Trump takes victory lap after remarkable 24 hours of wins

Former President Trump and his allies are taking a victory lap in the aftermath of his Thursday night debate with President Biden, which solidified his standing as the favorite in the presidential race.

Biden, 81, got bad reviews after stumbling over his words and at times struggling to clearly lay out his positions, especially during the debate’s first half hour.

Trump, 78, came under criticism for a number of misleading or false statements, but he successfully landed several attacks on Biden and came off as sharper. The night gave his campaign a fresh boost of momentum as he leads Biden in many national polls.

The morning after the debate, the Supreme Court gave Trump another significant victory with a ruling that the Department of Justice went too far with prosecutions against Trump and many indictments related to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

The ruling could undermine the charge against Trump, and it gives him ammunition to argue he and others are the victims of a political prosecution.

Trump and his allies got another win from the Supreme Court on Friday in a key regulatory decision that will dramatically reduce the power of federal agencies.

All in all, it was a remarkable 24 hours for Trump, who quickly sought to capitalize on the debate performance with a rally in Virginia.

“Despite the fact that crooked Joe Biden spent the entire week at Camp David resting, working, studying — he studied very hard. He studied so hard that he didn’t know what the hell he was doing,” Trump told supporters in Chesapeake, Va.

“He got the debate rules that he wanted. He got the date that he wanted. He got the network that he wanted with the [moderators] that he wanted,” Trump continued. “No amount of rest or rigging could help him defend his atrocious record. It’s not defensible.”

Trump is the first former president and presumptive major party nominee to be convicted of a felony, following the guilty verdicts in his New York case in May, and he faces a wide range of other charges yet to go to trial. But Biden has faced widespread questions about his cognitive ability to serve a second term, and his performance on Thursday likely did not help lessen those concerns among voters.

“If immigration and crime and inflation are top issues and you had concerns about Donald Trump those concerns were put roundly to bed. He presented his platform and his ideas very clearly,” said Republican strategist Nicole Schlinger. “And Joe Biden gave America a cause for great concern about his ability to do the job.”

Sources said Biden had a cold, explaining his often-hoarse voice throughout the night, but that did little to quell fears among Democrats about his chances in November. Polling taken after the debate found respondents picked Trump over Biden as the winner of the night by a 2-to-1 margin.

Republicans said that during the debate, Trump did what he needed to do to appear more competent and measured while letting Biden’s words speak for themselves.

“The reality is that Trump didn’t need to throw big punches like we’re used to seeing him do on the debate stage, and I think that’s where we saw him being very measured and focused and consistent in this messaging,” said GOP strategist David Capen.

Capen said Trump clearly prepared for the debate and showed discipline in regularly coming back to immigration as one of his top issues.

“He was staying focused and on message,” he said.

Schlinger said the lack of an audience for the debate allowed Trump to focus more on responding to the moderators instead of focusing on the crowd and energizing them.

Trump did avoid answering a few questions on topics, like climate change and whether he would accept the results of the November election, until pressed by the moderators, but he remained on the message he appeared to want to stay on.

“He is someone who certainly knows how to wow and play to and energize a crowd,” Schlinger said. “So without a crowd there, there just simply wasn’t that to focus on.”

Republican strategist Josh Novotney said keeping Trump from speaking too much or coming off as too aggressive may not have been the reasoning for his campaign agreeing to the microphone muting, but he still benefited from it.

He said both candidates likely were interested in avoiding a back-and-forth as seen in the past, but it helped Trump more.

“They both were well behaved in regards to not talking over each other and the decorum of the debate, but, if it was meant to benefit Biden, I think it probably had a backfire effect,” Novotney said.

Strategists were split, though, as to whether the debate would ultimately be decisive in the election.

Schlinger said the debate will mark a “turning point” in the race, adding that debates aren’t always impactful on the election, but this one will be, at least until the next scheduled debate in September.

“It’s going to be hard to change the narrative before September. Now this is going to be something that is burned deep into the brains of Americans,” she said.

Novotney said enthusiasm for Biden may have dropped after Thursday, but he’s skeptical that voters will decide to turn to Trump or a third-party candidate like Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

“I think they probably aren’t as excited to come out and vote for Biden, but Trump is a polarizing figure and a motivator on the negative side as well,” he said.

“I think it has an effect, and I think there’s plenty of time for Biden to right the ship and minimize the negatives from it, but he’s got to hit back hard with Trump right away.”

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