Did Either Candidate Benefit from Thursday’s Final Presidential Debate?

All things considered, Thursday night’s presidential debate – the last before Election Day – was a considerable improvement over the two candidates’ meeting in September.

Nobody wanted a repeat of that disastrous performance – even Donald Trump admitted he might have come in a little “too hot,” interrupting his opponent at every turn and turning the debate into an embarrassing, chaotic brawl.

Biden and Trump both had their best showing of the election cycle, each landing some decent shots on the other, but neither giving nor receiving a knockout blow.

And even if what would typically be considered a devastating, campaign-crushing moment had occurred, would it change anything?

One-third of the electorate has already cast their ballot.

Plus, most polls show that roughly 95% of registered voters have already picked their candidate and cannot be persuaded otherwise.

It’s the perfect encapsulation of US politics: the debate that mattered and could have influenced the election’s outcome was a pointless, childish disaster, while the more substantive and productive sequel probably occurred too late to make a meaningful impact.

Revisiting Presidential Debate Prop Bets

Before we get to the specifics of last night’s debate and examine what, if any, effect it will have on the 2020 presidential election – I published an article previewing the final presidential debate early on Thursday morning.

In it, I shared a variety of debate prop bets available at some of our favorite political betting sites, including my picks and predictions.

This seems like a good place to remind readers of some of the top sites for political prop bets:

Well, if you followed my lead, it was a substantially more fruitful night for you than for either candidate!

Here are the results:

Under 67.5 million viewers (–150)

Antifa said before QAnon (–400)

  • Push – neither word was said.

Trump says “socialist” first (+200); longshot sleeper on “hoax” at (+500)

  • Upset Winner! – the only word Trump said from the field of options was “hoax.”

Biden says “unpresidential” at (+250); longshot sleeper on “clown” at (+700)

  • Lost – the only word Biden said from the field of options was “Scranton.” He said “come on,” ten times, but never added the “man.”

Yes, Biden shown wearing a mask (–150)

  • Winner – Biden walked to the podium with his mask on.

Yes, Trump asked about white supremacy (–150)

  • Push – “white supremacy” was never said.

Yes, Trump shown wearing a mask (+550)

  • Lost – I wrote that this was unlikely and only worth a shot because of the odds, but Trump was not seen wearing a mask.

Yes, Trump denounces white supremacy (–120)

  • Push – “white supremacy” was never said.

Yes, Trump says “black lives matter” (+550)

  • Upset Winner! – Trump said “black lives matter” twice!

Trump says “Ukraine” over 3.5 times (+120)

  • Winner – Trump said “Ukraine” four times.

Trump says “corrupt/corruption” over 3.5 times (–130)

  • Lost – Trump said “corrupt/corruption” only two times.

Trump says “Burisma” over 1.5 times (+155)

  • Lost – Trump said “Burisma” only once.

Biden says “covid” over 8.5 times (–110)

  • Lost – Despite dedicating lots of time to the subject, Biden only said the word “covid” twice.

Trump says “covid” over 4.5 times (+110)

  • Lost – Trump only said the word “covid” once.

Biden says “coronavirus” under 1.5 times (–160)

  • Winner – Biden said “coronavirus” one time.

Trump says “China” over 7.5 times (–120)

  • Winner – Trump said “China ” 22 times!

Biden says “China” over 3.5 times (–120)

  • Winner – Biden said “China ” 24 times!

“Economy” is said by either candidate over 10.5 times (–120)

  • Lost – the candidates only said the word “economy ” seven times.

“Russia” is said by either candidate over 3.5 times (-250)

  • Winner – the candidates said “Russia” 26 times!

Results for My Debate Picks:

9 wins, 7 losses, and 3 pushes – with two colossal underdog wins at +500 and +550, respectively!

If you staked $100 on each of my debate picks, you won $587.93 last night!!!

Now that we’re done admiring what a political betting genius I am, back to last night’s debate and where it fits into the bigger 2020 election picture…

Best Moments from Both Candidates

As I mentioned earlier, Thursday’s debate was considerably calmer and more substantive than the two septuagenarians’ previous head-to-head. It was the same, however, in that it’s impossible to pick a winner.

Nobody really “won” per se. They both shined at moments and faced harsh criticisms or made regrettable mistakes at others.

However, if you judge the performances by what each candidate needed to accomplish during the debate, Joe Biden is undoubtedly the winner.

Riding a nearly ten-point national polling lead, with promising margins in most battleground states as well, all the former Vice President needed to do is remain respectable.

Donald Trump needed to force a debate stage meltdown shocking enough to reverse the tides of momentum. To swing the election back in his favor, the incumbent was relying on Biden challenging him to a fight, admitting that he and his son are corrupt, or letting slip a racial slur.

Joe stayed poised, was unusually alert, and even made a few great counterpoints.

Side Note:

I am dying to know what it is they’re doing to perk Biden up for these debates. Ever since his one-on-one with Bernie Sanders in April, it’s like he’s a totally different guy than who we see in virtual fundraiser videos and interviews.

Someday, when the Democrats have either lost this election or the Biden administration is no longer in office, we will get the real behind-the-scenes stories from this campaign.

  • How dire was Joe’s condition?
  • How’d they keep the worst hidden?
  • What techniques were used to keep the 77-year-olds candidacy alive?

But more than anything, I want to know what vitamins, techniques, or (cocktail of) drugs are responsible for rejuvenating this man on-demand. Whatever it is appears to have a relatively short shelf life because he starts to fade towards the end of every debate.

Before then, though, he’s sharp and charming and seems like the Joe Biden of 5-10 years ago.

If anyone has any idea, please tweet me the answer; I could really use whatever it is to help me write!

Honest Abe

My favorite moment was when the former VP referred to Trump as “Abraham Lincoln over here,” a few minutes after the President had this to say:

“Nobody has done more for the Black community than Donald Trump. And if you look, with the exception of Abraham Lincoln–possible exception, but the exception of Abraham Lincoln, nobody has done what I’ve done.”

Trump acted confused and tried to play it off as senility – as if Biden genuinely mistook his counterpart for Abraham Lincoln for a moment – but the defense fell flat.

Why Didn’t You Do it Then?

At Trump’s best, he’s painting himself as a political outsider taking down the corrupt establishment officials who got the United States into this mess. It was a successful approach against Hillary in 2016 and gave the President his most decisive moments of the debate.

In a discussion over the state of the health care system, Biden asked, “How many of you home are worried and rolling around in bed at night wondering what in God’s name are you going to do if you get sick?”

He followed that up by emphasizing how we “have to provide health insurance for people at an affordable rate,” which he then promised a Biden administration would do.

The Democratic challenger has been one of the most conservative members of his party for the entirety of his political career and vehemently opposes Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All plan – preferring to add a public option to the Affordable Care Act instead.

President Trump seized on this opportunity to call out his opponent on this matter, wondering why, if these matters were such a priority for Biden (and not empty campaign rhetoric), he never did anything about them before.

“Excuse me, he was there for 47 years — he didn’t do it. He was now there as Vice President for eight years. And it’s not like it was 25 years ago, it was three and three quarters. It was just a little while ago, right? Less than four years ago. He didn’t do anything. He didn’t do it.”

The incumbent utilized the same strategy to equal effect later in the debate, when the candidates debated criminal justice reform. The following back-and-forth took place after the former Vice President touted another progressive position his history has never shown Biden to support.

Biden: “Nobody should be going to jail because they have a drug problem. They should be going to rehabilitation, not to jail. We should fundamentally change the system, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Trump: “But why didn’t he do it four years ago? Why didn’t you do that four years ago, even less than that? Why didn’t you–“

Biden: “I am not–“

Trump: “You were vice president. You keep talking about all these things you’re going to do, and you’re going to do this. But you were there just a short time ago, and you guys did nothing.”

It’s the perfect strategy to counter any progressive policy Joe Biden promises to enact. The former Senator and Vice President’s decades-long resume betrays his new campaign promises.

Donald Trump should have made this line of attack the focal point of his campaign back in April.
Prediction:

Trying to portray Joe Biden as a “Trojan Horse for socialism” rather than a corrupt member of the establishment with a record that contradicts every popular progressive position he now claims to embrace will be remembered as one of the worst strategic missteps in election history.

Biden Crushes on Covid

The Democratic nominee did a phenomenal job hitting the President where it hurts the most: the pandemic. Polls have repeatedly shown that the administration’s handling of covid-19 is the primary reason voters who supported Trump in 2016 are switching to Biden.

Donald Trump is a salesman at heart, which occasionally gets him into trouble in the political realm. He reflexively downplays unfavorable information while ensuring the issue is improving and pumps up anything positive as “the best anyone’s ever seen.”

He’s done the same throughout the coronavirus pandemic, which supplied Joe Biden the ammo for one of his finest speeches of the night.

“He says that we’re, you know, we’re learning to live with it. People are learning to die with it. You folks home will have an empty chair at the kitchen table this morning. That man or wife going to bed tonight and reaching over to try to touch their, out of habit, where their wife or husband was, is gone. Learning to live with it? Come on. We’re dying with it.”

Powerful imagery, sharp criticism, and great wordplay – while positioning himself as the adult in the room. Expertly done.

The Hunter Biden Stuff

Coming into the debate, the expectation was that the Hunter Biden laptop scandal would be a central theme throughout the broadcast. Trump made repeated attempts to insert the story into the conversation, but — as has been the case with every other negative or potentially damaging issue this election cycle — it just rolled right off Teflon Joe’s back.

Trump initially referenced emails leaked by a former business partner of Hunter Biden, which are both verified as real and evidence of corrupt business dealings and selling access to the Vice Presidency.

“I don’t make money from China, you do. I don’t make money from Ukraine, you do. I don’t make money from Russia. You made three and a half million dollars, Joe, and your son gave you. They even have a statement that we have to give 10% to the big man. You’re the big man, I think. I don’t know, maybe you’re not. But you’re the big man, I think. You son said that we have to give 10% to the big man. Joe, what’s that all about?”

This is where we see why the media and Big Tech’s handling of these controversies is truly diabolical.

So-called journalists have either ignored the evidence of the Biden family’s profiting off of Joe’s political influence or gone on the defensive to the point of calling them “disinformation.”

Between the media misdirection and Big Tech outright suppressing the scandal, most of the public is entirely uninformed about the evidence supporting the allegations. Nobody knew what Trump was referencing when he asked Biden about being the “big man.”

The only memorable moment the President created out of the Hunter Biden revelations came from this exchange:

Trump: “If this stuff is true about Russia, Ukraine, China, other countries, a wreck– If this is true, then he’s a corrupt politician. So don’t give me the stuff about how you’re this innocent baby. Joe, they’re calling you a corrupt politician–“

Biden: “Nobody says–“

Welker: “President Trump, I want to stay on the issue of race. We’re talking about the issue–“

Trump: “It’s the laptop from hell. The laptop from hell.”

“Laptop from hell” is one of those classic Trumpisms that would have stuck in 2016, before the media was colluding with the Democratic Party and refusing to cover any story that may hurt their preferred candidate.

Biden followed the game plan and responded to the attacks by citing the statement from 50 former National Intelligence officials who dismissed the content of Hunter Biden’s emails – several of which have now been authenticated – by calling the release “straight out of the Kremlin playbook.”

The President mocked the neo-McCarthyist nonsense:

Trump: “You mean, the laptop is now another Russia, Russia, Russia hoax? You gotta be–“

Biden: “That’s exactly what– That’s exactly what–”

Trump: “Is this where you’re going? This is where he’s going. The laptop is Russia, Russia, Russia?”

Welker: “Gentleman, I want to stay on the issue of race, okay–“

Trump: “You have to be kidding here. Here we go again with Russia.”

Fun Fact: This exchange single-handedly covered the “3.5 mentions of ‘Russia’” total.

Trump may have been right to poke fun at the media’s favorite go-to excuse for every inconvenient fact they’d like to dismiss. However, besides creating some comical soundbites, the coordinated effort to obscure reality and diffuse the story worked.

All Joe Biden had to do was call the accusations a lie and mention Russia, and what would have been an enormous controversy at any other time in history was extinguished. Thus, President Trump’s most potent weapon coming into the debate was rendered useless.

Will the Final Debate Matter Electorally?

Now that millions of dollars have been spent hosting and producing the final debate of the 2020 presidential race, the candidates each provided their best performance of the election cycle, and we all invested 90 minutes of our life watching the broadcast, did any of it mean anything?

Not really.

Even in typical election years, debates have proven to have very little influence on races’ outcomes.

Throw in a historically partisan electorate, unprecedented utilization of early voting due to the pandemic, and a minuscule number of undecided voters and Thursday night’s showdown was the proverbial tree that fell in the woods with nobody around to hear it.

However, one quote uttered during the broadcast has a tiny sliver of potential to make a difference.

Will Biden’s Oil Comment Hurt Him?

During the final moments of the debate – two minutes before the 90-minute time limit expired, Donald Trump asked his opponent the following question: “Would you close down the– Would you close down the oil industry?”

Biden answered: “I would transition from the oil industry. Yes.”

The President jumped at the opportunity to amplify the comment, warning oil workers, and oil-dependent regions that the Democratic candidate is a threat to their livelihoods.

“Will you remember that Texas? Will you remember that Pennsylvania? Oklahoma? Ohio?”

After the debate, conservatives celebrated the coerced confession as a game-changer for the Trump campaign. It was the soundbite they’ve been waiting for to motivate communities whose economies rely on the oil industry – some of which are strategically significant locations for the electoral college vote.

Could this one comment be enough to swing Pennsylvania in Trump’s favor or secure Texas for the GOP for at least one more election?

I’m skeptical.

Will Cormier / Author

Will Cormier is a sports and political betting writer living in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada. When he’s not wandering around the streets of the Arts District aimlessly, a lifetime of pessimism and paranoia has made Will perfectly suited for handicapping politics. Cormier tries to analyze current events as objectively as possible – a strategy that often enrages loyalists on both the right and the left. When he’s not covering major upcoming elections, Will enjoys writing about basketball, football, and MMA from a betting perspective. He also loves dogs, ice cream sundaes, the movie “Stomp the Yard,” and long walks on the beach.