Debate Prep

[ Posted Thursday, June 27th, 2024 – 15:46 UTC ]

The first 2024 presidential debate is now mere hours away. I am going to go out on a limb here and make a prediction for tonight: Donald Trump will announce his vice-presidential pick at some point during the debate. He could do so very early on, in an effort to rattle President Joe Biden and/or to distract from whatever question Trump had been asked (but didn't want to answer), or he could wait until his closing statement and go out with a bang. But my guess is that Trump's big reveal will happen at some point tonight.

It would, of course, be unprecedented to hear a V.P. pick announced during a presidential debate, but it's hard to even enumerate how many ways this debate is already unprecedented. Not least of which is the thing that even makes such an announcement a possibility -- how early in the cycle the debate is being held. Neither Biden nor Trump is actually the official nominee of their respective parties yet, since that traditionally happens at the national conventions -- which is also where nominees traditionally announce their vice-presidential picks. Because this debate is the first to ever occur before the conventions, a vice-presidential announcement becomes at least a possibility tonight.

I have no idea which possibility Trump will pick, of course. I kind of wonder if his "short list" of three is no more than a red herring, meaning he will instead announce someone who is not J.D. Vance, Doug Burgum, or Marco Rubio. This would be entirely in character for Trump -- building media suspense and then introducing a plot twist at the last minute. But perhaps the list is correct and it will be one of those three (none of whom seem particularly stellar as choices, but then what do I know?).

As for the debate itself, barring any unforeseen melodrama, it will probably be contentious and spirited and both sides will claim victory for their candidate afterwards. But perhaps that is too cynical, especially given the possibility of all kinds of melodrama (always a big possibility when Trump speaks extemporaneously).

Donald Trump is, to be blunt, a bully. That's his persona. It's what he does. He has built his entire brand around it, in fact. So he will doubtlessly attempt to get under Biden's skin in a major way. Trump will ridicule, he will lie, he will fling playground insults, and his supporters will eat it all up.

President Biden's job will be to stand up to the bully. He's certainly done so before, so he definitely has the ability to do so again if he chooses. Biden will also be trying the same trick as Trump -- getting under the other guy's skin. Which, with Trump, is pretty easy to do (since his skin is so thin, on so many subjects). Biden's main job tonight is to look engaged and forceful -- or to put it another way, not the doddering old man that the Trump campaign likes to paint him as.

One other unprecedented aspect of tonight's debate is that it will be the first one to feature a repeat of the previous election (same two candidates), which hasn't happened since 1956 (four years before the first televised presidential candidate debate happened). And this is the first election since 1912 to feature a former president challenging a sitting president. What this means is that both men will be attempting essentially the same feat -- painting their opponent's time in office as an abject failure while painting their own time in office as a smashing success story.

The content of the debate will receive plenty of scrutiny, but what will also be interesting to see is whether CNN's new format works or not. Will the fact that microphones will be muted when it is not your turn to speak make a big difference and provide for a more sober and polite debate? Or will Trump just ignore it and rant and rave into a dead microphone? This could get quite bizarre, since Joe Biden will be able to hear everything Trump says, while the television audience might not (it might be faintly picked up on Biden's microphone), so it could get a little confusing to understand exactly what is happening on stage. But then perhaps CNN will be a little lax with the mute button and allow such outbursts? It'll be interesting to watch, that's for sure.

Will the moderators do any real-time fact-checking? That's another very large open question. Trump is going to lie -- he can't help himself -- so he'll likely provide plenty of opportunities for the moderators to counter his nonsense with facts. But they may choose not to do so, preferring to leave the job of countering Trump's falsehoods to Biden. Or they may only do so for the most egregious Trump lies (such as his insistence that the 2020 election was somehow "rigged" or "stolen").

In the era of Trump, debates are "won" or "lost" mostly on style points. Oh sure, just like always there will be lots of policy questions directed to each candidate, and they'll likely get their talking points out on each of them, but the deciding factor isn't going to be any closely-reasoned policy stance. Instead the debate will be judged mostly on personality. Biden will likely be seen as the "winner" of the debate if he can manage to provoke Trump into some unhinged behavior. Can Biden goad Trump into losing his cool? Will Trump say something monumentally stupid (or monumentally frightening) during one of these exchanges? Biden's going to be poking the bear just as hard as the bear is poking him, that's my guess at any rate, because if the bear loses all control and starts yelling, it'll be a clear win for Biden.

Trump could "win" by not taking any of the bait Biden (and, possibly, the moderators) will no doubt dangle in front of him. If Trump stays calm and collected (well... for him... we have to use a sliding scale on this metric), he could impress viewers enough that the entire night is seen as a victory for Trump. Or if Trump's insults land and Biden is the one to lose his cool, that could also work.

Of course, with the advanced age of both of these candidates, there could always be a debate moment so cringeworthy that nobody remembers much of anything else of that happened. This is a real possibility, for both men. Neither one is as sharp as they were four years ago, and the possibility that one or both of them just screw up an answer so badly that it'll be replayed in campaign ads from that point forward is rather high.

I have no real expectations for either candidate tonight. They've decided on their lines of attack (and defense) during their debate prep sessions. Whether they stick to their team's plan or not remains to be seen, however. However, I do think that Trump might find it irresistible to make some big news during the debate by announcing his vice-presidential pick tonight. By doing so, Trump guarantees he'll get in the headlines -- in a story that is not mainly about his actual debate performance. Trump is a master of "owning the news cycle" and such an announcement would indeed be one of the biggest things for the pundits to talk about afterwards. It could even overshadow an otherwise-disappointing performance from Trump. I could always be wrong about this, of course, but Team Trump has been foreshadowing Trump's veep pick with increasing frequency in the build-up to tonight, so all I will say is it won't surprise me in the least if Trump uses his time on a national stage to unveil his running mate.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


24 Comments on “Debate Prep”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Well, Chris, my recording is all set and I await your reaction. So, until then, I'll be watching one of my favourite old movies tonight and listening to some favourite old tunes.

    Feel free to put your quick snap reaction right here in the comments section and then I'll either go watch it ... or delete it. :-)

  2. [2] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    a lot of missed opportunities, especially near the beginning. trump basically kept accusing Biden of all the things he himself did, or wanted to do.

  3. [3] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    no Donald, our allies do like and respect us. it's you they don't like or respect.

  4. [4] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    at the start I was seriously worried. Biden was mumbling a lot of statistics and Trump's lies weren't being countered by either Biden or the moderators. an hour in, biden is now answering more coherently and concisely.

  5. [5] 
    Kick wrote:

    I was dared to take a drink every time the convicted felon told a lie and foolishly accepted the challenge.

    I'm wasted already.

    Trump is absolutely batshit nuts. He literally just claimed the price of food has doubled, tripled, quadripled. Nope.

    Not drinking anymore. :)

  6. [6] 
    Kick wrote:


    I noticed that too. Biden is getting better as I am getting worse. No more drinks.

    Trump just took credit for lowering the price of insulin... another absolute bullshit LIE. That insulin reduction was signed into law by Biden with the Inflation Reduction Act. Daft Donald keeps claiming illegals are being put on Social Security. That's utter asinine bullshit.

  7. [7] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Nope. Trump will save his announcement for right about sentencing day, in two weeks.

  8. [8] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Well, then. THAT was cringeworthy, Joe. I still watch a lot of Trump film and a lot of this was straight out of his stump speech. Should have been no surprises, Sir. Of course, The Donald loooves to improvise (as a Jazz bassist I can get behind that) so there were a couple new Trumpian gems in there. It looked like Trump blew your mind by his deluge of lies. You appeared overwhelmed and befuddled — where to start with all the lies?

    You never found your footing, Mr. President.

  9. [9] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    CNN seems to think the volcano won.

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    That's okay, Chris ...

    I couldn't wait any longer and had to press the play button. I got through the first 12 minutes before I pressed the delete button.

    Worst debate performance ever. From just the first few minutes I got the distinct impression that Biden was just waiting for Trump to self-destruct and putting no effort into anything. Which was a pipe dream, at best.

    So, now what?

    Now, Biden has to go before the cameras and the press at least once a week and take a few questions in a very, very, very choreographed way. Because the WH press corps are essentially a bunch of ignorant loudmouths interested only in getting their own voices on the record.

    Biden has to make the case for why Democrats need to win the House, Senate and WH if there is any hope for Democratic policy imperatives to be realized.

    As for Biden bowing out of the race ... well, THAT would be a definite disaster, any way you slice it! Biden may not be the best option for the Democratic nominee but, he is the ONLY one there can be.

  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    The only Democrat that should be really worried this morning after is Kamala Harris.

  12. [12] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    What should Kamala be afraid of?

  13. [13] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    If anyone is to be replaced on the Democratic ticket, then it should be her.

  14. [14] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    She could say that she advised Biden to step down but he refused/ And, so, consequently, she feels she must resign.

    There are a number of people who I think Democratic voters would like to see as Biden's running mate.

  15. [15] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    That wouldn't necessarily mean that her career in politics would be over. In fact, I could see her replace Merrick Garland before the election.

  16. [16] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Joe Biden - the Rebound Kid.

    I love it!

  17. [17] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    OK, that could have gone better! Actually, that sucked. Biden was obviously sick. Trump was lying with every answer he gave, and he didn't answer any question he was asked! Here’s what it comes down to: Biden answered honestly and Trump continued lying. Democrats need to take a deep breath and unclinch their anuses. Focus on what was said and not how it was said.

  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Democrats need to watch the Great Rebound Rally! :)

  19. [19] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    I would say that some heads have GOT to roll in the Biden campaign for how this debate went down. You have simply must do better with a week’s preparation. How was Joe not ready for Trump’s Gish gallop

    a rhetorical technique in which a person in a debate attempts to overwhelm their opponent by providing an excessive number of arguments with no regard for the accuracy or strength of those arguments. Gish galloping prioritizes the quantity of the galloper's arguments at the expense of their quality. The term was coined in 1994 by anthropologist Eugenie Scott, who named it after American creationist Duane Gish and argued that Gish used the technique frequently when challenging the scientific fact of evolution.

  20. [20] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Dumping Kamala wouldn’t win Joe a single vote and can only hurt him with the base.

  21. [21] 
    dsws wrote:

    I consider it extremely unlikely that Biden would step aside in any scenario I can imagine. But if he did, and recruited someone electorally viable to take his place (who would not be Kamala Harris), how would that play out?

  22. [22] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Nothing about Trump and this race changed last night. Trump did nothing to try to reach the Haley voters last night nevermind independents. And he’s still a felon. There is no reason for Joe to do anything besides order Seal Team 6 to execute his debate prep team. With pain, even.

  23. [23] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    There always has to be a scapegoat, hasn't there...

    I don't think you can blame that debate performance on anyone but Biden. He admitted as much at his Great Rebound Rally today.

    he just needs to have many more outings like today - in the form of rallies ... and, mini pressers at the WH on a near weekly basis.

    You know, formal debate settings have NEVER been his preferred venue. Some people can excel under those conditions and some cannot. Count Biden in the latter camp.

    There won't be any more debates, right?

  24. [24] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    I'm not really serious about removing Kamala from the ticket.

    I just wanted to counter all the complete nonsense coming from otherwise serious people about efforts to remove Biden!

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