MATTHEWS: With first 2020 presidential debate two weeks away, all eyes are on Joe Biden

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a Hispanic Heritage Month event, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, at Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo | Patrick Semansky)

It’s hard to believe, but we are now at the stage of the 2020 presidential race where the all-important series of debates will start in two weeks.

Mainstream media reporters have been buzzing like bees in an effort to get an inside track on whether President Trump has started prepping for the debates, and if so, what the prep involves.


But after a series of events including tightly scripted public speaking engagements where Joe Biden has been ushered away without taking any questions, pundits and political operatives on both sides of the aisle have ramped up speculation on just what the Democratic presidential nominee and his team might be doing to get prepared for the first debate with Trump.

Biden has been caught more than once using teleprompters to answer questions from reporters while sequestered in his basement. On several other occasions when interviews have gone south, his handlers can be heard cutting interviews short under the guise of needing to get the nominee off to the next scheduled virtual event.

The number of gaffes he’s made since the pandemic started are also of great concern to his closest supporters and staff.

There was the “You ain’t black” controversy from May, where Biden told New York radio show host Charlamagne Tha God, who is black, that “if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” In August during another virtual interview, Biden told a Latina reporter that “unlike the African-American community with notable exceptions, the Latino community is an incredibly diverse community,” insinuating that he believes all black people think alike.

In addition to the routine flubs he makes in exchanges with reporters, there are the softball questions he gets from other journalists when he is allowed to take questions, such as, “Why isn’t Joe Biden angrier about all of this?” and “We know the president has been attacking mail-in voting. So has Russia. Are you concerned that this messaging may be working?”

How does being hidden in your basement for months, holding public events where reporters are rarely given access, and only getting softball questions when you do grant access to journalists prepare a presidential nominee for debates they know are going to be tough?

And it’s not just that Biden himself isn’t doing well when he goes off-script. His national campaign press secretary, T.J. Ducklo recently did a disastrous interview with Fox News’s Bret Baier, repeatedly accusing Baier of being a surrogate for Trump’s campaign rather than answering a single question.

Like him or not, Trump has had a lot more practice taking tough questions from the media and countering punches from his political opponents over the last several months than Biden has. Trump has shown up in person for interviews and press conferences with media figures he views as highly adversarial.

On the other hand, Biden and his staff have run a very sheltered campaign since the pandemic began, keeping him tucked away from the media as often as possible, with him making occasional public appearances that often coincide with criticism from Trump that Biden is physically and mentally unfit to the lead the country.

Some liberal commentators are so concerned with how Biden may do at the debates that they’ve suggested he skip them altogether. Conservative commentators have joked that the only way Biden will be able to get through them is if Democrats figure out a way to give him some of the questions in advance, as happened at two 2016 town halls with then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, thanks to former DNC interim chair Donna Brazile.

The first scheduled debate will be Sept. 29 at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, who has been asking Biden for an interview for weeks and been turned down, will be the moderator.

Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym Sister Toldjah and is a regular contributor to RedState and Legal Insurrection.