MATTHEWS: The first presidential debate promises to be a barnburner

If Biden has to avoid senior moments to prevent his reelection campaign from collapsing, then he ought to hang up his spurs now

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden answers a question as President Donald Trump listens during their final presidential debate of the 2020 election on Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. (Morry Gash / AP Photo)

The last couple of weeks have seen a flurry of activity ahead of the first 2024 presidential debate between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.

Among the more recent announcements has been learning who, via a coin flip, got the first pick of podium side and who will officially be allowed to have the last word.


Biden, who is on the left side politically speaking, will get the podium on the right side of the stage. It will be Trump who gets the last word (his closing argument) of the night.

There’s been a lot of talk, primarily in conservative circles, about how so much of the debate negotiations have gone Biden’s way, including on which networks get to host it (CNN for the first one and ABC News for the second one), how there will be no audience, and on Trump agreeing with the stipulation that mics get cut once the candidate’s speaking time is up.

Media-friendly outlets in general just aren’t a thing for Trump, not even Fox News, so it was pretty much a given that there would be no outlet that would seemingly be less hostile to Trump hosting either debate.

As far as the no audience rule goes, the Biden campaign wanted that agreed to because they know Trump feeds off the audience and uses it to his advantage. However, Trump also feeds off arguing with his opponent and the moderators, so there will be plenty of opportunities for sparring to try and get his points across.

On the mic cuts, there is also concern on the right that Trump will be prevented from being able to make his case, but there shouldn’t be too much worry there because Trump knows how to be loud and make himself heard, so a mic cut isn’t going to stop him if there’s something he really wants to get across to the TV audience.

The two 2020 debates between Trump and Biden were barnburners, and the one this week promises to be no different. This isn’t just because of Trump’s assertive, confrontational style of no-holds-barred debating but also because Joe Biden is prone to fits of yelling himself, as we’ve seen often during speeches and interviews he gives as well as past debates

Considering all the Biden demands that Trump agreed to, political observers have suggested that it is Biden who will have a distinct advantage going into the first debate.

But the one thing Biden has to be the most careful not to do is the one thing he will have the most trouble avoiding, as MSNBC political analyst Elise Jordan pointed out during a recent “Morning Joe” episode.

“[Biden] absolutely cannot have a senior moment at this debate,” she noted.

“I was in Wisconsin and Michigan two weeks ago for a lot of focus groups, and what I heard from voters, Democrats who support Biden, is just that they’re going to be watching and they want to make sure that he’s up to the task,” she also recalled.

“They might still be planning to vote for him, but they’re uncomfortable about the age. And it really is an albatross that is hanging around this candidate and campaign.”

If Biden has to avoid senior moments to prevent his re-election campaign from collapsing, then he ought to hang up his spurs now because every Biden public appearance usually includes at least one senior moment, often more than that.

In other words, expect a few senior moments from Biden. And though Trump is also a senior citizen, expect him to take full advantage of those moments from Biden to make the point about how he’s unfit to serve another four years in the White House.

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