In an election year like no other, the first debate between President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, could be a pivotal moment in a race that has remained stubbornly unchanged in the face of historic tumult. (Sept. 29)
JONATHAN LEMIRE: This has been billed as one of the most anticipated general election debates in the history of presidential campaigns. Bill, I'm going to make a prediction, not just for coronavirus purposes, I don't think the two candidates will have a handshake. We'll see if there's perhaps an elbow bump or just a nod between the two men. There's obviously no shortage of personal distaste in what has been growing an increasingly ugly campaign.
DONALD TRUMP: By the way, nobody treated sleepy Joe worse than his vice presidential pick.
JONATHAN LEMIRE: The president, though, has told confidantes, we've reported, that he views this moment as a chance to show America the, quote, "real Joe Biden," that he-- that Biden, in the president's estimation, has indeed lost a few steps, that he is not, you know, up for the job. We expect some pretty personal and potentially vicious attacks on the Biden family, and in particular Hunter Biden with allegations-- to this point, largely unproven-- about improper financial dealings, whether it's with Ukraine, China, or anywhere else.
JOE BIDEN: Due to Donald Trump's lies and incompetence in the past six months, we've seen one of the gravest losses of American life in history.
BILL BARROW: I think we'll see a combination where if Trump comes directly at Biden, particularly in a personal way, I think it'll be hard for Biden to resist trying to put up a shield there and answer back. But his stated mission is to use the opportunity to make sort of an affirmative case to those voters who-- that I've talked about a lot in-- in the show who have already decided they really don't want to reelect Trump, they just haven't decided yet whether they do want to hand the keys to Biden.
JONATHAN LEMIRE: Of course, the news of the last few days will also shape this debate. We can certainly anticipate that Joe Biden pretty early on, one would imagine, will make some sort of argument, or at least allusion, about the president's tax returns, and that's only that $750 that he pays a year. I suspect we will hear about the-- the Supreme Court seat and the fight to confirm Justice Barrett.
CHRIS WALLACE: Do you make the same commitment that you will absolutely-- sir-- that you will absolutely accept the result of this election?
DONALD TRUMP: I will look at it at the time.
BILL BARROW: These are both men that-- that can go afield from their messaging, make-- make claims that aren't-- aren't quite there. There's going to be a real spotlight on Wallace himself, on how he navigates those instances and how he navigates if that personal animus turns into rhetorical brawl.