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Friday, July 12, 2024

First Debate Single-Handedly Changes the Race


Some people aren’t fans of political debates, and we can understand why in some cases. Apart from oft-repeated platitudes and sound bites, debates can often offer nothing of true substance and just be two divided candidates shouting into echo chambers, as their supporters cheer them on without question, opponents fact-check everything the other says, and everyone dukes it out in the comments section of your preferred social media platform.

That isn’t to say debates can’t serve the public well; they typically work very well on the local level. But the higher-profile we get in the political arena, it’s become less of an informative panel and more of a spectacle.

We’re confident in saying last week’s presidential debate, the first of the election, did in fact offer substance and seems to have significantly altered the state of the race.

Let’s start with the elephant (or donkey) in the room: President Biden’s clear inability to stay on task and retain his train of thought. The campaign called most of the shots for the debate setup and had weeks to prepare. And that’s what we got.

Biden campaign people are split on messaging. Some say Biden had a cold, while others are reportedly panicking over his lackluster performance. It’s no secret that Biden’s cognitive decline has been largely in the public eye since before he was done being vice president, but the rapidity of that decline has clearly increased in recent years. For years, the media has tried to pull the wool over the public’s eyes over his mental acuity, and last week’s debate put the nail in that coffin. Even CNN couldn’t rescue Biden from his objectively poor performance, essentially ending any talking points that he is mentally fit for the job.

Don’t get us wrong: we take no pleasure in making these observations, as do the vast majority of Americans. During the 2020 campaign, the public was clearly worried at Biden’s ability to handle climbing stairs and delivering intelligible campaign speeches, let alone running one of the world’s most powerful countries. Not only could this have massive ramifications on the direction of the country, but it begs the question: who is really in charge in Washington?

Moreover, we and the vast majority of Americans find it downright criminal what Jill Biden, the Democratic Party, and people on the president’s team are doing to him. This is a man who is clearly unfit for sleepless nights, the stresses of running this country, and campaigning all over the map. We don’t wish to see any leader, regardless of their ideology, in this type of position, and we think it’s borderline elder abuse that they insist Biden remain in one of the most demanding jobs, if not the most demanding job, the country can offer. Biden should be enjoying the remainder of his life, not retiring from the Oval Office at 87 years old should he win a second term.

But this is where Democrats truly have a massive zero-sum on their hands: the only strategy worse than keeping Biden on the ticket is dumping Biden for another candidate. Going with the incumbent is almost always the best strategy in politics. Replacing or primarying unfavorable candidates can yield some electoral benefits, but these, for the most part, are few and far between. On the presidential level, so much of the national, state, and some local tickets, are dependent on a strong standard bearer. Biden’s enthusiasm among Democrats is plummeting and Trump’s numbers remain strong in the swing states and he’s even closed the gap in blue ones. However, replacing Biden for a more “electable” Democrat would change the dynamic of the entire race, likely complicating a unified message and down ballot energy the party needs to retain the Senate, flip the House, and perform well in state races.

Neither seems to be the optimal strategy, as the post-debate polling spread showed Trump leading over notable top Democrats, like Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA), Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI), Vice President Kamala Harris (D-CA), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (D-IN).

 Trump’s debate performance was also much better than what many were expecting. He kept on message, delivered solid answers, and only acted snarky in choice amounts, reminding viewers of one of the main reasons he won in 2016: people voted for him because he got on stage and said the things people have dreamed for years of saying to the people running this country.

Biden and company concede his debate performance was subpar, but that at least he told the truth. A massive lie Biden told during the debate was that of the Border Patrol Union (NBPC) endorsing him, only for them fact-check him mid-debate on X, formerly known as Twitter, by saying “To be clear: We never have and never will endorse Biden.”

Only to add insult to injury, Trump has retained leads in the prime battlegrounds, with many Democrats in the field reportedly settling on losing Nevada, Arizona, and Georgia in pursuit of a narrow Electoral College victory via the Rust Belt. Ohio, Iowa, and Florida, once top swing states, seem to be off the table for Democrats almost entirely. Dreams of flipping Texas and North Carolina and making inroads in South Carolina and Kansas will have to wait.

But the news gets worse for Biden, as Trump now has aggregate leads in New Hampshire and Maine, which have not backed Republican nominees since 2000 and 1988, respectively, and even New Jersey, which delivered a sixteen-point-win for Biden in 2020. Trump’s approval rating in New Jersey, while five points underwater, pales in comparison to Biden’s twenty-point deficit with Garden State voters. Trump’s on-par contention with Latino voters and historic levels of black support make him a far more formidable candidate than Democrats would care to admit. Such developments have shown Trump creeping up on Biden in solidly-blue New York, as Biden’s average lead has dropped to just seven points in a state that backed him by more than twenty points four years ago, and internal polls suggest Trump leads the race narrowly in New Mexico.

If Trump picks a solid running mate – we personally would like to see Governor Glenn Youngkin (R-VA) or someone like him – it would help him carry out these map expansions that not only paint the road to victory in November and win the popular vote, but also give Republicans favorable territory in the foreseeable future.

The Editorial Board
The Editorial Boardhttps://www.messengerpapers.com
The Messenger Papers Editorial Board aspires to represent a fair cross section of our Suffolk County readers. We work to present a moderate view on issues facing Long Island families and businesses.