Trump and Joe Toe-to-(Socially Distanced) Toe: Who is Joe’s Real Foe?

Part one of a two-part Presidential Debate preview.

By Al Perrotta Published on September 28, 2020

Finally. Donald Trump and Joe Biden will go face to face mask in the first Presidential Debate Tuesday night.

The election may hinge on what happens in those 90 minutes at Case Western Reserve University. It looks like Joe Biden will actually be there, which was one of the big questions in recent months. And no, he won’t be taking a drug test.

In part one of our debate preview, we take a look at what Joe Biden must do in the debate. And that means looking at who Joe is really up against.


Heard an interesting theory the other day. The American Thinker has a short article on it. You know how Biden has ended his campaign day before noon at least 11 days this month? Sometimes as early as 8:30 AM? In fact, he shut things down before 10 a.m. today. His supporters say he’s been preparing for the debate. That’s perfectly true.

We forget, but Joe had already stopped doing campaign events in the late afternoon and evening months ago, pre-COVID. Why? because the later it got, the more tired and gaffe-prone he became. (A familiar phenomenon is found among dementia patients, called “sundowning.”) Had to get Joe’s day done early.

What’s the theory? Biden is sleeping during the day to get his body on a different time clock. So he’ll be as fresh as the morning dew come debate time.

That may well work for the debate. But the presidency doesn’t care about time clocks.

The True Debate Moderator

Which gets to my central point about the debate. Chris Wallace isn’t your only moderator. Sitting next to him will be this guy.

Father Time

Father Time. He’s the one Joe’s really going to have to answer. Can he go 90 minutes without fading? Without completely losing his train of thought? Without coming out with some jaw-dropping gaffe? The other day he said he’d been a senator for 180 years. Just seems like it was 180 years.

Because of COVID fears, the two candidates will not shake hands. That works to Biden’s advantage. The pale and low-energy Biden doesn’t want to stand too close to the tan, hyper-energetic and always physically imposing Trump. Historians tell us JFK won his debate with Richard Nixon before they even said a word, because JFK looked sharp and vigorous, while Nixon looked pasty.

Joe Biden Must Not Falter

Joe Biden’s prime objective Tuesday night is to go 90 minutes sounding fit, relaxed and ready for the office. Watching Joe Biden is — by definition — stressful. And hasn’t 2020 been stressful enough? Your throat tightens just thinking about watching Joe. His own face looks perpetually stressed at this point.

Is he going to forget where he is? What office he’s running for? Send his train of thought over the edge into a ravine? Start talking about leg hair or record players or (again) call soldiers “stupid b******s)”? God forbid, is he going to have an episode like Ron Paul did the other day, where he appeared to have a stroke in the middle of a live stream?

The tension is unnerving.

Joe Biden must defuse the tension quick, and keep it defused for 90 full minutes … or his election fortunes could immediately crater.

Joe Probably Will Falter

Can he do it? Well, Joe has a problem. Joe Biden hasn’t taken any serious, sustained questioning in months. And the couple times he has been challenged, he has gotten very, very testy. Who can forget “Are you on crack?” and “You’re not really black”? Remember how upset he got when asked last week about son Hunter.

The New York Times writer and Democratic operator Maggie Haberman isn’t worried. She points out that Trump has a temper too. But she misses the mark.

An angry and perturbed Biden goes against his brand. Trump getting fierce? Yeah. He’s the Killer from Queens. You expect steam out the ears. Orange Man Bad. But Biden? Tan Man Good. He’s lovable Uncle Joe. Lovable Uncle Joe turning nasty is very, very jarring. If you have older relatives, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Joe Biden said Sunday his strategy is to tell the “truth.” Some have suggested he needs to keep calling out Trump for any misstatements. Sounds nice. But that means going toe-to-toe for 90 minutes. Against someone who easily took on 16 of the GOP’s toughest at the same time. And took down the ferociously competitive Hillary Clinton.

Joe simply isn’t quick enough on his feet. And doesn’t have the stamina. And he’s never gone up against anything like Trump. And since Joe has changed his position on so many different issues so often, and sold out his moderation to the party radicals, he has no solid ground to stand on.

Besides, if Trump sticks to his indisputable accomplishments, what’s Joe to do? He’ll just look punched out and punch drunk.

No, Joe Biden’s crucial task is to prove he’s still Joe Biden, and not an angry, confused shell of what he once was. Nothing Trump says matters. Nothing Chris Wallace asks matters. It’s Father Time Biden has to neutralize.

Next up, what Donald Trump needs to do on that debate stage.


Al Perrotta is the Managing Editor of The Stream and co-author, with @JZmirak, of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration. You can follow him at @StreamingAl. And if you aren’t already, please follow The Stream at @Streamdotorg.

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