The debate could offer Trump the opportunity to make the case that perceptions of his first term are unfairly negative. Trump’s job approval ratings in polls remain low, and voters frequently say they trust Biden to manage the coronavirus pandemic and health care.

But Trump continues to be more trusted than Biden on the economy, which often ranks as the top voter concern and will be a debate topic. The president may seek to use the economy to appeal to undecided voters who are worried about their pocketbooks. Biden will be trying to make up ground on the economy.

Perry said that a foreign policy stumble by President Gerald Ford in 1976 cost him credibility in what ended up being a narrow defeat and that Al Gore’s sighing and “condescending speaking style” may have been detrimental in a 2000 contest that came down to a few hundred votes in Florida.