It’s important to note very quickly, off-the-bat, that lots of punditry about the debate will over-analyze each specific statement made by Joe Biden and Donald Trump. You can apply this to a host of issues, from court-packing to white supremacist basement-dwellers.
But the fundamental point is this: Undecided voters currently make up 6% of the electorate. Even if Trump were to capture every single one of those voters, he would still lose to Biden, based on where polls are right now.
Trump needed a massive win. He needed to convince voters who were on the fence that he had matured as president, that he could be calm, and even remorseful and sympathetic to people who were suffering (especially during the COVID segment). He couldn’t do that, and he didn’t get his win. In a sense, he only reinforced the idea that he has not changed.
To cite to a real-world example: My wife Elisabeth, who is the most sensible person I know, didn’t watch the debate because she could not bear to listen to Trump himself. But she hung around and watched CNN with me afterwards (even though CNN is bad).
Elisabeth is not voting for Trump, and neither am I. But I do wonder how many people had the same gut feeling that she had and decided to watch the first 20 minutes of the debate, only to get nauseated and turn it off. What did Trump do that would change the minds of those voters?
I always want to be calm and sober, especially in the immediate moments of an event that just happened, but if Trump did not convince more voters to come to his side, the debate was a disaster for him.