Who won the presidential debate? Experts grade the candidates

President Donald Trump was the most improved performer at Thursday’s debate, but a panel of debate experts told NBC News that Joe Biden was more effective with his arguments.

The three experts all agreed the faceoff was more informative than the chaotic first debate in Cleveland last month, but one noted, “That’s a very low bar.”

While Trump’s strategy of interrupting less and letting Biden speak more in hopes of provoking a gaffe from the former vice president was sound strategy, the experts said Biden didn’t make the type of major mistake Trump probably needed to change the race.

Here are their report cards.

Mitchell McKinney, director of the Political Communication Institute at the University of Missouri

Overall: “It was more relaxed” than the first debate, with fewer interruptions, especially early on, McKinney said. Trump’s relative restraint made sense, but he added, “I don’t think it was as effective in terms of the overall dynamics of the debate.”

On Trump: “Donald Trump seemed at times certainly perturbed, but restrained himself and wasn’t going for the jugular” like he did in the first time, McKinney said. “He learned his lesson from the polls” after that, McKinney said, but the result put him “in a box.” “He did not appear to be the authentic Donald Trump” on Thursday, he said.

On Biden: Was prepared for Trump’s attacks on him and his family and “didn’t get rattled,” McKinney said. Biden was able to project empathy and took an effective page out of the Obama playbook while declaring he’d be a president of “not red states and blue states but the United States.” Most importantly, he was “able to avoid any major gaffes or blunders that would have had supporters wringing their hands,” McKinney said.

McKinney’s report card:

Trump’s grade: B-

Biden’s grade: B+

20 PHOTOSThe second – and final – presidential debateSee GalleryThe second – and final – presidential debateUKRAINE – 2020/10/23: In this photo illustration the US President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden are seen during the final presidential debate displayed on a screen of a smartphone.The final presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden took place at Belmont University in Nashville, the U.S. on Thursday, October 22. United States presidential election scheduled for November 3, 2020. (Photo Illustration by Pavlo Conchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)President Donald Trump during the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden checks his watch during the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., with President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)Moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News speaks before the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden participate in the final presidential debate at Belmont University, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (Jim Bourg/Pool via AP)Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden gestures while speaking during the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)President Donald Trump, left, points towards Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, right, during the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. Seated in the center is moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden participate in the final presidential debate at Belmont University, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (Jim Bourg/Pool via AP)Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden, wife Jill Biden and her granddaughter Finnegan Biden (R) step off a plane at New Castle Airport in Wilmington, Delaware, on October 23, 2020, after the final presidential debate. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)People watch from their vehicles as President Donald Trump, on left of video screen, and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speak during a Presidential Debate Watch Party at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. The debate party was organized by Manny’s, a San Francisco community meeting and learning place. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)President Donald Trump gestures to supporters before boarding Air Force One at Nashville International Airport after participating in the presidential debate, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, in Nashville. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)Democratic candidate former Vice President Joe Biden arrives with his sister Valerie Biden to board his campaign plane at Nashville International Airport Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn., en route to Wilmington, Del., after the final presidential debate against President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)President Donald Trump listens during the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., with Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., with President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)President Donald Trump speaks during the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., with Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., with President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)First lady Melania Trump arrives before the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)Moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News speaks before the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)President Donald Trump, left, and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, right, during the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)White House adviser Ivanka Trump arrives for the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)Up Next

See Gallery

Susan Millsap, communications professor at Ohio’s Otterbein University and adviser to the student debate team

Overall: “It started better than the first one, but it slowly devolved a bit. The last 20 minutes or so the interruptions were increasing again and Trump was slowly turning it into a campaign speech,” Millsap said.

“I was like, Oh no — don’t do it. Towards the end trump was back on his hyperbole and bombastic style,” she said.

On Trump: Was effective in hitting some of the points he wanted to make. Many of his answers were reminiscent of his rallies, and he managed to bring answers on a wide-range of issues back to his support of businesses.

“He would fall back on businesses and how it would hurt or harm business. Even the race issue he brought back to business,” Millsap said. “If you like that, you like what he’s saying,” she said.

On Biden: Presented himself as a man with plans, Millsap. “He had a definite plan for the Covid, for the economy, healthcare. For race, he even laid out a plan,” she said. Trump did nail him for sidestepping some questions, painting him as a typical politician, she added, but Millsap didn’t think it was enough to harm him. Biden also allowed Trump to divert him from some of the topics they were discussing.

Millsap’s report card:

Trump’s grade: C-

Biden’s grade: B

Jacob Thompson, communications professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and director of the debate team

Overall: “It was marked improvement from the first debate,” and moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News “gets an A+” for her deft handling of the event. “Both candidates behaved like adults” but he added, “I don’t think America should get too excited about about clearing the lowest bar of civility.”

On Trump: “Relative to expectations, Trump won” because his performance was so much better than it was in the first debate, Thompson said. He did a good job of reining in his temper, which will result in lower unfavorable ratings, and was successful in trying “to muddy the waters around questions about Joe Biden’s character. That’s an effective appeal to Trump’s base,” Thompson said.

But the president failed to reach beyond his base, and his attempts at being empathetic rang hollow. “He needed an unforced error from Biden and he didn’t get it,” Thompson said, although an answer from Biden about phasing out the oil industry came close.

On Biden: “In substance and style, Biden did better,” improving on his own performance from the first debate and in comparison to Trump. “He struck an empathetic tone several different times, and went back to portraying himself as a president who would unite the country,” Thompson said. He rebounded on his answer about the oil industry with an explanation as to how it was a necessary transition away from fossil fuels that “was cogent enough,” though “not earth-shattering.”

Thompson’s report card:

Trump’s grade: B-

Biden’s grade: B+

Source: Read Full Article