President Donald Trump’s grand plan to demolish Joe Biden at tonight’s first presidential debate was shockingly simple: He merely wouldn’t let the former vice president complete a sentence.
Trump talked over his Democratic challenger—and the frustrated moderator, Chris Wallace—from the opening moments of the debate, bullying Biden with a barrage of personal attacks (“There’s nothing smart about you, Joe”) and outright lies. The night quickly devolved into a cacophony of crosstalk, a barely watchable sniping match between two old men. “Gentlemen, you realize you’re both speaking at the same time,” Wallace pleaded at one point, to little effect.
But if Trump’s strategy—such at it was—seemed familiar, that’s because it was the same one he deployed against Hillary Clinton four years ago, and utilizes in his near-daily sparring with reporters as president. His default mode is to bully, and he famously hates to share the spotlight—even when the format of a one-on-one debate demands that he does. Arguably, it’s been effective enough so far. Though Clinton was judged the winner of the 2016 debates, and rose in the polls afterward, Trump won the election. His bulldoze-the-establishment style clearly had some appeal to some voters.