Let POTUS Lie During Debate, Avoid ‘Trump-Style Crazy Show’

Democrats who have made a recreational pastime out of fact-checking President Donald Trump are urging their own nominee to take a night off.

Ahead of Tuesday night’s first general election debate, Democratic party officials, campaign veterans, and allies of former Vice President Joe Biden are cautioning against performing the arduous task of debunking Trump’s possible outbursts on the fly. Those who have watched his misleading briefings and meandering mega-rallies certainly expect the president to pass out lies like party favors on stage, but they believe that whiling away time trying to correct the record is just not worth it.

“If you spent your time calling out every Donald Trump lie that would be the entire debate,” said David Pepper, the chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, suggesting that Biden needs to avoid getting “trapped in a Donald Trump-style crazy show” live in Cleveland.

It’s an approach that has served the former vice president well in the past. During the primary, where Biden mostly campaigned as if he were already in a one-on-one matchup against Trump, he largely shrugged off the president’s attempts to derail him with various claims that spanned from factually inaccurate to overtly conspiratorial. Now, facing the White House incumbent for the first time, he intends to replicate that tactic.

“They are aligned with us,” said a person familiar with Biden’s debate strategy when asked about Democrats’ pleas for him to avoid jumping on every Trump assertion for 90 minutes. “We don’t view his role at all as being a fact-checker. We think that that is the portfolio of the press.”

Indeed, as the overwhelming majority of party members have placed their full confidence in Biden, 77, to take on Trump, 74, there’s a unifying thought among Democrats that calling his rival a dishonest broker again and again would simply distract from their collective goal for the night: amplifying his mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Biden’s superpower right now is not to fact-check Trump,” a former adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign concurred. “His superpower is to stand there and be the contrast.”

Over in Trumpworld, the president’s lieutenants, former and current, primarily agreed that Biden would be wasting his time trying to pick apart Trump’s deluge of statements. “How would they get Biden to remember facts after 180 years in the Senate?” joked Barry Bennett, a Republican lobbyist who served as a senior Trump adviser during his 2016 run. “He should [instead] focus on not making mistakes and proving the narrative that he has slipped correct.”

Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, who Trump has called “nasty & obnoxious,” has hinted that he won’t fact-check the event. And Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr., the Commission on Presidential Debates’ co-chairman, told CNN on Sunday that he is not required to.

The Biden campaign views the debate as an extended opportunity to tie almost every national news event—from the new vacancy on the Supreme Court and the ramifications it could have on the Affordable Care Act, to the stalled economy hurting millions of Americans—back to the president’s bungling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The source familiar with the campaign’s preparations went as far as to project that “there is no debate outcome that can fundamentally change the race,” confidently pointing to the “incredibly stable” nature of national polling averages against Trump “the whole time.”

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