The Daily
The Daily
Sep 30, 2020
Chaos and Contempt: The First Presidential Debate
Play episode · 32 min

This episode contains strong language.

Both presidential candidates had clear goals for their first debate on Tuesday.

For Joseph R. Biden Jr., the contest was an opportunity to consolidate his lead in polls before Election Day. President Trump’s task was, politically, a taller order — to change the course of a race that he seems to be losing. His tactics for doing that emerged quickly: interrupt and destabilize.

The result was a chaotic 90-minute back-and-forth, an often ugly melee in which the two major party nominees expressed levels of acrid contempt for each other.

We speak to our correspondent Alexander Burns about the mood and themes of the debate and whether any of it moved the dial for the election.

Guest: Alexander Burns, a national political correspondent for The New York Times.

For more information on today’s episode, visit 

Background reading: 

The Ezra Klein Show
The Ezra Klein Show
Nate Silver on why 2020 isn't 2016
As you may have heard, there's a pretty important election coming up. That means it's time to bring back the one and only Nate Silver.  Silver, the founder and editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight, boasts one of the best election forecasting records of any analyst in the last 15 years. His forecasting models successfully predicted the outcomes in 49 of the 50 states in the 2008 US presidential election and all 50 states in 2012. And in 2016, Silver’s FiveThirtyEight gave Donald Trump a 28 percent chance of victory — a significantly higher percentage than virtually any other prominent analyst at the time. He knows what he’s talking about, and it shows in this conversation. We discuss:  What went wrong with the polls in 2016 — and whether pollsters today have corrected for those mistakes  Why a 2016-sized polling error in 2020 would still hand Joe Biden the election Why the 2020 race has been so incredibly steady despite a global pandemic, an economic crisis, and the biggest national protest movement in US history  The possibility of a Biden landslide   The not-so-small chance that Biden could win Texas and Georgia  The massive Republican advantage in the Senate, House, and Electoral College — and how that affects our national politics  Why the Senate would still advantage Republicans, even if Democrats added five blue states.  Whether the Bernie Sanders left took the wrong lessons from 2016  Why Biden’s unorthodox 2020 campaign strategy has been so successful  Whether Sanders would be doing just as well against Trump as Biden is doing  How a more generic, non-Trump Republican would be faring against Biden  Why Silver is generally optimistic that we will avoid an electoral crisis on November 3  And much more. References: “How FiveThirtyEight’s 2020 Presidential Forecast Works — And What’s Different Because Of COVID-19." Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight "The Senate’s Rural Skew Makes It Very Hard For Democrats To Win The Supreme Court." Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight Let the People Pick the President: The Case for Abolishing the Electoral College by Jesse Wegman "Toby Ord on existential risk, Donald Trump, and thinking in probabilities." The Ezra Klein Show "The Real Story of 2016" by Nate Silver Book recommendations: The Biggest Bluff by Maria Konnikova Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom The Precipice by Toby Ord   Credits: Producer/Audio engineer - Jeff Geld Researcher - Roge Karma Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas. New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide ( Want to contact the show? Reach out at Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
1 hr 11 min
Post Reports
Post Reports
The Washington Post
Will our democracy survive this election?
The decline of democracy in the United States. Lessons from 150 books about President Trump and his time in office. And, the rise of Sarah Cooper.  Read more: On multiple occasions, President Trump has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if former vice president Joe Biden wins the election. That concerns a lot of people, including Sarah Repucci, vice president of research and analysis at Freedom House, an organization that studies democracies around the world.  “Democracy is not an end point that you reach and you achieve it and then you don’t have to worry any more,” Repucci says. “Democracy is something that needs to be cultivated and something that needs to be cared for. And our democracy has not been cared for over the past number of years.”  Nonfiction book critic Carlos Lozada has read a lot of books about Trump. This year, he took everything he learned from those books, and captured it in a book of his own, called “What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era.” He talked with Lillian Cunningham, host of the podcast “Presidential,” about those lessons. In the spring, Sarah Cooper went viral for lip-syncing to Trump on TikTok. And with a sitcom in development and a Netflix special on the way, arts reporter Geoff Edgers says the comic won’t be going back to her day job anytime soon.  Our colleagues at The Washington Post podcast “Can He Do That?” have spent the better part of four years reporting on the Trump presidency. They have a new series out this week about the ways that the Trump administration’s policies and rhetoric have contributed to a more sharply divided country. Subscribe to The Washington Post:
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