If you hopped in a time machine and went back twenty years to the debates between Al Gore and George W. Bush, you might remember this exchange.
I remember it because I had just turned 18 and was spending a lot of time volunteering on the 2000 Bush campaign.
What I remember taking away from this exchange was a moment of weakness from Gore, and a moment of confidence from Bush. That’s just perception. If you go back and re-read the transcript, Gore is the far nerdier candidate and Bush the more platitudinal candidate.
But do you even remember what the Norwood-Dingell bill was about?
There will be moments like these tonight tonight, but obviously the political landscape has changed a lot in the intervening 20 years. What will tonight’s moments be?
Let’s talk about it. If you sign up for Bulwark+ today, you’ll be able to watch our special post-debate Bulwark+ Live Stream. Don’t worry. We’ll send you an email with a link, just make sure you have your computer enabled to use Zoom.
Tim Miller, Sarah Longwell, Mona Charen and Charlie Sykes will share their quick takes and analysis immediately after tonight’s debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. They’ll also take your questions.
If you haven’t done so yet, you can sign up here:
I’ll be there, in the background, feeding your questions to my colleagues. This is only for Bulwark+ subscribers.
Just don’t forget Poland.
Leading The Bulwark
Reflections of an Ex-Debate Prepper
Jeff Greenfield offers advice: What to do if you find yourself on a debate stage with Donald Trump.
On the Pods…
Jonathan Allen: Why the Debate May Matter
On today's Bulwark Podcast, NBC's Jonathan Allen joins Charlie Sykes to preview tonight's Presidential debate in Cleveland.
From The Bulwark Aggregator
Difficult year comes at worst possible time for Pennsylvania dairy farmers – Lancaster Online Editorial Board
Trump Secretly Mocks His Christian Supporters – McKay Coppins, The Atlantic
Ex-Pence Aide Olivia Troye Sounds Alarm on CNN: ‘A Lot of People in the White House Don’t Believe This Virus is Real’ – Joe DePaolo, Mediaite
How QAnon beliefs help normalize fascism – Mike Rothschild, The Daily Dot
Trump Is Trying to Trick Americans Into Giving Up on Democracy – George Packer, The Atlantic
Fox News Lobotomizes Its ‘Brain Room,’ Cuts Fact-Based Journalism – Diana Falzone and Lloyd Grove, The Daily Beast
Trump, Biden set for high-stakes showdown – Jonathan Easley, The Hill
In Today’s Bulwark…
Joe Biden and the Ghost of RBG
Richard North Patterson: Democrats should seek to embody a party ready to govern, and avoid using the Barrett confirmation process for unproductive showboating or offensive signaling.
The Most Important Election of Our Lifetimes (Or Not)
Robert Tracinski: But it’s still probably more important than most in the last 50 years.
Trump Can’t Take Ohio for Granted
Daniel McGraw: At the Cleveland debate, Trump confronts a state that's moving away from him.
Let’s start with a Presidential debate story. In 2004, I dropped out of college for a semester to work on the Bush campaign, and one of my jobs was to handle the pro-Bush crowds outside of Washington University in St. Louis.
It was a pretty surreal job for a 21 year old kid. I wish I had pictures, but will have to go off memory alone.
You might recall, this was the debate where Bush was accused of having “the bulge” where he was supposedly cheating. (Of course, Al Gore was accused of the same thing in 2000, Barack Obama in 2008, and Joe Biden, preemptively, in 2020.)
In the pre-smartphone, pre-social media era, it was hard to organize people to show up. There are only so many emails you can send out or calls you can make. We rented golf carts from the course adjacent in Forest Park, but the highlight of that night for me was when buses rented by college Republicans in neighboring states showed up on Skinker Boulevard, where the motorcades would roll. It was like seeing reinforcements when you’re worried you’re about to lose the battle of public perception.
Not that it matters to voters, but we ended up having a decisive advantage, and I felt that some of my work paid off. Especially when President Bush came down Skinker and waved to everyone. It was pretty cool.
If you’ve never been, debates are electric. I’ve only been to primary debates, but general election debates are next level.
As Jon Allen says in today’s podcast, today is the Super Bowl of 2020. Perhaps an imperfect comparison, since there are a few more to go. I’d say it’s Game One of the Stanley Cup Final.
Unlike 2004, there will not likely be rallies held by both campaigns immediately after. I had to sort out the golf carts and couldn’t get to my car in time to get there. Missed opportunities. But tonight is going to be the first big peak on the fast-moving road to the end of the 2020 campaigns. Buckle up.
And remember, we’re having a post-debate conversation with Tim Miller, Sarah Longwell, Mona Charen and Charlie Sykes. And the only way you’re going to see it is if you become a member of Bulwark+.
Agents of Chaos. I just finished the screener of the new HBO special and you absolutely must watch it.
Who pays the tariffs? Chris Gibbs argues, convincingly, that we do.
Admitting my homer bias for Gibbs, he’s a farmer in Shelby County, Ohio, where my family is from. But these first-person testimonials from folks like Gibbs are effective.
Tulsi Gabbard and James O’Keefe join forces to rival Marvel for most ambitious crossover event in history.
The China Connection… An interesting report from Axios on how Chinese influence agents are getting caught… and lawyering up.
Well, that’s it for me. Hope you’ll join us tonight on the post-debate livecast. If you jon now, you can get access:
See you tomorrow (or tonight, if you’re a member.)
Questions, comments, concerns, you know how to reach me: email@example.com.