Too-hot-for-the-room Trump blows himself up, while ‘Sleepy Joe’ finds the camera

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Somewhere along the way, Donald Trump and his team looked at nearly four decades of presidential debates and decided on an unconventional approach. Going back to at least 1984, incumbents running for a second term have looked laconic during the first debate against their challenger.

Ronald Reagan looked tired against Walter Mondale, raising questions about his age. He bounced back in the follow-up. In 2004, George W. Bush admitted that he got his butt kicked. More recently, Mitt Romney swamped Barack Obama.

After four years of a cossetted, deferential lifestyle, rarely challenged in public, presidents find themselves in a bubble, unwilling to take a challenger seriously. Conversely, opponents have usually navigated a competitive primary with multiple debates. One is in fighting form; the other is not.

Perhaps Trump said, “That won’t be me. I’ll go after Sleepy Joe.”

Can you say “overcompensation”?

For all his many faults, Trump’s four years have hardly been characterized as a moment of quiet deference. To the contrary, he’s sought out dustups with the media and produced mutinies on an epic scale (who will be the next former staffer to cut an ad for Republican Voters Against Trump?). He revels in the conflict. He enjoys taking the fight to an opponent. If he doesn’t have an opponent, he creates one.

So, consider it rather ironic that the president who suggested that his opponent was using performance-enhancing drugs (you know, because Biden is in some sort of cognitive decline and if he’s doing well he must be on something) was the one who appeared like he was having a case of ’roid rage for 90 minutes.

From the moment he stepped on the stage, Trump was scowling, his facial hue was more red than orange. He rarely faced the camera — surprising for someone so well-versed