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Debate Preview: What to expect from Biden vs. Trump round one

Yahoo Finance Editor-in-chief Andy Serwer, along with HuffPost Washington Bureau Chief Amanda Terkel and Yahoo News Editor-in-Chief Dan Klaidman preview Tuesday night's first debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Video Transcript

ANDY SERWER: Tonight could be one of the most consequential dates on the political calendar in many years, as Donald Trump and Joe Biden are set to meet in Cleveland for their first debate. To look ahead to tonight, I'm joined-- as I will be each week-- by my co-hosts, Yahoo News Editor-in-Chief Dan Klaidman and HuffPost Washington Bureau Chief Amanda Terkel. Welcome, you guys.

DAN KLAIDMAN: Good to be back with you.

ANDY SERWER: So let me start with you this week, Dan, and ask you what you're going to be looking for in this evening's debate.

DAN KLAIDMAN: Well, look, Donald Trump is pretty far behind in this race both in national polls and in the battleground states. So it's really going to be up to him to have to sort of shake this thing up and change the dynamic. So what I'm going to be looking for is to see how Joe Biden handles Trump.

First of all, he can't make any big mistakes. He has to seem competent, fluent in his language-- which hasn't always been easy for him during these debates. And you know, I think what he needs to do is come off as a plausible president. And if he does that, I think he's going to do well. Expectations are low for him, partly because the Trump campaign and President Trump himself have set those expectations very low.

One thing that I'm going to be looking for is to see how he handles the personal attacks that we know will be coming at him from President Trump, because that's the way President Trump debates. And there have been a lot of people who've said he shouldn't take the bait, he'll get rattled, it's not-- anger is not his best side. I agree with all of that.

I also, though, think that there may be a moment for some sort of a flash of controlled anger if Trump comes after his-- his sons, either Hunter or the late Beau Biden. You know, I think if Biden-- if Biden shows a little bit of anger there in defense of his own children, that might actually help him. It will energize Democrats. It might even get some of the fence sitters off of-- off of the fence. But it-- but it has to be controlled.

ANDY SERWER: Amanda, what about you?

AMANDA TERKEL: Biden has done a great job so far of staying on message. We haven't seen a ton of Biden because of the coronavirus pandemic and the fact that his campaign has, you know, shut down big rallies. And when Biden has appeared, it's been in much more controlled formats. He hasn't been doing press conferences or anything like that.

While he's been doing that, you know, Trump has been out there just spouting off, you know, different messages every single day and seeing what will stick. Biden has been staying on coronavirus. He has been staying lately on health care, especially with the Supreme Court. And the question will be, you know, is Biden going to let Trump get under his skin? Is he going to, as Dan was talking about, succumb to, you know, anger if Trump attacks his family?

And I agree that showing some emotion about that could actually be a good thing, because that's how many people connect with Joe Biden. But he can't let Trump throw him off course, and that's what Trump does during debates. That's what he did when he was a presidential candidate running against other Republicans, that's what he did against Hillary, is he tries to be a bully to make the other people look silly or weak.

ANDY SERWER: You know, just picking up on what Dan said earlier, Amanda, that Biden is actually the frontrunner-- and that's a curious position to be in-- and I asked former presidential candidate and former Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday if he thought the Biden campaign was confident, or maybe even overconfident. Here's what John Kerry had to say.

JOHN KERRY: Well, let me tell you something. I was-- I was allegedly winning, and our polls showed that I was winning in the last week, until an Osama bin Laden tape appeared on Friday before the election. So am I saying Biden will win? No, not in the least, and nor is he. Nobody in the Biden campaign is taking anything for granted.

They don't watch the polls day to day. They're going to go, you know, full speed ahead to the last day and last moment. And that's the only way to campaign today, and I think Joe understands that. But I think his campaign is well-funded now. I think he has a great sense of why he's running. And I think in the debate tomorrow people will get a great sense of Joe Biden.

ANDY SERWER: Dan, let me go over to you and ask you, though, about one issue that hasn't come up yet, which is huge I think, which is President Trump's taxes and those bombshell articles. From "The New York Times." Is that going to be a factor?

DAN KLAIDMAN: It is going to be a factor. It is clearly going to come up. You know, Chris Wallace is certainly going to make it a factor. I wouldn't be shocked if that's the first question he asks. It is a way for Biden to get under Trump's skin because it goes directly at the Trump brand that he has been carefully cultivating all these years that he is the, you know, this amazing businessman and mogul. "The Times" report suggests that that is not at all true.

It also will allow Biden to make some, you know, kind of populist arguments because this is a person who's only, you know, for I think 10 out of 15 years didn't pay taxes-- paid $750 in taxes when he was running and in the first year of his presidency. So you may hear the Scranton versus Park Avenue argument that Joe Biden has been waging.

But I will say, I don't think that-- that Biden is going to make that issue front and center throughout this debate because for Biden, what's really important is to let-- is to make people know who he is, what kind of President he would be, and to keep the focus on, you know, policy issues, on coronavirus, and-- and building a stronger economy coming out of the pandemic. So it's going to come up for sure. I don't think it will dominate the debate.