The Democrat partisans running the two town halls had a big effect

We're told that Trump did an hour-long town hall on NBC while Joe Biden did a 90-minute-long town hall on ABC.  Both those statements are lies.  Trump spent an hour dealing with Savannah Guthrie's viciousness.  Meanwhile, Biden had a relaxed, pleasant conversation with an endlessly respectful George Stephanopoulos and a few questioners, with increasingly long and frequent commercial breaks that reduced the debate time to something around an hour.  At the end of the evening, while Trump may have put off a few undecideds, Biden once again alienated his base.

While Trump appeared on NBC and Biden on ABC, there was a common feature in both debates: moderators who were highly partisan Democrat operatives.  This was a problem for Trump, who essentially ended up debating NBC's Savannah Guthrie, who hectored him, argued with him, and interrupted him incessantly.  It wasn't until 20 minutes into the "town hall" that Guthrie allowed an audience member to speak.

I adore chihuahuas, but I mean it as a real insult to Guthrie when I say she was barking and gnawing at Trump's ankles like a pack of angry chihuahuas.  This hampered Trump a great deal, in ways that were bad for him.  He was unable to develop his answers or to show his charming, humorous side.  Instead, as he tried to speak over Guthrie's snarling inquiries and interruptions, he sounded angry and stressed.

In a way, Guthrie did to Trump what Trump did to Biden during their debate.  The difference is that Trump and Biden are political rivals.  However, Guthrie was supposed to be a moderator facilitating audience questions, not a vicious partisan hack trying to make the other party's candidate look bad.

Meanwhile, George Stephanopoulos, who was seated an ocean away from Biden, asked him a few mildly challenging questions (for example, about Biden's stance on court-packing and his apparent flip-flops about the Green New Deal).  He gave Biden endless time to answer questions, which allowed Biden to develop ideas and counter challenges.

Significantly, neither Stephanopoulos nor the carefully culled questioners uttered a word about the revelations from Hunter Biden's computer.  These revelations included Hunter getting paid vast sums of money from Burisma in exchange for access to and favors from his father, arranging billion-dollar deals with Chinese operatives, and (apparently) telling his sister that Biden demanded a 50% cut from these deals.  And then there's this:

The sweet, relaxing format allowed Biden to tell unchallenged lies that denigrated Trump, and that elevated himself. On the Trump front, Biden managed to throw in the “fine people hoax” and the lie that the Russians put a bounty on American troops while Trump did nothing to stop it. Biden also made the utterly ludicrous claim that Trump is a foreign policy failure because, among other things, the UN and NATO dislike him, and he’s handling China wrong.

When it came to self-praise, Biden offered unchallenged muddy, stupid, and unrealistic assertions about his policies, especially his economic policies. He now claims he won’t reverse the Trump taxes but still promises to impose hefty taxes on struggling corporations. He waffled wildly on masks and backtracked from his refusal to talk about court-packing by promising to say something after the confirmation hearings.

Biden also told one of his big lies. This one was about his alleged decades as a professor of constitutional law. In fact, Biden got an honorary professorship at the University of Pennsylvania after leaving the Vice President’s office. He then received $900,000 to do nothing except give some public speeches at big-money events. (And do you wonder, as I do, about the source of that vast sum of money?)

Having watched the debates and read a lot of commentary, I think Frank Luntz has the most useful take on what was playing out during those fake “town halls.”

Luntz's focus group figured out that there was a big problem with the moderators and really disliked Guthrie:

That the focus group members understood the moderator problem is a good thing.  However, they missed that the moderators' different styles and obvious biases affected their perceptions of the candidates.  Because Biden had a gentle, respectful moderator, Biden came across as sweet, kind, and humble.  And because Trump was trying to fight off a rabid, ankle-biting dog, he came across as abrasive and unpleasant.  (No man looks good shaking an angry chihuahua off his ankle.)

So was it a mistake for Trump to enter the lion's den?  Maybe, maybe not.  First, as you may have noticed, even as observers were taken in by Biden, a man who lies compulsively, and were too ill informed to note the absence of questions about his massive corruption, they still found his policies scary.

Second, every time Biden tried to appeal to those worried centrists, as he did by trying to walk away from the Green New Deal or his Marxist-friendly tax plans, he had to alienate his base.  While Trump is working to increase his base's turnout, which may see a 10% or even a 20% increase in votes for him, Biden is alienating his radical base by appealing to the 1% or 2% of undecided voters in the country.  Looked at from this perspective, neither Trump's words nor his affect alienated his all-important base.  Meanwhile, Biden once again was unable to square the circle of pleasing both Marxists and normal Americans.

Image: Trump and Biden town hall.  Compose of ABC and NBC screen grabs.

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