Tonight's first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden takes place at 9 PM ET in Cleveland, Ohio, and you can watch our complete coverage tonight right here at Townhall.com. I'll be hosting the event along with running commentary from Kurt Schlichter and the entire Townhall Media political team.
This debate is expected to be the most-watched political event in American history. Between broadcast and cable TV, radio broadcast and live streaming, over 100 million people should be tuning in to this historic event.
The stakes couldn't be higher, and at the risk of piling on all the advice the president is surely getting right now, I'd like to humbly throw some last-minute tidbits his way.
First, before I get to my three simple ideas Trump can use to own the night, I want to reiterate something for the president, his team, his supporters, the media, and the American people to keep in mind: Joe Biden should win this debate handily. I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago.
Let's please stop lowering expectations for this man who is about to experience the most consequential moment in his lifetime. If you listen to conventional wisdom in D.C. and the media, you'd think that by just showing up and not mistakenly believing he's at his grandchild's birthday party Biden will have won the night.
Joe Biden has not really accomplished anything in his 47 years in public office. He hasn't built anything; he hasn't created jobs, he hasn't jump-started an economy, he hasn't improved conditions for the American people, he hasn't really done anything except one thing: He has discussed and debated politics and policy.
As a senator, vice president, and frequent guest on television, he has been a point-person to argue and articulate ideas for his party. This is all he has done. Why shouldn't he be great tonight?
He has been debating this stuff for five decades; Trump has been at it for five years. Anything less than a complete and total take-down of President Trump and domination of the topics and facts should be seen as a failure.
Now, given the odds that are stacked against the president, let's explore a few things he could do to throw the former veep off his game:
Give Biden All the Time He Wants. In the debates for the Democratic nomination over the past year, Biden had a quirky tactic when he was "on the clock." He would talk himself into a corner and get his ideas mangled and then abruptly stop and say, "I see my time is up."
Joe Biden is the only candidate I've ever seen say "I'll stop. My time's up."— Charlotte Clymer ?????? (@cmclymer) June 28, 2019
It was a bit strange.#DemDebate2
It was weird, and the moment was seized upon by lefty Democrats who were angling for Sanders or Warren or Harris in the debate. They saw it as a "self-own," where Biden was acknowledging he was past his prime.
In reality, it was a tactic to cover his apparent inability to put together more than one or two memorized talking points. Trump shouldn't fall for it. This is a one-on-one debate where the American people deserve to hear exactly who these two men are and what they plan to do.
If Biden tries to cut himself off and claim he is "out of time," Trump should politely intercede and defer his time to his older counterpart.
"No, Joe, please, continue. I yield my time to you," Trump should insist. "We want to hear more... please, finish your thought, Joe. You remember what you were saying, right?"
Raise Hunter Biden Early and Often
Joe Biden's son Hunter made a fortune because he was the son of the vice president. That's just documented fact at this point. And his proximity to power was at the very least a sordid appearance of impropriety and conflict of interest if not an outright criminal entanglement for the vice president.
Since the devastating Senate report was delivered last week, Biden has been in hiding. He has not had to field one direct, probing question about this matter. Trump should remedy this.
It can be done very effectively. He should have two or three questions memorized that he can tag on to the end of every one of his answers.
"And that's what I'd like to do about taxes. Now, Chris, I hope you ask Vice President Biden why he lied about his knowledge of concerns over his son's dealings with Ukraine and Burisma. The State Department raised red flags to the Obama White House about it, but he has claimed that he knew nothing. Joe, did you lie about that, or did you forget?"
"And that's the truth about my jobs record. Now, Chris, I sure hope you ask Joe about his son's behavior while he was Vice President. Hunter received a $3.5 million wire transfer from Elena Baturina, the billionaire widow of Yury Luzhkov, the former mayor of Moscow, a known associate of Vladimir Putin. It looks like I'm the only person in this town who wasn't colluding with Russia."
If moderator Chris Wallace ever pushes back and says, "Hunter Biden is not an issue in this campaign" or something like that (I expect he will), Trump should say, "Well, Chris, nobody else will ask him these questions. He hides from the media. If he does give an interview, they give him a pass. I sat with you for two grueling hours in the sun in the rose garden and took all your questions. Why do you and your colleagues hold him to a lower standard?"
Challenge Biden Directly on His Record
No doubt, at some point, Biden will list off a memorized litany of laws he had a hand in crafting over his many years in the Senate. At some point, he will say something like, "that's why I wrote the Violence Against Women Act" or something like that.
Trump should follow up and ask, "Hey Joe, what, exactly, did the Violence Against Women Act actually DO? I mean, did it do anything that reduced violence against women? Can you give me three or four items that were actually in the Violence Against Women Act that resulted in less violence against women?"
The answer should be very revealing.
The fact is, Trump has done more in 47 months as president than Biden did in 47 years mired in the morass of D.C. politics. This is Trump's strongest argument and he should lay into it early and often. Democrats made a huge, tactical error nominating a candidate who represents everything Americans hate about Washington politics. Trump needs to exploit this error.
Don't forget to watch the debate with all your favorites here at Townhall starting tonight at 8:30 PM ET and right through the debate.