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The First Presidential Debate: How Will This Affect the Election?

I don’t think I was the only person who wanted to punch the TV only a couple minutes after 9 PM on Tuesday night. This debate had been highly anticipated, the stage set for how Trump would approach it as an incumbent and how Joe Biden would change the tactics he used on the primary debate stage. However, the actuality was quite the opposite for Trump. Trump had not changed in any shape or form, easy to shout and interrupt, spitting lies the whole time. Joe Biden did come prepared, equipped with clear responses to the questions posed, his performance tainted by being shut down at every angle. Let’s take a look at some key moments:

White Supremacy

When asked about the far-right white supremacist group Proud Boys Trump said: “I can only say they have to stand down, let law enforcement do their work,” blaming Democrats as always later on. Much of America became rightfully enraged at this statement, as Trump had the opportunity to condemn white supremacy, but simply told them to stand down. This was seen as a direct attack on BLM, the idea of law enforcement in question around the country for months, Trump refusing to call for reform in the police force like Biden.

The Swing Vote

Many say that the undecided voters will swing this election, but it is important to consider that more than 1 Million ballots have been cast nationally. It was reported that 28 million ballots have already been requested, 43 million to be sent out nationally as well. Therefore, the percentage of undecided voters is low, the debate only confusing this population as a whole. In this way, a month before our election, many voters do not need the convincing the debates usually provide, both candidates largely pleasing their own bases throughout the debate.


During the debate, the Biden campaign raised 10 Million dollars in three hours, later collecting 21.5 Million by Wednesday. This was said to be the best day for fundraising in the 2020 race, the fear mongering tactics the President employed leading to people wanting to donate to the Biden campaign. This cycle has seen an exuberant amount of money being used in politics, and Biden’s fundraising capability shows the strength of his campaign as a whole, that money transferable to possible national ad campaigns.

Veterans & The Military

In my opinion, Biden’s best line came when talking about the military. Trump started by talking about those in service as losers, Biden retaliating by saying that his son Hunter is not a loser for serving in Iraq. Trump turned this to an attack on his other son as well, the pain visible on Biden’s face when Trump remarked “I don’t know Beau”. He later talked about how Hunter had overcome addiction, Biden highlighting the reality of a disease that is rarely talked about in politics. This moment Biden greatly personified Biden as a fighter, a clear win for him overall. 


At the end of the night, according to a CNN poll, 60% of respondents thought that Biden had clearly won. Many can agree that this was the case, Biden hitting policy points and getting in a couple great one-liners despite Trump’s bully-like behavior. Political pundits have pointed out that this did not differ from Hillary Clinton’s first debate results against Trump, but 2020 is definitely a different election than hers. 

Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis has definitely shifted attention away from this debate in recent days, the White House and mainstream media not seeming to agree on the state of his condition. In light of Trump’s recent diagnosis the Biden campaign has decided to take a positive approach in all the campaigning they are doing thus far, wishing Trump the best. This has not been the case at the Trump camp, reports saying that second-in-command VP Pence will be picking up on the campaigning for Trump. Based on these events, I venture that the debate will not have much of a lasting election, the one true determinant of the election being how Trump responds to COVID-19, his recovery or demise of a historical event. 

Sources: 12, 3, 4, 5

Photos: Her Campus Media

Aaditi Narayanan is a CLEG and Data Science in Political Science major at American University. She is very involved with Massachusetts politics and helps progressive democratic candidates get elected. Her hobbies include watching New Girl and baking!
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