, and who has just a ~33% chance of winning (25% amongst “superforecasters“, 33% on Metaculus, 40% on mainstream betting sites). Biden did not show any real signs of dementia in the debate, and actually made fun of allegations he’s on stimulants by posting his “performance enhancer” on Twitter – a tub of Jeni’s ice cream.
Biden has moved up by 4-5% points on Electoral electionbettingodds.com after the debate, even though the percentage of people who thought their candidate had won seems to be very similar to their current support levels, i.e., each side believes their own candidate “won”. Now yes, interpreting market movements is in most cases a fool’s errand (what Taleb calls the narrative fallacy). But FWIW, my take is that what happened is that Biden subverted some negative expectations about his mental capacity – something I have been describing as a rightoid cope for months – before an audience of 120 million, the biggest such public political event before the actual elections. So the betting markets adjusted to more closely reflect Biden’s formidable lead in the polls.