As Biden and Trump face off in their first debate, review why Trump won the 2016 face-off

Don’t worry about it, little Marco…. Low energy …. You are the biggest liar….

The first presidential debate of 2024 will take place on Thursday, and there may be wisdom in the old adage: The past is prologue. A case can certainly be made as one of the main reasons Donald Trump won his party’s nomination in 2016—and went on to win the general election—thanks to the absolute must-see spectacle of his off-the-cuff debate performances. Eight years later, a sizable audience will watch the showdown, hosted by CNN, or will spend time watching the highlight reel online. To prepare, it is helpful to consider why previous confrontations played to Trump’s strengths.

What is obvious, of course, is that Trump entered the early debates with a significant advantage over the large GOP field. The main reason: he is a reality TV star, extremely comfortable with the medium and attuned to audiences at home and in the studio. His experience in reality television—a genre untethered to the real world—has allowed Trump to analyze facts and invent them on the fly, behavior that has proved especially effective at attracting public attention. they have compromised immune systems to gossip.

Don’t believe the obvious, but Trump knows how to handle politics like a reality show. During the first few months of the primaries, skeptics viewed his candidacy as little more than a way for him to burnish his brand. Dots. Once Trump had made it to a debate or two, however, he realized — as did the political establishment and the media — that he had found his political method. Within a short time, cable and network news departments began putting him in the lead.

Before long, they were marketing the presidential race like a prime-time television series. ABOVE twenty In the evenings, TV broadcasts live coverage of preliminary results and caucuses. Over the course of 15 months, starting in August 2015, there were thirty first debates, town halls and forums. Additionally, Trump’s rallies and primary night speeches are sometimes broadcast or livestreamed.

Jeff Zucker, for someone — then the boss of CNN — who wholeheartedly supported Trump. No surprise: he was the former NBC executive who helped fuel the success of Trump’s own reality show, Probationer. Roger Ailes, then running Fox News, also considered the candidate his signature type of talent: loud, brash, unpredictable and physically imposing, all of which translated into ratings. catnip. Immediately, the saturated coverage on cable and broadcast television kept viewers hooked Great race. In fact, the debates became a television series that aired simultaneously. The show combines three formats, all of which were perfected in the 1990s: reality shows, talk/opinion shows, and month-long television newscasts. story, from “Conflict in the Gulf” (’90–’91), to O.J. Simpson’s “Trial of the Century” (’94–’95), to the Impeachment Trail (’98-’99), not to mention Bush v. Gore (’00–’01).

The debates—and the race itself—turned out to be tailor-made for a reality TV personality like Trump: the serial nature of the contest, the artificial suspense, the obsession with progress. So people also focus on the week’s winners (“We’re going to win the big tournament, trust me”) and the losers (“I like these guys.” Not arrested”). This is a format Trump knows well. And he soon cemented his position among voters by appearing in settings that matched his host’s flamboyance and his style of insulting humor.

When Republican candidates line up on the debate stage, Trump is often placed front and center. He will ask more questions than his competitors. The context has a hint of Survivor And Probationer. Sometimes, moderators will focus less on the candidates’ policies and more on their views of each other: “Senator Cruz, you have suggested that Mr. rule New York’. Can you explain what you mean by that?” This line of questioning encouraged conflict and helped amplify Trump’s tendency to tear down his opponents. Meanwhile, the results of the experts’ autopsy will reverberate for days on websites, social networks, print newspapers and news and opinion programs, prolonging the agony and commentary.

Up until now, Trump has played by reality TV rules. He was not “prepared”. He plays his malaprops and bluster like authenticity. He and his agents “turned around” his performance in pre- and post-interviews. He brought his family into the process, which helped solidify his appeal and fill out his back story. He spreads rumors (“I’m hearing…”; “People are saying…”). When things don’t go his way, he blames his mic or headphones. He was suspicious of the operators. He whined, he sulked and scowled.

Trump seems capable of saying anything that sounds reasonable or outrageous at the moment. He will build a “beautiful wall” along the Mexican border—Mexico will pay for. He will change his views, exposing candidates he previously praised, denying saying things he actually said. And all of that is not fact-checked by his opponents—or even the executives. While other presidential hopefuls on the debate stage gave IRL-based answers, by and large, Trump played virtually. He understands that on reality shows, the cleverest half-truths can seriously injure opponents, and the cunningest player usually wins – and win his audience.

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