The most consequential moment (so far) of the presidential campaign is finally here. We are on the edge of the first debate between incumbent President Donald Trump and his challenger Joe Biden, who will be hoping that “third time running for president is the charm.” Whether or not Biden would actually face Trump has been the subject of heated debate on both sides of the aisle and, barring any last minute changes between the time this is published and the evening of September 29th, it seems like we will finally witness the battle many have been clamoring for.
With Joe Biden acting as the feeble Trojan horse for Kamala Harris and an unrecognizably radical Democratic Party, the stakes have never been higher. With polls tightening across the country, this first debate stands as an opportunity for either candidate to stake their claim to the White House and hammer the first nail into the coffin of their opponent’s campaign.
Here are five things Donald Trump must do if he hopes to emerge victorious and send Biden shuffling back to the comforting silence of his basement.
1. Don’t be complacent. Prepare.
Joe Biden’s obvious mental decline is a double-edged sword for the Republicans. The more infirm Biden becomes, the lower the bar sinks in terms of what constitutes a “good performance.” Before Biden’s brain cells began to jump ship like rats on the Titanic, he was judged as a competent and formidable opponent. When Kamala Harris famously accused her now running mate of opposing busing — implying that he was a racist — Biden was criticized for the weakness of his response. When he was bullied by other candidates, his apparent frailty was analyzed and discussed.
Biden is simply not the same man he was even a year ago. As a result, expectations are not the same. If Biden manages to make it through a short, scripted speech in front of a tiny audience with no follow-up questions without falling over his own feet, he’s applauded. Given these rock-bottom expectations, this could mean that even a mediocre showing from Biden during Tuesday’s debate could be viewed as a big success. Indeed, conservatives have joked for months that Biden will crumble under pressure during a debate with Trump. If Biden escapes reasonably unscathed — or worse, holds his own — then he would have achieved a contextual victory which Trump could struggle to recover from.
While Trump has apparently “skipped formal preparation,” his supporters should hope that he has prepared in his own way. You can be sure that Biden — or, more realistically, Biden’s campaign team — are prepared. All they require is a few strong minutes of attack against Trump to provide the complicit mainstream media with enough soundbites and video clips to “prove” that Biden is a strong vibrant young man who knows the Pledge of Allegiance by heart. Trump cannot give Biden an inch, and must therefore prepare for battle.
2. Rattle Biden.
Trump is a hammer in search of a nail. Sometimes, the hammer hits a puppy, but sometimes, the hammer destroys a Democrat. Tuesday night is built for this hammer, and it is time for Trump to go full Trump, and enter the debate with the expressed objective of destroying Biden.
Biden is demonstrably unstable, falling apart under even the slightest pressure. Difficult questions will lead him to challenge opponents to physical confrontations, or to stumble on his words, or to retreat from the topic entirely. Trump must channel his inner schoolyard bully and target these weaknesses. The goal is to make Biden speechless. The goal is to make Biden forget where he is. The goal is to make Biden forget who he is.
This may seem cruel, but it is a necessary cruelty if Trump wishes to beat Biden. If this becomes a battle of personality, Trump loses. If this becomes a battle of stability under pressure, Biden loses. Trump must rattle Biden, and should therefore focus on the legitimate and relevant subject most likely to trigger “Old Joe” — Hunter Biden. The millions of dollars from Russian billionaires? The huge salary from a Ukrainian gas company despite no industry knowledge or experience? The illegitimate child uncovered by a DNA test who doesn’t count as a grandchild in Joe’s eyes? All options are on the table.
3. Focus on energy. Punish Joe for being “Hidin’ Biden.”
Donald Trump is a true master of language when it comes to his political enemies. “Low Energy Jeb.” “Pencil Neck Schiff.” “Pocahontas.” Whether you like it or not, Trump has a certain talent when it comes to nicknames. His simple-yet-ruthless attacks on his Republican opponents during the 2016 primary race played a significant role in his eventual victory, and Trump should capitalize on another appropriate nickname: “Hidin’ Biden.”
Biden has attempted to be the first candidate in United States history to win an election remotely. Biden, Harris, and his campaign routinely evade questions from journalists, and Biden has recently “called a lid” on his campaign on multiple consecutive days. Regardless of the reason for Biden’s reduced schedule, Trump must highlight his opponent’s lack of visibility and action as a sign of inability to handle the demands of being President of the United States. People do not want to vote for someone who is afraid of the outside world, or unwilling to face hard questions, or even any questions. How can you lead a country when you are afraid of the country? Trump must present Biden as a retreating anti-leader, unwilling and unable to face challenges head on.
4. Remember that the target audience isn’t Trump’s base. It’s undecided voters.
Trump’s first term has been turbulent, to say the least. While the legislative actions of his administration have largely been positive, Trump has insisted on inserting a constant level of impulsivity which seems to undermine the objective success of his tenure. Whether through unscripted press conferences or late-night Twitter sessions, Trump has a propensity for saying regrettable things, leaving many with their head in their hands.
The response to such behavior is usually either “but his base love it,” or that even his most bizarre statements or reckless retweets are part of some brilliant larger plan. “He’s playing 4D chess!” However, this debate isn’t about pleasing his base. It’s about undecided voters.
There are very few people who voted for Trump in 2016 who would now change their minds. Same goes for those who have decided to vote for Biden. The goal should instead be to attract those who are still yet to decide between Trump and Biden.
This means using issues with bipartisan support and presenting the Republicans as the sole option for those who continue to live in reality. Trump should cite his foreign policy, and the fact that Biden has been wrong on every foreign policy position he has ever held. Trump should point out that Biden and his party silently endorsed the widespread riots which gripped the country until it hurt them in the polls. Trump should remind everyone of the economic strength of the United States prior to COVID-19, and reject Biden’s unsubstantiated claims that he alone has “the solution” when he was still holding political rallies in March as Democratic governors across the country implemented policies which lead to thousands of COVID-19 deaths.
It isn’t time for 4D chess, or even 3D chess. It’s time to smash Biden on the checkers board.
5. Rather than Trump versus Biden, make the debate Trump versus Biden and the media.
In 2016, Trump’s willingness to attack the media for the partisan hacks that they are earned him a powerful following. Throughout his first term, his resilience in the face of increasingly shameless bias was a constant feature of his brand, and he should capitalize accordingly.
Since Trump’s victory against Hillary Clinton, the mainstream media have actively worked to undermine his presidency, repeatedly crossing the line from “objective reporting” to “subjective activism.” They have pushed false collusion hoaxes, legitimized spurious accusations of sexual assault leveled against Supreme Court nominees, and described violent riots as “mostly peaceful.” Time after time, they have covered for the blatant wrongdoings of Democrats, and are now spoon feeding Joe Biden with challenging questions such as, “When you hear these remarks — ‘suckers,’ ‘losers,’ recoiling from amputees, what does it tell you about President Trump’s soul and the life he leads?”
Trump has been fighting a battle against the media every day of his presidency. The fact is that the media have completely abandoned their duty to present the truth with integrity, and act as an elitist class of intellectual leftists. This is an issue which goes beyond Republican or Democrat, and therefore presents Trump with an opportunity. If he can stand as the primary opponent to media bias, he opens himself up to a wide cohort of apolitical supporters who despise the arrogant and deceitful mainstream media.
On Tuesday evening, Trump must not only destroy Biden. He must also destroy the entire class of partisan hacks like Don Lemon, Chris Cuomo, and Brian Stelter who are working overtime to cover for Joe Biden and the Democratic Party.
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