At first, he was clearly trying to fluster Biden, probably in an effort to reinforce his long-standing baseless assertion that Biden was suffering from a mental decline. And for a period, it worked: Biden, clearly expecting an actual debate, was forced to adjust. But, soon, he adjusted, at times letting his frustration with Trump’s flailing punches seep through, as when he flatly suggested that the president “shut up.”
But Trump’s strategy didn’t change. On question after question, Trump tried to pester Biden so that he couldn’t offer any coherent answer – not because of any deficiency with Biden but simply because no one could, any more than one could have an elegant tea party in the middle of a dodgeball game…
It’s an odd gambit for Trump. Sure, it means that he floods out Biden’s own attacks or Biden’s presentation of his policy ideas. (Trump, famously, has offered little in the way of a second-term agenda.) The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson noted that it was the human equivalent of a distributed denial-of-service attack, a hostile effort in which a website is flooded with so much garbage traffic that good requests can’t get through. Few rational debate topics survived Trump’s tsunami.
But as a strategy? Voters, even many of those who like Trump, consistently say that it’s his Twitter persona which they find most distasteful. Trump took the least popular aspect of his approach to politics and elevated it for what will likely turn out to be the most-watched debate of the cycle.