Week in Review: No Pleasure In the Pain of the S&M Debate

By Dragon Poopsie

I thought I deserved a medal for making it through the entire debate Tuesday night. But when I woke up the next morning feeling beat up, I realized I had confused endurance with intelligence: A smarter person would have turned it off.  

Debate #1 was so painful, so punishing, it felt as if it had been scripted for an audience that’s into S&M. The aggression those two old men whipped up in their fight for world dominance would make any decent person avert their eyes, yet there I sat.

It would have been easier if I’d had a stash of Keendawg’s Modelos, but a box of ice cream bars got me through. Just when I had made my way back from the COVID 15, along comes the next problem: the Debate 15. The very thought of having to go through two more of these shameful contests makes me want to run to a bakery for comfort.

But enough about me, Animals. What about you? How can we use their humiliation to advance our mutual quest to make money?

I wish I had a clear answer but, honestly, I’m going to watch to see how things settle down. Lots of variables are out there.

Trump needed to win the debate, and polls show he didn’t. He’s 7 to 8 points behind Biden nationally and not much closer in swing states. As Nate Silver put it, “Trump’s chances are dwindling.” The smart money says he’s headed for defeat, and he’ll take the Senate down with him.

And yet, as painful as the debate was, those who stayed with it should have noticed a few things. Certainly, the President was mean, nasty, completely unpresidential. CNN’s Gloria Borger said he frightened her. But Biden’s look – old and frail – wasn’t good either, and while Trump has the possibility of getting his humor back in the next few weeks, Biden will always look and sound old. He did the day after the debate, as he left on his whistle-stop tour across Ohio and Pennsylvania. A train trip probably wasn’t the best optic for a guy who’s pushing 80 – a sports car or jet would have projected more youth and energy. But that kind of miss is likely connected to another variable: the enthusiasm gap. Pollsters say Democrats, especially young ones, are considerably less enthusiastic about Biden than Republicans are about Trump. An early September poll showed a 17-point enthusiasm advantage for Trump, which could make a difference in tight races.

Also, Biden seems to finally be leaving his basement, which presents more possibilities for what his supporters call “uneven moments.” A few more gaffes like forgetting where he is, what office he’s running for, or calling a voter a “lying dogface pony soldier” could depress his voting base and get those suburban moms reconsidering.

Other variables: If rioters start burning cities or killing cops, or if Democratic senators treat Amy Cony Barrett the way they treated Brett Kavanaugh, the Biden campaign could suffer. Then the issues voters care about get bigger and broader. The contest becomes less about Biden-the-man vs. Trump-the-man and more about competing visions for the future.

Trump also could do better in the next two debates. Like many incumbents (including Reagan and Obama), he underprepared and lost. But then you have to wonder: Will there be more Presidential debates? Plenty of Dems are advising Biden to bow out. He has a comfortable lead, which he maintained with his last performance. Why give Trump a chance to come back?  

As I said, Animals, there are still a lot of variables out there. Trump and the Republicans are down in the polls; they’re favored to lose everything. PredictIt bettors are showing their confidence in a Biden victory by paying about 62 cents a share, compared to just 42 cents for a Trump win, and the gap is growing. The same is true with the issue of Senate control.

And yet polling — especially polling involving Trump — has proven troublesome. Would you admit you were for that Dom we saw in the debate? For most voters, the answer is no. Though the evidence suggests that it is Trump who will be hanging in the stirrups this November, there is still time left in this campaign for one of the 50 shades of gray to poke through.


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