This is the top story from our daily newsletter published on October 1, 2020. To have this and more delivered directly to your inbox scroll down and enter your email or click here to sign up. Photo Credit: Trump, Michael Vadon. Biden, Christopher Dilts.
Betting Odds After the First Debate: “The first debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden deteriorated into bitter taunts and near chaos Tuesday,” The AP wrote. Fox News noted, “it was fiery from beginning to end” and CNN said, “President Donald Trump turned [it] into a chaotic disaster.” The New York Times said, “It was 90 minutes of chaos in a year of upheaval,” and then asked, “did it matter?” The Big Apple’s right-leaning paper, The New York Post noted “The messy debate frequently turned nasty, featuring shouting matches and repeated interruptions that left the moderator — Fox News’ Chris Wallace — and our panel of election experts deeply frustrated.” Those are from the outlet’s news teams which, as you can tell, characterized the first debate as a mess. Now that pollsters, pundits, and political commentators have had a chance to digest the “dumpster fire“, as CNN’s Jake Tapper characterized it, let’s see what they had to say and what aspects of the brawl stuck out the most.
On the Right: Right-leaning outlets and commentators thought Trump “won” but they were also uninspired by his performance. Jim Geraghty of the National Review called it “The Jerry Springer Debate,” saying, “Trump fans will look at this and conclude their man won. He certainly made it impossible for Biden to make his points, and Trump had way more time to make his own arguments, so by that standard, Trump ‘won.’ But I’m not sure a performance like this is what dislodges Biden supporters and brings them over to the Trump side, or wins over whatever remaining undecided voters are out there.” Another talking point on the right was that Trump was battling two opponents, Biden and moderator, Chris Wallace. Eddie Scarry of the Washington Examiner says, “The Fox News anchor was supposed to show up and moderate a debate, with it having expressly been stated that he wouldn’t operate as a fact-checker, and yet, that’s all he did for at least the first hour of the debate. It got so bad that, at one point, he asked Trump not to interrupt his opponent (there were many fine interruptions on both sides), and when the president asked Wallace to make that same point to Biden, Wallace puffed up his chest to tell Trump that it was actually him doing more interrupting. Zooming out, The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board noted that, “Mr. Trump no doubt wanted to project strength and rattle Mr. Biden, but he did so by interrupting him so much that he wouldn’t let Mr. Biden talk long enough even to make a mistake.” For some on the right, this was unappealing. For others, it was exactly what they wanted. Fox News contributor Dan Bongino said, “Trump is an apex predator, he’s the lion king. He’s the shark in the ocean.”
On the Left: Democrats and left-leaning outlets latched on to three things: the interrupting, Trump’s “Proud Boys” comment, and the President’s perceived push for voter intimidation. In that order, here is what was said. Russell Berman of The Atlantic titled his article, “The Man Who Wouldn’t Shut Up.” In his piece, Berman said, “President Donald Trump’s grand plan to demolish Joe Biden was shockingly simple: He merely wouldn’t let the former vice president complete a sentence. Trump talked over his Democratic challenger—and the frustrated moderator, Chris Wallace—from the opening moments of the debate, bullying Biden with a barrage of personal attacks and outright lies. The night quickly devolved into a cacophony of crosstalk, a barely watchable sniping match between two old men.” In regards to the second point, Fabiola Cineas of Vox said, “Trump was asked to denounce white supremacy [but] he wouldn’t.” Cineas says, “Trump spoke directly to a noted hate organization [and said] ‘Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what, somebody has to do something about Antifa and the Left.'” Hanna Trudo, Will Sommer, and Spencer Ackerman of the Daily Beast then noted, “One Proud Boys leader, Joe Biggs, wrote on the social media platform Parler, ‘Trump basically said to go f*** them up! this makes me so happy.’ Other Proud Boys leaders posted on Parler and Telegram, another social network popular with far-right figures banned, that they would follow Trump’s request to “stand down and stand by.” Lastly, Zack Beauchamp of Vox wrote that Trump called “on his fans to engage in behavior that sounds a lot like voter intimidation.” Quoting the President, Beauchamp notes that Trump said, “I’m urging my supporters to go in to the polls and watch very carefully. As you know today, there was a big problem. In Philadelphia, they went in to watch. They’re called poll watchers. They were thrown out. They weren’t allowed to watch. You know why? Because bad things happen in Philadelphia. Bad things.”
Flag This: In the US, 65 million people tuned into the prime time event. This audience size was lower than the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in 2016. That said, it was the biggest TV event since the Super Bowl last February, B.C. (Before Coronavirus). Americans weren’t the only ones watching. Rick Noack of The Washington Post highlighted international reactions to the affair. Switzerland’s right-leaning Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper published an editorial Wednesday morning that said “The spiteful debate mirrors a country that is no longer even capable of having a dignified discussion.” In Sweden, Dagens Nyheter, the paper of record, delivered a similarly bleak verdict in a lead editorial: “It was hard to believe that tonight’s battle was about who would lead the world’s superpower.” In the southern hemisphere, The Australian echoed that analysis saying “The first debate between would-be leaders of the free world was better suited to the Colosseum of ancient Rome or a cage fight in Las Vegas,” the paper wrote in an analysis. Back home, The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Wednesday that the prior night’s face-off demonstrated the need for “additional structure” in the format of the remaining forums to “ensure a more orderly discussion.” According to POLITICO “The nonpartisan commission, historically responsible for organizing and producing the quadrennial televised prime-time events, added in a statement that it ‘will be carefully considering the changes that it will adopt and will announce those measures shortly.'” Lastly, because 2016 polls taught us an important lesson, we like to look to the betting markets. According to RealClearPolitics’ average of recent betting lines, Biden’s odds of winning the presidency jumped to 59% on Wednesday from 54.5% on Tuesday. That is Biden’s biggest lead in betting markets since Aug. 8.