One president has the most to lose at CNN Presidential Debate

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One president has the most to lose at CNN Presidential Debate

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To shift the momentum in a presidential rematch beset by lawfare, claims of misinformation, and increasing international instability, both former President Donald Trump and current President Joe Biden need to impress a dwindling pool of persuadable voters at the CNN Presidential Debate Simulcast on the Fox News Channel on Thursday night.

It’s a delicate balancing act for each of them, but not for the same reason. Trump will be on offense, looking to make inroads with traditional Democrat constituencies alienated by failed Biden administration policies. Even a small percentage of defectors from traditional Democratic voting blocs could swing an election his way. 

For his part, Biden will have to play defense, defending the indefensible while attempting to demonstrate a level of competence that is increasingly in question. Fortunately for Biden, the bar is low. As long as he doesn’t drool, the mainstream media will call it a win.

HOW TO WATCH THE CNN PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE SIMULCAST ON THE FOX NEWS CHANNEL

To thread the needle with persuadable voters, Trump needs to convey a presidential demeanor as Biden calls him a felon, a January 6th instigator, guilty of sexual assault, and a threat to democracy.  Trump needs to show he is presidential, in command of the facts, rational in his approach, and ready to solve problems voters care about rather than take the bait Biden will gladly provide.

The risk for Trump is overplaying his hand. If people see the bombastic villain the left has portrayed Trump as, he could miss his opportunity.  Overplaying the victim card over his prosecutions could backfire on him.  But by the same token, it is that “lawfare” that is generating new support in traditionally leftist, minority communities.  Is it enough to change the momentum? Time will tell.  

Can Trump take advantage of growing divisions within the Biden base? Can Biden do likewise with the Republican base?

President Biden has an even more intricate task.  If he is forced to defend some of his most unpopular policies, it could be game over for him.  Will the moderators at CNN have the courage to ask tough questions about his disastrous foreign policy?  Will Biden be made to answer for Afghanistan, Ukraine, Iran, open borders, or escalating inflation and debt?  What is Biden’s plan to fight back inflation?

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His job is even more complex because he has to find a way to defend his record without alienating some of his most loyal voting blocs. Can he defend his Israel policy without offending his traditional Jewish donors? And if he does, how does that affect the far-left antisemitic voters, particularly in Michigan, who have swung dramatically toward Hamas in recent years?

Biden’s unpopular open border policies are costing him support from blue-collar and urban voters, who traditionally vote for Democrats, but now fear for their own safety.  If he overcorrects to placate those voters, he risks offending his NGO and nonprofit allies who favor unfettered migration. Those are the folks who canvas for his party, raise money for his candidates, and organize protests. 

That leaves him with gaslighting as his best option on immigration and crime.  Which is what his administration usually does – telling us the borders are secure and the streets are safe, and not to trust our own lying eyes.  But if he makes these claims in a debate, he risks appearing disconnected if not dishonest.  No one is fooled.

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And then there is the economy.  It’s consistently the top issue for voters.  Trump has the advantage of having presided over a more prosperous time for persuadable voting blocs. Echoing the current messaging from the left — that voters are just too dumb to realize how good his economy really is – isn’t likely to make voters feel a connection. Not to mention how it might reflect on any claims of his competence, honesty, or mental acuity.

Democrats have taken for granted that their traditional voters are solid. They’ve built their entire election infrastructure around the idea that minority voters, blue collar workers, young voters, immigrants, convicted felons, Jews, and suburban women will be solidly in their corner. But are they?  

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Polls show support among those voters is eroding for Biden.  Asking working-class voters to pay off the loans of Ivy League students hardly endears him to his blue-collar unions. His efforts to slow the Israeli response to Hamas have given many Jewish voters pause.  And his failure to mitigate the impact of his immigration policies on deep blue urban centers has begun to alienate inner city voters. 

Can Trump take advantage of growing divisions within the Biden base? Can Biden do likewise with the Republican base?

Trump’s party, for its part, has its own fracturing base to contend with. Biden must try to exploit the advantages created by his party’s recent lawfare in the hopes that voters will recoil from electing someone who wears the label of “convicted felon.”  But in this, he too risks overplaying his hand and generating sympathy for the target of political lawfare.

Joe Biden has much more to lose in this debate than Donald Trump.  If Trump can capitalize on the voter doubts about Biden’s capacity, his proficiency, and his suitability for the job, Democrats will be the ones to panic.

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Biden can afford a gaffe or two. Gaffes are so much a part of his persona that it might be more suspicious if he doesn’t make one. But it will undoubtedly be tough for him to go 90 minutes without notes or a teleprompter. God bless the person who has to write up the transcript of Biden’s words.

Ultimately, elections are about the future.  The candidate who can assuage voter fears about the future could take a commanding lead.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM JASON CHAFFETZ

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