Trump, Biden bring very different skills to first debate, experts say

The former VP's experience likely gives him the edge — but he also has more to lose.

9/28/2020 4:31:00 AM

As President Trump and Joe Biden head into Tuesday night's first presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio, debate experts tell NBCNews both bring wildly different skills to the stage that they can use to their advantage — or peril.

The former VP's experience likely gives him the edge — but he also has more to lose.

over 90 minutes: the Trump and Biden records, the Supreme Court, Covid-19, the economy, race and violence in American cities and the integrity of the election.They also said Biden's years of experience on the debate stage give him an advantage — along with Trump's characterizations of him as"sleepy" and addled.

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Mitchell McKinney, director of the Political Communication Institute at the University of Missouri, said Trump has lowered the bar for his own performance as well, with his frequent over-the-top insults about Biden and the Democrats, and that could work to the president's advantage.

"Name-calling, bullying — in some ways Trump has created this expectation, where we start to expect that behavior from him," McKinney said."If there are unpresidential moments, people now just kind of ignore it."The same cannot be said for Biden. A gaffe or a blunder could feed into Trump's caricature of him, McKinney warned.

"He has to avoid a Rick Perry 'oops' moment," he said, referring to the former Texas governordrawing a blankon what federal agency he planned to eliminate during a debate in the 2012 Republican presidential primary. A similar gaffe by Biden could cost him voters who are on the fence about supporting him because of his age.

"It's Biden's job to show up and have an aggressive debate performance where he'll put those concerns to rest," McKinney said.Millsap said Biden needs to stay focused and not let Trump get under his skin."When he gets angry, he starts talking quickly, his stutter comes in and he loses focus," he said."He has to retain focus and come across as presidential."

Todd Graham, director of debate at Southern Illinois University, noted that during the Democratic primary face-offs, it would take him several minutes to cool down after he got mad about something."He sometimes doesn't know how to rein it back in," Graham said, adding that when he's still fuming while answering later questions,"he comes across as an angry man, instead of having had righteous indignation."

The experts all warned that Biden shouldn't spend much time fact-checking Trump."if Biden decides he's going to fact-check Trump, he's not going to have time for anything else. He'll never get to his offense," Graham said, adding that studies have shown"if a debater tries to fact-check an opponent, they're not only typically unsuccessful, but it's more likely to backfire."

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"It turns people off," Graham said.But Millsap said a bit of fact-checking could throw Trump off his game."Trump drives me crazy as a debate coach because he will use an unsupported claim to support another claim," Millsap said."When he speaks to his base or at rallies, people want to believe it. In a debate, I'm thinking it’s not going to be as successful because you can have someone correct you."

“It could throw him for a loop,” Millsap said, but noted that Trump also knows how to"deflect with blame."Trump is also less at risk during the face-off because he doesn't seem to be trying to court new voters for himself; he's likely to be more focused on getting people not to turn out for Biden.

"As a public speaker, he has a style that's good for his base but doesn't draw in others," Millsap said."Biden has to show this is important — you've got to vote. In that way, he kind of has the higher burden."McKinney said Biden just"needs to be disciplined and ready. In terms of message, his job is to say Trump doesn't deserve four more years and then, when he's attacked, to be able to skillfully and aggressively handle the attacks."

Trump, meanwhile, could get himself in trouble if he goes too overboard with his verbal assaults, Graham warned."I'd ask him to rein in the hyperbole a little bit," Graham said.He said studies have shown that outrageous claims, like Trump saying Biden's going to kill the suburbs and will

tend to have the opposite of the intended effect."People then think it's ridiculous, and 'Biden's not that bad,'" Graham said.Otherwise, the president will likely be prepared for Biden's attacks."It's harder to throw him off of his game," Graham said."He knows how to go in for the kill."

Read more: NBC News »

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Most of debating is speaking in a way that people find reassuring and accurate. Trumps base don’t care about facts they just want to see him pound his fist, give a few nasty sound bites about Joe and try to get him off his game. Joe has the harder role in this debate And by “skills” you’re mean trump has none.

Trumps best skill is lying, and putting his foot in his mouth. Biden ‘s best skill is senility and hiding his Socialist agenda. Trump wants Biden’s urine that’s unusual for sure. Biden can piss on Trump at the debate, since that’s Trumps widely thing. Drug test done ✅ Trump wants Bidens urine hmmm what does that say

Ilhan Omar BUSTED in HUGE vote fraud scheme! Sure. If you call being a pathological liar having a 'skill set.' Trump is going to find a way not to debate with Biden. You are fools. Wildly different foolish do you sound. Today’s NYT reporting on 🍊🍄💩’s taxes has shaken him up so much he will be off his “game” of saying “wrong”, calling Biden names, and bragging. This will be especially true when questions abt the reporting are asked. Man-baby will squirm because...good thing he wears Depends.

Bye bye Biden its been nice making fun of you while it lasted. shit story's author is maggieNYT husband darehgregorian If bragging were an Olympic Sport Trump would be the G.O.A.T., otherwise he is just Rosie Ruiz! What's a debate expert? If this is how you will be covering the debate, I’m finding another channel. What a horrible analysis

I can't wait to watch this PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER unfold...🍿🍺 What a load of shit. Do better. Like JoeBiden is gonna show. Wait, maybe that's his skill? Hiding. Why won't Biden agree to blood test. Lots of occupations require a blood test. Maybe now is the time to require it for the most important job in the country.

NBC and the networks have already produced the post debate analysis. Biden won handily and everything President Trump said was a lie. CNN and MSNBC the same Debate experts? You mean one lies and one prepares. F*! Trump! Yes. One is an old egotistical bigot. The other is an old egotistical racist. Biden has way more experience on the debate stage than Trump. He's run for President 3 times. Biden should win this debate hands down. If not we are going to have to wonder what is wrong with Joe and the American should get an explanation.

Lol. Biden? Skills? BaaaHaaaHaaa!!!! 😆🤣😆 2 losers fighting on whos is bigger then whos hear The sad reality is, these debates will serve for nothing. NO SANE PERSON IS UNDECIDED AT THIS POINT. YOU ARE EITHER VOTING FOR BIDEN OR PART OF THE CULT 🤷🏻‍♀️ Who actually needs a debate at this point? Who could possibly not have a firm opinion about this election? I can't imagine anyone changing their mind now.

Biden bringing hyper realistic mask to debate. Any one seen Hunter Dementia is a skill?

When is the first Trump and Biden debate?Donald Trump and Joe Biden are preparing to face off next week in the first of three presidential debates, as a Supreme Court vacancy supercharges the... This isJoe asking isn’t it?!?!?🥶 It’s Tuesday Get mad but these two could be brothers.

'Restaurants for Biden': Over 150 chefs, restaurateurs say Trump has failed the industryA group of prominent chefs and restaurant owners have endorsed Joe Biden, saying the Trump admin. 'blew the pandemic response.' - TODAYshow TODAYshow 150 restaurants out of the million or so in America. Very impressive! TODAYshow K. TODAYshow Holy desperate! Tomorrow's headline; '38 Librarians From Accross The Country Sign Letter Supporting Biden'

Trump and Biden enter critical weekend as they prepare to face each other in first debateDemocratic nominee Joe Biden is moving from briefing books into full days of preparations. President Donald Trump is studying notecards and getting help from a long-time ally, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Trump dis que il y aura un vaccin mais tout le monde c'est que les essais cliniques ont été bâclé et il a ordonné à la fda avec sont approbation de distribué le vaccin de mauvaise qualité juste pour dire je vous avais promis un vaccin c'est juste pour gagné une élection Trump is warming up by debating a potato. Trump's Legacy, Failures, North Korea, The Wall, Healthcare, the Recession about to become a depression and 203,000 Covid-19 Deaths he could have stopped and didn't! Vote Biden/ Harris, throw Trump out and send him home!

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Joe Biden says Trump is like the Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels - Business InsiderBusiness Insider is a fast-growing business site with deep financial, media, tech, and other industry verticals. Launched in 2007, the site is now the largest business news site on the web. C’mon man! Well Biden was BFFs with the guy in college so... Why do the left always pull the Nazi card when they wish to express disagreement and such act is not also propaganda. C’mon Joe. Just say it ain’t so Joe.

Trump, Biden Have Few Americans to Persuade in DebatesMore than 70% of Americans say the presidential debates won’t matter much to them, according to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. 30% isn’t few by any criteria whatsoever. That leaves 30%