Anyone who has read this byline over the years knows that I'm not in the prediction business. I rarely take the precious space this fine website grants me to tell you what I think or believe may happen in the future, especially when it comes to how Americans will vote.
Anyone who tries to predict how the American electorate will respond to the candidacy of Donald Trump is lying to you and themselves and engaged in a fool's errand. This is a political figure who has defied every ounce of conventional wisdom in the five short years he has been engaged in electoral politics, and if the 2020 election is any indication thus far, that phenomenon continues.
Remarkably, the majority of my very well-paid colleagues who dabble in the dark art of political commentary and analysis on television didn't learn this simple lesson after the 2016 presidential election. But, there they are again, telling their viewers that the election is "Biden's to lose" and "Trump is way behind" and (my personal favorite) "Biden is favored to win in 87 out of 100 scenarios!"
However, taking into account the well-executed disclaimer above, I'd like to take a few moments to explain why I think President Trump's debate performance Thursday night could very well be the game-changing event he needed to head straight to re-election eleven days from now.
1. The Tone
I'm not one of those voters who really gives a flip about whether a politician "sounds presidential" or not. Most of the men who have held the office of president of the United States have had huge egos. It's sort of a pre-requisite to put yourself out there as a potential "leader of the free world," isn't it? I expect that most of the presidents and presidential candidates in my lifetime have been insufferable jerks behind the scenes and they put on their phony "presidential" face to con the voters.
That said, we must recognize that many voters do crave a straight-forward, serious tone in their president, and their opinions on this matter should not be dismissed. After all, they vote too.
The latest RCP average of polls shows Biden leading 51% to 42%. (I know, the national polls are irrelevant because of the electoral college, but for the point I am about to make, the national polls actually serve a purpose.)
To me, the remarkable aspect of this poll is not that Biden is leading. It's that it shows 7% of the electorate is undecided. Really? Undecided? This late in the game? And with these two politicians? One who has been fed into our consciousness in every aspect of our lives over the past five years and is currently the president and the other who was vice president and has been in the public sphere for nearly five decades? Who in the hell are this 7% who can't make up their minds?
And then it hit me: They aren't undecided, they lean Trump, but they are waiting to make that final commitment. Something is stopping them. Something relatively intangible. It's the "tone" thing. They are down with his policies and achievements, but they just don't like the guy's attitude. They prefer the "presidential" thing.
Last night, Trump gave them just enough of that tone to help them make that commitment in the final days of the campaign.
Again, I don't give a flip about the tone thing; I evaluate results. Would I like my president to be the second coming of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln? Sure. Is that guy even running for office in this era? Hell no... I mean, the mobs are tearing down statues of the real Washington and Lincoln, so why would our era's version step up?
2. The Oil
It can't be overstated: Trump getting Biden to admit that he will end the oil industry was a seminal moment. It was the perfect confirmation of just how radical, out-of-touch and destructive Joe Biden and the Democratic Party have become.
The proof is in the Biden campaign's embarrassing attempt to gaslight the world and tell us all that what we heard Biden say is not at all what we heard Biden say.
Biden's team seeks to clarify Biden's remarks on the oil industry, with @KBeds saying that Biden was referring to ending oil subsidies.— Annie Linskey (@AnnieLinskey) October 23, 2020
Yeah right. He was just talking about subsidies. OK... let's watch the moment together, shall we?
Trump: "Would you close down the oil industry?"— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) October 23, 2020
Biden: "I would transition from the oil industry, yes"
Trump: "That's a big statement"
Biden: "That is a big statement"
That big statement will lose Joe Biden the election. His plan is too radical and will destroy our economy! pic.twitter.com/UVYXm8MmUv
Biden has been telling the country that he is not beholden to the radicals in his party pushing the Green New Deal. Of course, we don't really believe him, but many voters are more than prepared to allow themselves to be fooled by such gaslighting. But this is indisputable. It comes from his own mouth and semi-coherent words.
It's less about oil, although, in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and really anywhere else people like cars (I hear cars are big in Michigan), than it is about Biden voluntarily confirming that he is aligned with the radical Left to upend our nation's economy and way of life.
There's one other thing about this moment that helps Trump. Watch the video again. Do you see it? Trump created this moment. He had to take charge of the stage, raise his hand to stop the moderator from moving along, and challenge Biden directly with the question that should have been asked and forced the agenda. This is an Alpha-leadership move and it is the kind of thing that people genuinely want in a leader, regardless of politics.
3. The Outsider
Donald Trump has been president for four years. He is the leader of the free world and has been at the center of every American political issue for over five years. And yet, somehow, he is still running as an outsider.
It's an amazing thing.
He got an assist from the Democrats since they nominated the longest-serving politician in America who has been the ultimate insider and personification of stagnant, do-nothing DC politics for that entire time. Trump skillfully took that gift and hammered home the most important message of his candidacy last night.
"That’s a typical political statement. Let’s get off this China thing, and then he looks: 'The family around the table,' everything. Just a typical politician when I see that. I'm not a typical politician. That’s why I got elected."
flamed pic.twitter.com/RAXX8Udww1— Not the Bee (@Not_the_Bee) October 23, 2020
"See, it's all talk, no action with these politicians. Why didn't he get it done? [You say], 'That's what I'm going to do when I become president' – you were vice president along with Obama as your president, your leader for eight years. Why didn't you get it done? You had eight years to get it done."
"Joe, I ran because of you. I ran because of Barack Obama. Because you did a poor job. If I thought you did a good job, I would have never run."
“You know Joe...I ran because of you. I ran because of Barack Obama...cause you did a poor job. If I thought you did a good job, I would of never run. I ran because of you...I’m looking at you now...your a politician...I ran because of you.” @realDonaldTrump #Debates2020 pic.twitter.com/B9Dnn1aIGp— Dan Scavino?????? (@DanScavino) October 23, 2020
In the final third of the debate, Trump was able to settle into this theme very comfortably. It's no wonder it's what vaulted him into the lead in the 2016 Republican primary and on to victory that November. Anyone who is still undecided is probably a voter who does not traditionally align themselves on a regular basis with one party or the other. They are independent. These voters like outsiders.
They liked Ross Perot. They like Barack Obama. They like Donald Trump.
He was able to remind them that even though he's the president, he's still the consummate outsider compared to the likes of Joe Biden.
Again, I don't pretend to tell you how voters will line up in eleven days, and I won't insult your intelligence by assuring you that this thing is settled for either of these candidates. If I had that kind of undeserved arrogance and hubris, I'd be a television analyst.
I only say this; President Trump had a couple of important goals to achieve in this last debate to give Trump-shy or Trump-hesitant voters enough reason to commit to him. In my opinion, for what it's worth, he achieved those important goals. And then some.