OPINION: The clashes between President Trump and former Vice President Biden, beginning September 29, will be vital.
Step right up get your scorecard for the Biden-Trump debate.
First, keep in mind that this debate is more important to the guy playing catch-up in the polls Trump than the guy holding the lead Biden.
Here is the pre-game scouting report:
The party conventions did not shake Bidens seven percentage point lead in national polls. Trumps campaign is in a budget crunch and cutting advertising in swing states. Biden has ads on the air thanks to a record fundraising haul in August.
Oh, dont forget this debate is unique in that the country is so politically polarized that polls show there are few undecided voters.
So, Trump is the one who needs the debate to be a big game-changer.
On the other side, Bidens primary need is a steady debate performance. He wants to cleanse himself of Trumps mudslinging claims specifically that Biden is an old man who has lost his marbles and needs a teleprompter to answer any question.
Even before the conventions, Trump was aiming to unnerve Biden by calling for extra debates.
Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiGiuliani criticizes NYC leadership: ‘They’re killing this city’More than 160 executives critique de Blasio’s leadership amid pandemicTrump campaign works to set narrative ahead of pivotal debates with BidenMORE, on behalf of Trumps campaign, pushed for a fourth debate in early September. He wrote to the Commission on Presidential Debates that people in 16 states will have mail-in ballots before September 29, the date of the first debate.
Nice try, but no cigar. Any voter with an early ballot, the debate commission replied, can wait and watch the debate.
Meanwhile, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden marks anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, knocks Trump and McConnellSunday shows – Trump team defends coronavirus responseGOP chair defends Trump messaging on masks: ‘To say that he should have known then what we know now isn’t really fair’MORE (D-Calif.) trolled Trump by going exactly the opposite way on calls for more debates.
Tongue-in-check, she announced to a room full of reporters, Just dont tell anybody I told you this before saying in a low voice that she would cancel all the debates.
Trump tells so many lies, Pelosi explained, that he has no association with truth, evidence, data and facts.
In one deft move, she skewered Trump and his supporters by reminding them that fact-checkers rank Trump as the biggest political liar of all time.
Biden never wavered on participating in the debates.
Biden has presented himself as a stable, adult alternative to Trump before the debates begin.
And why give any credence to Trumps claim that Biden is looking to avoid the debate?
That might bolster Trumps crass suggestions that Biden is weak of mind and get this has been on some form of performance enhancing drugs to help his debating prowess.
Yes, like a schoolyard bully, Trump is trying to unsettle Biden with pre-game trash talking. The 74-year-old Trump slandered the 77-year-old Biden back in June as not all there, everybody knows, and its sad.
Trump is repeating himself here.
He threw the same suggestion of drug use at Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCrowd aims ‘lock him up’ chant at Obama during Trump rallyAuthor Cooper Lawrence discusses pros and cons of celebrity endorsementsTrump campaign aide envisions ‘similar scenario’ as in 2016MORE before the last of their three 2016 debates. In the second of those debates, he had famously tried to provoke her by walking behind her. In their final clash, he interrupted as she spoke to complain that Clinton is a nasty woman.
Clinton did not buckle. But Trump is not changing his tactics.
Politico recently reported Trumps debate preparation team is studying Bidens idiosyncrasies, looking for any tactic to make Biden nervous or angry, apparently in hope of making Biden lose his train of thought or even resurrect the Democrats childhood stuttering.
The Biden team sees Trumps pre-debate strategy as predictable. It is all about put-downs, intimidation and bullying.
I think I know how to handle bullies well find out, Biden said last week when asked about debating Trump.
I hope I dont get baited into getting into a brawl with this guy, Biden added. Its going to be hard because I predict hes going to be shouting.
Lets not forget Biden has 40 years of experience with debates. He was widely credited as the winner of his two vice-presidential debates against Sarah Palin in 2008 and Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPeterson faces fight of his career in deep-red Minnesota districtFive things we learned from this year’s primariesBiden cannot keep letting Trump set the agendaMORE in 2012.
Bidens debate strategy, his aides say, is presenting his agenda to voters while pointing out Trumps failure as a leader and his many broken promises.
Team Biden goes into the debate with the advantage of the whole country being recently reminded of Trumps failures and broken promises.
Journalist Bob Woodwards latest book Rage has Trump on tape admitting that he downplayed the killing power of the coronavirus.
Woodward also quotes Trumps former Secretary of Defense James MattisJames Norman MattisWhy the generals are silent: Trump has no sense of duty, honor or sacrificeOvernight Defense: Woodward book causes new firestorm | Book says Trump lashed out at generals, told Woodward about secret weapons system | US withdrawing thousands of troops from IraqThe Hill’s Campaign Report: Woodward’s bombshells l Biden clobbers Trump in fundraising l Democrats swamp the airwavesMORE calling Trump dangerous and unfit for office.
Mattis indictment fits with the bombshell report from the Atlantics Jeffrey Goldberg that Trump disparaged American soldiers killed in action as losers and suckers.
Woodward also reports Trump divulged to him the existence of a classified nuclear weapons program in casual conversation.
So, Biden is loaded for a fight. But Trump is a showman. He brought women who accused former President Clinton of sexual misconduct to one debate with Hillary Clinton.
So, get ready to Tweet, post to Facebook, and add to your Instagram story.
The debates have the power to change the race.
Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.