mcloudyn.png
Wednesday August 4th, 2021 2:14AM

2020 Watch: How much do debates matter this year?

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

NEW YORK (AP) — Presidential politics move fast. What we’re watching heading into a new week on the 2020 campaign:

Days to general election: 36

Days to first debate: 1

___

THE NARRATIVE

The race is tightening somewhat in some states, but Joe Biden is maintaining a remarkably stable lead over President Donald Trump in most national polls five weeks before Election Day as early voting intensifies. Still, the Republican president has at least two major opportunities to improve his standing this week.

First, Trump and his allies are poised to dominate the national conversation as they escalate their push to confirm Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, whom the president formally introduced to America on Saturday. Trump's team is betting that the evolving confirmation fight will help unify Republicans behind his candidacy and shift the national conversation away from his struggle to control the pandemic.

Second, the first general election debate gives Trump a prime-time opening to test Biden’s physical and mental strength once and for all. Trump and Biden face off Tuesday night in Cleveland, a highly anticipated affair expected to feature a sharp contrast in policy and personality. Biden is being advised to avoid direct attacks, but based on past performance, Trump won't make it easy to take the high road.

And while Trump has opportunities this week, so does Biden. Democrats have seized on a New York Times report that the president paid little to no federal income taxes for several years because of huge losses in his businesses.

___

THE BIG QUESTIONS

How much do debates matter in 2020?

The expectations game was raging over the weekend, but on the eve of the first general election debate, it's worth pondering the significance of the first debate-stage meeting between Trump and Biden.

If recent history is any guide, the 2020 debates will not significantly change the direction of the election. Remember former President Barack Obama's opening dud in 2012? Or what about the consensus that Hillary Clinton bested Trump four years ago?

At the same time, Trump and his team have so effectively lowered expectations for Biden by questioning his mental and physical health for much of the last year that the 77-year-old former vice president might be judged the winner if he can simply have an average night for 90 minutes.

The stakes may actually be higher for the president, who is running short on opportunities to alter the dynamics of the race.

Can Biden stay disciplined?

Biden talked a tough game when asked about his debate strategy over the weekend, but those close to the campaign tell us he's being advised to avoid too much direct confrontation or fact checking with the tough-talking Republican president.

Democrats believe that Trump is at his best when he's playing in the mud, and they want Biden to rise above the insults and disinformation to present a clear contrast to voters. Such a disciplined strategy is far easier said than done — especially for Biden, who has lost his cool with voters on the campaign trail at times and generally struggled with staying on message when given a long leash.

Despite the concerns of his advisers, Biden sounded like he was spoiling for a fight on MSNBC over the weekend. He compared Trump to a Nazi and argued that “the people know the president is a liar” and later added: “He doesn’t know how to debate the facts because he’s not that smart.”

The Democratic base no doubt wants Biden to take the fight to Trump, but the former vice president may win the long game here by playing it safe.

Will Trump accept a peaceful transfer of power?

While some may not take him literally, Trump's team is the first to point out that the president has followed through with several campaign trail promises over the last four years. Therefore, it could be dangerous to shrug off his repeated refusals to agree to a peaceful transfer of power should he lose.

This is not the kind of question you'd expect a president to be asked in the United States, which casts itself as a global model of democracy. But here we are. It doesn't matter much how many Republicans on Capitol Hill or White House aides try to downplay Trump's comments so long as the man with the world's most powerful megaphone continues to cast doubt on a pillar of democracy.

We've already seen evidence of the president's supporters seizing on his rhetoric to commit acts of violence. This is dangerous territory.

Will SCOTUS help or hurt the GOP?

Lara Trump, the president's daughter in law and a campaign adviser, said in North Carolina last week that the Supreme Court debate would help energize the conservative base and win over “fence sitters” who otherwise might not vote. So far, we've seen no evidence that the nascent confirmation fight is making any difference in the president's political standing.

But the Trump campaign is investing $10 million in a digital ad campaign featuring the court battle while encouraging battleground state voters to cast ballots. At the same time, Republicans are hosting a series of local events across the country this week to support Barrett's confirmation.

Our recent reporting in critical swing states like Pennsylvania and North Carolina revealed that the Supreme Court simply isn't a top issue for most voters, especially as the death toll from the pandemic continues to mount. That could limit the political upside or downside for Trump's GOP even as the confirmation battle intensifies.

___

THE FINAL THOUGHT

For millions of Americans, Election Day has already arrived.

State election officials have already issued more than 3 million absentee or mail ballots in Arizona, nearly 5 million in Florida, and more than 1.1 million in Wisconsin, according to data collected by The Associated Press. Early voting is going on in several other states as well, including Minnesota, North Carolina and Virginia.

As expected, Democrats have a significant advantage in the number of ballots issued so far in most states. It's too early to read too much into the numbers, except to remember that everything that happens from here on out has the potential to move votes in real time. It's on.

___

2020 Watch runs every Monday and provides a look at the week ahead in the 2020 election.

___

AP’s Advance Voting guide brings you the facts about voting early, by mail or absentee from each state: https://interactives.ap.org/advance-voting-2020/

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Online Supreme Court News, AP Elections, General Election News, General Presidential Election News, AP Elections - Campaigns
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Armenia, Azerbaijan keep up deadly fight for disputed region
Fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over the disputed separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh continued on Monday morning after erupting the day before, with both sides blaming each other for resuming the attacks
8:08AM ( 2 minutes ago )
Trump's tax revelation could tarnish image that fueled rise
The bombshell revelations that President Donald Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes the year he ran for office and paid no income taxes at all in many others threaten to undercut a pillar of his appeal among blue-collar voters
7:58AM ( 12 minutes ago )
The Latest: At least 4 senior EU officials in self-isolation
The coronavirus has forced at least four senior EU officials into self-isolation in recent days
7:43AM ( 27 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
The Latest: England fines those who fail to self-isolate
People across England face tough new fines if they fail to self isolate after testing positive for COVID-19
6:40AM ( 1 hour ago )
Church says Cardinal Pell returning to Vatican in crisis
A church agency says Cardinal George Pell will return to the Vatican soon for the first time since he was cleared of child sex crimes five months ago
2:57AM ( 5 hours ago )
Food trucks provide rare bright spot in hard-hit West Bank
The coronavirus crisis has hit West Bank restaurants hard
2:05AM ( 6 hours ago )
AP National News
Back to the Finals: Heat oust Celtics, move to title series
It was exactly one year ago Sunday when Jimmy Butler walked into the Miami Heat practice gym, took a seat on a makeshift stage and said he wanted to be part of the team’s next title run
11:23PM ( 8 hours ago )
Report: Cardinal Pell returning to Vatican in crisis
An Australian newspaper has reported Cardinal George Pell will return to the Vatican soon for the first time since he was cleared of child sex crimes five months ago
10:12PM ( 9 hours ago )
Federal judge postpones Trump ban on popular app TikTok
A federal judge on Sunday postponed a Trump administration order that would have banned the popular video sharing app TikTok from U.S. smartphone app stores around midnight
9:15PM ( 10 hours ago )
AP Online National News
Jill Biden, Doug Emhoff team up in final campaign stretch
Jill Biden and Doug Emhoff have rapidly become two of the Democrat ticket's most prolific surrogates
4:16PM ( 15 hours ago )
Nearly a year after sudden exit, Shepard Smith returns to TV
Two weeks shy of a year after his abrupt exit from Fox News Channel, Shepard Smith is making his return to television
4:04PM ( 16 hours ago )
Biden to Democrats: Focus on health law, not court expansion
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden says the GOP's push for a speedy Supreme Court confirmation is really an effort to overturn the 2010 health care law
4:02PM ( 16 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
Biden, Trump take differing approaches to debate preparation
Ahead of the first debate between President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden, each campaign is promising a stark contrast in policy, personality and preparation
6:37PM ( 13 hours ago )
Conservatives lead in French Senate elections, Greens gain
France’s main conservative party looked set to keep control of the Senate and the Greens made new gains in partial elections Sunday
6:08PM ( 14 hours ago )
Biden to Dems: Focus on health care, not court expansion
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden says the GOP's push for a speedy Supreme Court confirmation is really an effort to overturn the 2010 health care law
1:56PM ( 18 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Romania's municipal election seen as test for December vote
Voters in Romania are casting ballots in municipal elections, which are being viewed as a test of how the next general election on Dec. 6 will unfold for the country’s minority-led government
8:38AM ( 23 hours ago )
Macron's party faces struggle in French Senate elections
Nearly half of France’s Senate seats are up for grabs Sunday in an election that is likely to leave the chamber dominated by conservatives and serve a new electoral blow to President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party
7:17AM ( 1 day ago )
Her words: Amy Coney Barrett on faith, precedent, abortion
Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, a former Notre Dame law professor and current judge on the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, says she is a firm supporter of the Constitution
12:36AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Online Congress News
On guns, abortion, high court could become more conservative
If Congress confirms President Donald Trump’s nominee to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Supreme Court would become more conservative and also perhaps more ready to tackle certain hot-button issues like abortion and guns
8:59AM ( 23 hours ago )
The Latest: Trump highlights choice of Barrett at rally
Chants of “fill that seat” erupted Saturday night as President Donald Trump opened his first campaign rally after nominating Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court
8:29PM ( 1 day ago )
The Latest: Trump expects Barrett confirmed before election
President Donald Trump says thinks Judge Amy Coney Barrett will be confirmed to the Supreme Court before Election Day on Nov. 3
8:00PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Online Supreme Court News
Global shares up ahead of China holiday, Trump-Biden debate
Global shares are mostly higher ahead of the first U.S. presidential debate and a national holiday in China later in the week
4:33AM ( 3 hours ago )
Asia shares mixed ahead of China holiday, Trump-Biden debate
Asian shares are mixed ahead of the first U.S. presidential debate and a national holiday in China later in the week
3:07AM ( 5 hours ago )
Asia shares up ahead of China holiday, presidential debate
Asian shares are higher ahead of the first U.S. presidential debate and a national holiday in China later in the week
12:03AM ( 8 hours ago )
AP Elections
It's 'now or never' for ex-Trump aides weighing speaking out
With just weeks left before the Nov. 3 election, it's decision time for a number of current and former Trump administration officials who are debating whether to speak out against President Donald Trump
12:35PM ( 1 day ago )
Trump shifts focus to Pennsylvania to shore up reelection
With less than 40 days to go until the election, Pennsylvania is poised to emerge as the most crucial battleground on the map, one President Donald Trump may not be able to be win another term without
8:42AM ( 1 day ago )
Probe into 'discarded' ballots becomes campaign outrage fuel
A federal prosecutor's description of nine “discarded” military ballots found in the trash at a northeastern Pennsylvania elections office has been seized on by President Donald Trump and his supporters, despite any public evidence they were handled with nefarious intent
12:49AM ( 2 days ago )
General Election News
He's not running, but Morales looms large in Bolivia vote
Even in exile, Evo Morales is a factor in Bolivia’s election next month
12:00AM ( 2 days ago )
GOP expecting Trump to tap Barrett for Supreme Court
Republicans are expecting President Donald Trump to announce Saturday that he is nominating Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, as he aims to put a historic stamp on the high court just weeks before the election
6:33PM ( 2 days ago )
Trump hits battleground states courting key voters
President Donald Trump is trying to chip away at his Democratic rival’s advantage with Black and Hispanic voters during a two-day campaign swing that is ticking off boxes, both geographically and with key constituencies
3:08PM ( 2 days ago )
General Presidential Election News
The Latest: Barber: Justice for Taylor should lead to voting
A prominent activist says people demanding justice for Breonna Taylor need to show their collective strength by voting in the November election
12:21PM ( 2 days ago )
Biden's low-key campaign style worries some Democrats
Joe Biden had no public events scheduled Thursday, as he concentrated on preparing for next week's debate
11:42AM ( 2 days ago )
Progressives pledge to keep pushing Biden to expand court
Since Joe Biden ran away with the Democratic presidential nomination in March, leading progressives have accepted him — sometimes grudgingly — as their party’s leader
9:19PM ( 3 days ago )
AP Elections - Campaigns
Armenia, Azerbaijan keep up deadly fight for disputed region
Fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over the disputed separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh continued on Monday morning after erupting the day before, with both sides blaming each other for resuming the attacks
8:08AM ( 3 minutes ago )
Trump's tax revelation could tarnish image that fueled rise
The bombshell revelations that President Donald Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes the year he ran for office and paid no income taxes at all in many others threaten to undercut a pillar of his appeal among blue-collar voters
7:58AM ( 12 minutes ago )
The Latest: At least 4 senior EU officials in self-isolation
The coronavirus has forced at least four senior EU officials into self-isolation in recent days
7:43AM ( 27 minutes ago )
India’s confirmed coronavirus tally reaches 6 million cases
India’s confirmed coronavirus tally has reached 6 million, keeping the country second to the United States in number of reported cases
7:35AM ( 36 minutes ago )
The Latest: Russia reports over 8,000 new cases
Russian health officials have reported over 8,000 new coronavirus cases for the first time since mid-June
7:25AM ( 46 minutes ago )