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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Tactics that got Biden and Trump this far will carry them the rest of the way

President Donald Trump and challenger Joe Biden at

President Donald Trump and challenger Joe Biden at the final presidential debate Thursday in Nashville, Tenn. Credit: Bloomberg/Morry Gash

These are their stories, and the candidates are sticking to them, right down to the end of the campaign next week. Joe Biden is working to come off as credibly populist. President Donald Trump, as always, is making grandiose claims of success.

Biden will keep hammering at Trump's passive response to the coronavirus pandemic that's killed over 225,000 Americans so far. Trump will keep painting Biden's seniority in public life as a minus and will continue to try to create a stink from a still-supposed scandal.

Ordinarily the challenger attacks the incumbent’s record while the incumbent, in response, calls the opponent’s proposed solutions extreme or impractical.

The old template was visible, roughly, in their final debate last Thursday. But Trump’s defense was mostly attempted offense — much of it based on inaccuracies.

Trump's pitch had the familiar disputed themes. Democrats at state and local levels allegedly wrecked the economy by failing to "reopen" when he wished amid the coronavirus pandemic's spread. A "phony witch hunt" caused his serious Russia-investigation problem. Falsely, he said 2.2 million people had been expected to die of the virus in the U.S.

Some of Trump's spews made no more sense than they had earlier. Trump said something about climate activists limiting the size of windows in buildings, about wind farms as cancer-causing polluters and bird-killers, and about how Biden, who comes from Scranton, Pennsylvania, doesn’t really come from Scranton.

That last one sounded a little like the myth that former President Barack Obama didn't really come from Hawaii.

There were other echoes of 2016 debate tactics.

Four years ago Trump, who has been accused in multiple sexual assaults, all of which he denies, had a pre-debate appearance with several of Bill Clinton's accusers to rattle opponent Hillary Clinton. This time, the Trump campaign trotted out Anthony Bobulinski, an ex-business partner of Biden's son Hunter, to make accusations.

Last time, the president's campaign got an October surprise involving emails found on an outside party's laptop. This time, Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giluiani are trying for a reprise, again involving a laptop.

Russian disinformation attempts on the U.S. election, according to Trump's own appointees to U.S. intelligence agencies, again raise concerns about foreign interference. Once again, Trump complains that Democrats are burdening him unfairly with "Russia Russia Russia."

Joe Biden fended off Trump's allegations of radicalism by pointing out that he won the Democratic primaries after disagreeing with leftier candidates.

With most voters' minds made up, whatever either candidate says generally will be accepted by his supporters and rejected by the other side. Each day, the heat of the sloganeering will build. The arguments and reasoning, such as we've heard them, are done.

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