What Trump and Biden Have in Common

By Richard Lee

Not everything about the Sept. 29 debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden illustrated the sharp differences between the two candidates.

A group of honor students at St. Bonaventure University graded the candidates on how closely they answered the debate questions. Trump’s 2.66 score was percentage points higher than 2.54, but both scores fell in the C+ range.

Four students each assigned letter grades to the candidates’ answers to the debate questions. To calculate the candidates’ scores, numerical values were assigned to the letter grades that the students gave to each answer. An A was worth four points, a B three points, a C two, and a D one. The points each candidate received for each answer were averaged to arrive at the final scores.

A few observations:

  • Neither candidate did a good job answering the questions. A C+ is not a good grade.
  • The lowest scores came on the question: Why should voters elect you president over your opponent? I suspect this is because each candidate spent more time talking about the flaws of their opponents than their own qualifications.
  • Both candidates started with their highest scores (12) on the first question, which was about the Supreme Court. The rest of the scores were lower, not significantly lower, but they never reached 12 again. I attribute this to the way the tone of the debate deteriorated over the 90 minutes.

Richard Lee is executive director of the Jandoli Institute.

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