Can Biden-Trump Debate Pack Viewers In With No Live Audience, Muting, Less Drama?

With eight days to go, the President Biden-Former President Trump debate would seem to be a crucial TV marketing event for all potential voters. But the effort may reveal that TV content is a low-grade rerun with fewer zingers.

But then there is Trump whose off-the-cuff riffs always lead to high-profile sound-bite video repeats -- as when he told The Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group, onstage to "stand back and stand by." 

More fireworks, outright lies, misinformation? How about vicious attacks on the current President, and/or the commentators? Or perhaps sharks, boats, and getting electrified while in an ocean nearby? (The last reference to a recent campaign musing by the former President that might tickle TV viewers).



From President Biden, there is likely to be a focus on less entertaining topics such as how well the economy is doing and how gas prices are declining.

Maybe he will talk about the infrastructure funding now in place that Trump did not have when he was President while his Republican party controlled both the Senate and the House of Representatives. (TV viewers always get jazzed over building new roads and bridges).

As far as TV “gotcha” moments, we may hope that the zingers come fast and furious, but don't expect much impact. Know this: This debate is expected to generate less excitement this time in response, especially without a studio audience.

In terms of what impact this may have on the election itself, debates may have an uncertain value. How much did debates matter in 2016? Although Trump sometimes seems engaging, Clinton still produced three million more votes than Trump. In 2020, Biden pulled in seven million more than Trump.

Debates can be entertaining -- on the surface.

In reality, very little changes among most voters. If you believe the current polls -- which have become increasingly less reliable over the years -- they are showing virtually a dead-even race.

Many analysts realize this means a focus on just a small number of voters -- particularly independent voters.

Still, the potential seems high. The first debate in 2020 between Biden and Trump registered 73 million viewers, per Nielsen -- the third-highest TV debate viewing ever. The second debate got to 63 million.

While always a proving ground, there is always the consideration that candidates -- especially those who are way ahead -- should be less exciting in TV debates.

John Heileman, chief political columnist and MSNBC national affairs analyst, said on the cable news network: “If you thought you were ahead, and you were managing Donald Trump’s campaign -- and you were getting to this big non-cable news audience, the normies out there that don’t pay much attention to politics -- you’d be pleading with Donald Trump, ‘please, just be boring. Be dull. Don’t try to score points.’ Play 'prevent defense' -- using the football analogy.”

And if that doesn’t get to him, offer up this: “Just look like you are not a lunatic in this race.” But he admitted, “you are probably not going to get that.”

So as a TV viewer, you might expect less topics to discuss with your friends -- and less interruptions. Both candidates' microphones will be muted until it is their turn to speak.

And less drama? Maybe an HBO/Max rerun of “Veep” might be better.

2 comments about "Can Biden-Trump Debate Pack Viewers In With No Live Audience, Muting, Less Drama?".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, June 20, 2024 at 1:40 p.m.

    Politics is supposed to be serious (and boring), not entertaining. Neil Postman wrote the book about trivializing public discourse, Amusing Ourselves to Death. 

  2. Ben B from Retired, June 20, 2024 at 9:04 p.m.

    I'd rather watch Paint Dry than watch Biden & Trump debate 3.0 plus RFK JR should be on the debate stage both are scared to debate RFK JR. I'm voting 3RD party or write-in I didn't vote for either Biden or Trump in 2020 as I don't vote for the 2 evils.

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