Election Day is fast approaching; yet, sometimes, it feels like this election cycle is barely getting started.
The pandemic has altered the dynamics of campaigning to be almost unrecognizable. Where there were once town halls, rallies, and day-by-day journals from the campaign trail – now we get virtual fundraisers and carefully cultivated quotes and footage after they’ve been edited and approved by staffers.
It’s like all the pressure and spontaneity is gone. Running for President in 2020 doesn’t require any of the stamina or wit of other elections in our lifetime.
Trump tends to the presidency, trying to put out one fire after another – some manufactured, others of his doing. Biden’s content to stay home mostly, giving the occasional press conference or interview – where the questions are always screened beforehand, and he frequently reads pre-prepared notes to respond. Whatever heavy lifting is still required is usually handled by big-name endorsees, campaign staffers, and super PACs.
The last beacons of hope for political junkies craving a moment or two of uncertainty and authenticity are this Fall’s debates. Currently, there are three scheduled and another for the Vice-Presidential nominees.
The thing is – it feels like we’re being conditioned for an eventual letdown.
Right now, most of the talk from the campaigns suggests the debates will proceed as scheduled, but there are subtle hints that things could change.
|Presidential Debate 1||September 29||Cleveland, Ohio||Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic|
|Vice Presidential Debate||October 7||Salt Lake City, Utah||University of Utah|
|Presidential Debate 2||October 15||Miami, Florida||Adrienne Arsht Center|
|Presidential Debate 3||October 22||Nashville, Tennessee||Belmont University|
Political betting sites must feel it too because some are beginning to accept action on whether the events will take place – and if so, how?
This article’s primary focus is the two “presidential debate” markets posted by Bovada’s oddsmakers: one’s an over-under on debate totals, and the other is a prop bet concerning “teleconferencing.”
How Many Presidential Debates Will Be Held For The 2020 Election?
There are three presidential debates on the calendar for this Fall. However, they’re all scheduled to take place on dates after mail-in voting will start. Many states will deliver ballots to registered voters as soon as early September, while the first debate is at the end of the month – on the 29th.
States That Starting Early Voting Before the First Debate:
- North Carolina – September 4
- Pennsylvania – September 14
- Minnesota – September 18
- Wyoming – September 18
- Michigan – September 19
- New Jersey – September 19
- South Dakota – September 19
- Vermont – September 19
- Virginia – September 19
- Illinois – September 24
No Extra Debates
Believing the head-to-head showcases will expose Biden’s cognitive decline and swing momentum back into his favor, Trump has been exploring ways to either add a fourth debate or move one of the two October meetings a month earlier.
Last week, Rudy Giuliani – working on behalf of the Trump campaign – asked the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates to facilitate a conference call between the incumbent’s team, Biden officials, and commission members to discuss adding a fourth event. The request was denied, closing the door on talks of adding debates once and for all.
How Many Presidential Debates Will Be Held for the 2020 Election?
- O/U 2.5 DebatesOdds
- Over 2.5-300
- Under 2.5+220
The Biden campaign has already rejected adding more debates previously; the Democratic challenger’s lead in the polls suggests he has nothing to gain from any such proposals.
“We have accepted the proposal for the debates proposed by, hosted by and conducted by the nonpartisan debate commission, as has every major party nominee for decades,” TJ Ducklo, a spokesman for Joe Biden, said in response Guiliani’s request Friday.
“The last four presidents seeking reelection found the commission’s debates adequate to make their case for reelection; if Donald Trump thinks he needs something different, that says more about his failed presidency than it does about the debate schedule.”
Even if the questions about the former Vice President’s health are overblown, there’s no incentive to expose himself to Trump’s aggressive, and often insulting, style of arguing – the approach that flustered and frustrated Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election cycle.
Hillary’s Advice to Biden about Debating Trump:
“He is on a stage with someone who lies with impunity, with actual real delight,” said the former Secretary of State. “Who has absolutely no compunction about saying anything. Whose idea of preparation is just making stuff up and throwing it out there.”
“So, on the one hand, you have to be prepared yourself because you owe it to the American public to try to answer the real questions. You cannot get distracted or diverted by the reality show that’s going on on the stage right next to you, because that’s what it is. And you can’t take the bait.”
So, when we’re handicapping Bovada’s 2.5 debate total, we can be confident that none will be added. The wager comes down to whether the two presidential candidates will complete the current slate of showdowns.
Pundits want Biden to Cancel Debates
We aren’t getting four debates: what are the chances we see three?
That’s a bit trickier to handicap. However, according to the views published in several of the most prestigious publications in the world, Joe Biden finishing all the debates as scheduled, is not a popular idea.
If some Democratic journalists and pols get their way, there won’t be any at all!
That’s an excellent sign to bet the “under.” Liberal publications have started publishing opinion pieces about how debates are outdated and reward the wrong qualities for choosing a President. They say Biden should deny Trump a platform to launch attacks and espouse lies.
Here are some of the more prominent voices calling to change or cancel the current debate schedule and format over the past few months. I’ve included key quotes from each article:
Washington Post – It’s time to rethink the presidential debates
Karen Tumulty – June 25
“Trump is claiming he would like to have four faceoffs with Biden, rather than the three (plus one vice-presidential debate), that are currently scheduled to take place between Sept. 29 and Oct. 22.”
“This is not a serious proposal. Even under the best of circumstances, scheduling these much-watched events on the busy fall calendar is a difficult challenge for the Commission on Presidential Debates, which has been in charge of the process since the 1988 election.”
New York Times – Biden Should Not Debate Trump Unless …
Thomas Friedman – July 7
“I worry about Joe Biden debating Donald Trump. He should do it only under two conditions. Otherwise, he’s giving Trump unfair advantages.”
“First, Biden should declare that he will take part in a debate only if Trump releases his tax returns for 2016 through 2018. Biden has already done so, and they are on his website. Trump must, too.”
“And second, Biden should insist that a real-time fact-checking team approved by both candidates be hired by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates — and that 10 minutes before the scheduled conclusion of the debate this team report on any misleading statements, phony numbers or outright lies either candidate had uttered.”
CNN – Joe Biden could still lose this election
Joe Lockhart – July 28
“Whatever you do, don’t debate Trump. Trump has now made more than 20,000 misleading or false statements according to the Washington Post. It’s a fool’s errand to enter the ring with someone who can’t follow the rules or the truth. Biden will undoubtedly take heat from Republicans and the media for skipping the debates. But it’s worth the risk as trying to debate someone incapable of telling the truth is an impossible contest to win.”
New York Times – Let’s Scrap the Presidential Debates
Elizabeth Drew – August 3
“Nervous managers of the scheduled 2020 presidential debates are shuffling the logistics and locations to deal with the threat of the coronavirus. But here’s a better idea: Scrap them altogether. And not for health reasons.”
“The debates have never made sense as a test for presidential leadership. In fact, one could argue that they reward precisely the opposite of what we want in a president. When we were serious about the presidency, we wanted intelligence, thoughtfulness, knowledge, empathy and, to be sure, likability. It should also go without saying, dignity.”
“Yet the debates play an outsize role in campaigns and weigh more heavily on the verdict than their true value deserves.”
End Goal and Prediction
I predict these articles and suggestions will act as the starting point in a negotiation tactic. It will be used to reduce the number of total debates ultimately.
They don’t want Biden to look weak by canceling, so they begin the conversation by criticizing the format and Trump’s performance in previous debates. The closer we get to mid-September, the louder and more mainstream the calls for Joe to avoid the meetings will become.
Eventually, the Democratic candidate will insist he go forward with debating Donald Trump – against the better judgment of his supporters and liberal media figures. He won’t even push for any of the demands put forth by pundits, such as a live fact-checker or the President’s tax returns.
What happens next depends on how the event plays out.
If I had to guess, Trump will land a few decent zingers, but Biden will refuse to take the bait. The Democrat won’t perform well but won’t have the kind of meltdown that can sink his candidacy.
After months of taunts about “staying in the basement” and being “sleepy,” merely surviving without a debate stage disaster will suffice. Any minor slip-ups or lost trains of thought can be excused away by the former VP’s well-documented history of overcoming a stutter.
(I suspect the child who spoke at the DNC about receiving help from Joe in dealing with his stutter was included for this very reason. Keep the issue fresh in people’s minds, to more effectively explain away signs of mental decline later – all while showing the candidate in an extremely favorable light. Things can be sweet and cynical at the same time – that’s politics!)
And because, unlike Hillary Clinton, people generally like Joe as a person, Trump’s insults and personal attacks won’t play as well with voters. They will, however, give Democrats an excuse to cancel the remaining debates.
Everyone who wrote articles like the ones above will flood television, newspapers, and social media with a week-long “I told you so” marathon. Just like that, Biden has limited exposure to his most glaring vulnerability while saving face and coming across classier and more presidential.
All he has to do first is memorize a few stock lines and bring some notes or sneak an earpiece into that September 29 debate. And remember to be a punching bag when Trump gets aggressive. He can’t play into it or get rattled and win.
Throughout the campaign, we’ve seen Biden lose his cool when asked pointed questions that he’s perceived as challenges. That’s what prompted the “ you ain’t black” comment – or more recently, Joe asking a reporter if he’s on cocaine.
However, I think those reactions are rooted in a feeling of betrayal; he’s going into the interviews expecting them to focus on the positive. On the debate stage, he knows the nicknames and one-liners are coming. By not engaging, he can pretend to be above the attacks rather than not able to keep up.
With all of this in mind, I’m taking “under 2.5 presidential debates” at +220.
Based on how carefully Joe Biden’s interactions with the public are managed and how little there is to gain from repeatedly appearing on television across from the President, I can’t imagine the Democratic candidate’s handlers will allow more than one or two debates.
They’ll find a reason to blame the change of plans on Trump – either due to his behavior in the first meeting or a new controversy in October – and will probably offer to exchange one of the presidential debates with another debate between the Vice-Presidential candidates. Democrats are much more confident in Kamala Harris’s on-stage abilities.
How Many Presidential Debates?
Will Any Of The 2020 Presidential Debates Be Held By Teleconference?
If the Biden campaign wants to avoid canceling debates altogether but doesn’t want their candidate stuck on stage alone with Donald Trump and live cameras, they may suggest another compromise. Everything else – from fundraisers to national conventions – has been “virtual” this election cycle; why not virtual debates?
Will Any 2020 Pres. Debates Be Held by Teleconference?
For as long as the pandemic is ongoing, the Biden campaign will always have a legitimate excuse to prefer this option.
The Democratic challenger hasn’t contracted covid-19 yet and is part of the highest risk factor group of those who do. He’ll always have an excellent excuse not to travel and meet face-to-face. This is especially so when Trump has regularly been spotted at various functions – some of which were in crowded buildings – while rarely wearing a mask.
Better for Biden
Moving to a teleconference format mitigates many of the Democrats’ fears regarding the function of modern debates and the President’s behavior without scrapping the events altogether.
Trump won’t be able to stalk around the stage behind Biden while the latter is speaking, as he did to Hillary Clinton; remote communications alter the timing of conversations making witty insults and cutting interjections harder to land; and the candidates will probably be able to sit and relax.
Plus, it’s easier to withstand the pressure of the incumbent’s attacks when he’s not standing across from you, putting you on the spot.
Of course, the biggest reason of all for Democrats to prefer a virtual debate versus an in-person meeting is that it’ll be easier to assist Joe with his answers.
If the campaign is citing covid as the reason for preferring a virtual debate, they can further extend that rationale to insist on debating from Biden’s home. No need to set up at a production studio with officials or moderators.
Under those conditions, campaign staffers can carry Biden through the broadcast as need be. Whether he’s fixed with an earpiece or receiving notes, the probability of getting lost in thought or frazzled by his opponent goes down drastically.
It’s the opposite of being isolated across from Trump on a debate stage island.
Teleconferencing might also be used out of actual necessity – completely divorced of campaign strategy. We’ve already seen both the University of Notre Dame and the University of Michigan pull out as hosts for the first two debates.
While replacement venues have been booked, there’s no reason to think it can’t happen again. And that’s before you take the campaign’s concerns into account.
Betting “Yes” on a Teleconference Debate
As confident as I am about the Biden campaign canceling one or more meetings between the two candidates, I feel even better about this wager. Both bets may win!
Maybe the Democrats will only agree to participate in debates remotely and cancel one of the later events. Or, Biden could show up for one meeting in person before saying “no more,” unless they’re done in a different format.
Fortunately, we can bet both and still make money if only one of them wins.
The odds of “under 2.5 presidential debates” occurring and at least one debate being done virtually are both set at +220.
You stake $100 on the under and $100 on “Yes” to teleconference debate.
Joe Biden and Donald Trump debate in person on September 29, but the Democratic challenger refuses to participate in another one.
- You lose $100 on the teleconferencing bet; but
- You win $220 for hitting “under 2.5 presidential debates.”
You’re still up $120!
Not a bad haul for a couple of political prop bets on the presidential debates!
Any Teleconference Debates?