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Final Debate Prep: What To Watch For, “Mute Button” Prediction

Trump & Biden on Debate Stage

President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden will have their final debate on Thursday, to be broadcast from Nashville, Tennessee, with NBC News hosting and moderating the production that will include a new “mute button” feature.

Debate Topics & Commentary

The debate format will feature each candidate providing a two-minute opening statement on a range of topics, following by an open discussion on a range of topics selected by the moderator, NBC News correspondent Kristen Welker.

The debate topics selected are as follows, along with our brief commentary on what to watch for during each:

  • “Fighting COVID-19” – Trump should be prepared for more unfounded claims that he’s killed people, and have a strong and coherent rebuttal (which he’s yet to really provide). Biden will likely have to defend his national mask mandate idea again and how more lockdowns won’t further tank the economy.
  • “American Families” – The two candidates need to make their closing arguments on their economic agendas for the country. Expect for Trump to go hard on Biden’s tax plans. Biden will have to provide something more substantive than “good paying jobs” and would do well to address small business owners who’ve suffered greatly under their states’ lockdown measures. Trump will bring up summer street mobs and protecting suburbs.
  • “Race in America” – Biden: ‘It’s about systemic racism…’ Trump: ‘I do more for the African-American community…’ but law and order will also be part of the conversation and it’s sure to get ugly. Watch out for an ‘inadvertent’ muting of mics in this section of the debate. (More on this below.)
  • “Climate Change” – This topic has been included in every debate thus far and has received little post-debate attention. Expect to not learn anything new here. It plays like a time filler. But do look for Trump to pivot the conversation to fracking and energy policy, or at the very least troll Biden into talk about the Green New Deal.
  • “National Security” – This is Trump’s golden opportunity to frame the Hunter Biden scandal in the bigger picture of how Biden is a compromised and corrupt candidate on the international stage. If Trump really wants to go for the jugular, he might paraphrase his former advisor Steve Bannon who recently said in a recent interview that Biden ‘couldn’t get a security clearance’ as a sitting president. If he does, this is a potential debate knockout punch. Sadly, there won’t be any talk of ending foreign wars by either side, but we hope we’re proven wrong.
  • “Leadership” – Biden will do as he always has and attempt to stand on the shoulders of his former boss, President Barack Obama. Look for Trump to go on the attack lumping Biden into Obama’s failed policies – an attack line used successfully against Hillary Clinton in 2016. With Obama now stumping hard for Joe in battleground states, this has likely ignited Trump’s fuse on this topic once again.
  • Wildcard Topic – Every debate has at least one, and don’t for a minute think the impending confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court will not get injected into this debate somehow by Trump. And once again, Biden will be forced to admit he’s not going to provide answer just yet. Biden’s so-called ‘Progressive’ supporters will be listening attentively.

Production Mixing Board

About That “Mute Button”

The new twist for this debate will be the introduction of a mute button that will be deployed during the opening statements by each candidate on the debate topics. The aim is to have Trump and Biden’s microphone ‘cut off’ while the other candidate provides their initial answer on the topic question.

Despite all the pumped up hype over the new mute button for the final debate format — that it will somehow leave Trump hamstrung and remove his “go-to debate move” of interrupting (CNN actually reported that) — in reality it can potentially hurt Trump and help Biden but for completely other reasons on Thursday’s debate stage.

Since this will be a new feature introduced into the live production, you can bet it will inevitably be either prone to error or misused by either the moderator, Welker, or the producers at NBC News.

It’s still not clear exactly how the feature will be deployed and who will have access to it throughout the debate. That appears to be by design.

For these reasons, we do predict there will likely be at least one instance of the mute button being pushed during one of the candidate’s so-called ‘uninterrupted’ time or even during their ‘open’ rebuttals.

Look for Trump’s mic to get cut ‘accidentally’ during one of his rants, possibly while accusing Biden of corruption with Ukraine and/or China if the network deems it to be unacceptable and decides to dump it.

During Biden’s speaking time, look for a ‘gliche’ in the system that occurs when Joe loses his train of thought and begins to drift into a nonsensical tangent that would reflect badly on him in front of a live, national audience.

It’s all a stage managed event, in the end — not a real debate. Remember that. A new mute button is just another level of control. Watch carefully and don’t be fooled.

If it happens…it’s a feature, not a bug.

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