The brief statement from the committee did not mention any of the candidates by name, but it was clear that the move was intended to quell disturbance largely, but not exclusively, caused by the president.
For COPD, it was a tacit admission of failure. For Trump, he offered a cornerstone for his four-year campaign attacking the legitimacy of what he calls the “so-called Commission on Presidential Debates.”
“They’re only doing this because their boyfriend was pummeled last night.” the Trump campaign responded in a statement. “President Trump was the dominant force and now Joe Biden is trying to work the umpires. They shouldn’t move the goalposts and change the rules in the middle of the game. “
The suggestion that the commission was considering changing the rules at Biden’s behest was in line with Trump’s grievance-driven policy, serving as an elixir of campaign support for a candidate who thrives in chaos and struggles with l political establishment. It’s also a preview of what’s to come for the next 34 days of the election campaign as Trump, lagging behind in the polls, seeks to cement the narrative that the fix is underway and the system is rigged. against him in his bid to win a second term. .
“He’s a grievance guy. Anyone is always ready to screw it up, ”said Nelson Warfield, a veteran Republican strategist and debate preparation specialist, describing Trump’s state of mind and his call to his base. “He wins despite the establishment’s complicity against him.”
Trump’s efforts to undermine the commission date back to his first debate with Hillary Clinton, when in August 2016, he claimed without evidence that Clinton and the commission had agreed to schedule the first two debates during football matches in the NFL to minimize audience size.
Trump then raised the issue of a biased debate, saying he wanted a “fair moderator” – an issue he resurrected in his Tuesday night clashes with moderator Chris Wallace, the serious and no-frills host of ” Fox News Sunday ”.
Despite his objections, Trump ultimately took part in the 2016 debates. But in October of that year, after a debate in which he was widely seen as the loser of the debate in snap polls and focus groups, he attack the commission once again, suggesting that the studio sound problems were meant to undermine it.
The commission remained off its radar for another three years, until December 2019 – shortly before the first Democratic primary votes – Trump began denigrate he for alleged bias and being “stacked with Trump Haters & Never Trumpers”. He publicly considered having more debate and bypassing the commission.
None of this happened. Behind-the-scenes negotiations between the campaigns and the commission this month have remained out of public view, and the first debate has taken shape without drama.
“They accepted the place. They accepted the format. They accepted the moderators. There was an unusual lack of Trump nonsense, ”said Philippe Reines, who played Trump in the preparations for the Clinton debate in 2016.“ They didn’t work the referees behind the scenes. But of course, it gave way.
The commission – a bipartisan nonprofit made up of political, media and educational figures – declined to comment for this article.
A sign of what was to come Tuesday night came on the morning of the debate. The Trump campaign amplified a baseless conspiracy theory that Biden’s campaign wanted the Democrat to wear a headset so he could give him instructions from a distance – a repeat of a false claim made by the president’s son and his allies in 2016 against Clinton. Biden’s campaign denied the claim.
Then came the debate. Within moments, Trump began to interrupt Biden, also reviewing questions from moderator Chris Wallace.
“Mr. President,” Wallace said at one point. “Your campaign agreed that both sides get answers in two minutes. Uninterrupted. Your side agreed. Watch what your campaign agreed to.”
The increasingly frustrated Wallace kept interrupting the president, imploring him to let Biden finish. Suddenly the president got the shock he seemed to be spoiling: a brawl with the establishment media.
“I guess I’m debating you, not him,” Trump said. “But it’s okay. I’m not surprised.”
Trump’s longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone joked that “Trump has very clearly beaten Chris Wallace in the debate with Biden coming into a distant third … This is the perfect example of reason. for which you do not accept the authority of the Commission over presidential debates. , which is neither a committee, nor appointed by the president nor has anything to do with the debates.
The Biden campaign has pledged to accept “whatever set of rules” the commission proposes. The next presidential debate is scheduled for October 15.
Whether his attacks on Biden, Wallace and the commission were successful is an open question. Some seasoned Republican strategists and even some of Trump’s own advisers have grimaced at her performance, fearing that she might put off indecisive and swing voters, especially women, who sided with Biden in droves.
“He’s his own political strategist. It’s like an alternate universe. But the point is, he’s in the Oval Office, so it’s impossible to chat with him, ”a Trump adviser said privately. “If we didn’t have a lot of support from women before the debate, we certainly didn’t come away with more.”
But Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, one of Trump’s top TV backups, said skeptics didn’t understand the president or his base.
“The president was dominant. Its constituents know Washington needs to be cut off, ”Gaetz said. “Many MAGA voters do not like the elitism embodied by Chris Wallace.”