Biden has to be prepared for the onslaught of lies and attacks, coming to the debate with a strategy for how to parry without being dragged into the mud. He did well in his 2008 and 2012 vice presidential debates, using very different strategies to take on very different opponents, and found his footing in his single one-on-one primary debate in 2020, opposite Sen. Bernie Sanders. But Trump is … Trump. It’s “not like preparing for a normal debate,” as former Obama strategist David Axelrod put it.
“How do you deal with serial lying?” Axelrod asked. “How do you deal with the provocations. He can be exasperating. How much do you want to tangle with him on every point? How do you keep from going down rabbit holes that don’t really lead anywhere?”
Those are big strategic decisions on which you have to figure Biden’s debate preparation has focused. One decision the campaign has hinted at is for Biden to refuse to try to counter Trump’s blizzard of lies one by one. “If you take on that role, you seem small,” said former White House press secretary and former Biden adviser Jay Carney. But there also has to be a way to signal a big fat nope on the lies.
In his interview with Trump over the summer, Wallace didn’t let him off too easily, but the stakes are different now. Wallace is still a Fox News personality, and he’s going to have to decide whether that outweighs his desire to be seen as a serious news guy.
One thing we do know: Fact-checkers will have a lot to do late Tuesday night into Wednesday.