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Biden doesn't want an audience for his debate with Trump. That's a mistake.

The president's campaign thinks it will help avoid a spectacle, but a live audience would likely help Biden more than Trump.

If you want to understand how Donald Trump thinks about his upcoming debates with President Joe Biden in June and September, it's helpful to look at his post on Truth Social agreeing to them.

“Just tell me when, I’ll be there,” Trump wrote Wednesday. “‘Let’s get ready to Rumble!!!’”

The final sentence is the trademark — literally — of ring announcer Michael Buffer, who has used it to kick off boxing and pro wrestling matches since the 1980s, including at Trump's own casinos.

He even said that it would be good to have a large venue "for entertainment purposes."

That is appropriate. For Trump, the debate is not unlike a pro wrestling match, two fighters in a staged spectacle designed to hype the audience with easily telegraphed moves, dumb catchphrases and mugging for the camera. He even said that it would be good to have a large venue "for entertainment purposes." Lincoln and Douglas, this is not.

Biden, meantime, telegraphed his contrasting vision for the debate in a letter from his campaign chair, Jen O'Malley Dillon, explaining why the campaign would not rely on the nonprofit Commission on Presidential Debates to set up the debates. The commission, she said, was too focused on "building huge spectacles."

“The debates should be conducted for the benefit of the American voters, watching on television and at home — not as entertainment for an in-person audience with raucous or disruptive partisans and donors, who consume valuable debate time with noisy spectacles of approval or jeering," she wrote.

While both Biden and Trump have agreed in theory to debate, they still need to agree on the details, and the presence of a live audience seems to be a sticking point. (CNN has confirmed that "no audience will be present" at its debate.) Biden doesn't want one; Trump wrote on Truth Social that's because "Biden is supposedly afraid of crowds."

That's certainly not the reason. Biden, an inveterate glad-hander, loves nothing more than trying to win over a crowd with his accusations of "malarkey" and beaming chompers. It would be more accurate to say that Trump is afraid of not having a crowd. In fact, the Biden campaign is hoping to deprive him of one in order to throw him off his game.

There's logic to this thinking. Trump feeds off the energy of a crowd, and he's never more alive as a politician than when he's bantering back and forth with adoring fans at one of his rallies. A darkened stage with just him and Biden answering tough questions from a seasoned journalist would not be as much fun for him.

But the Biden campaign may be making a strategic error here. In fact, it's Biden who may have more to gain from having an audience at a presidential debate.

That's because this is not a typical audience. If you've watched a presidential debate, you probably remember the solemnity of the proceeding, the moderator exhorting the audience to avoid clapping or cheering for anything other than the introduction of the two candidates. Sometimes, the moderator will even interject later if the crowd slips up and gets even slightly excited.

This is not a Trump crowd, nor a Biden crowd. The people in the audience are carefully selected and acting on their best behavior. This is closer to the audience for a Verdi opera at a concert hall on senior citizen discount day than the monster-truck rally feel of a Trump event, and there's little evidence that it has helped Trump in the past.

His one attempt at using the audience involved trying to throw Hillary Clinton off her game by inviting women who had accused her husband of sexual abuse to confront Bill Clinton on live TV before the debate began. That plan was thwarted, even though the women then sat in the audience, and it didn't seem to rattle Clinton anyway.

While members of the audience are on their best behavior, they're still human, and that can still break through in ways that could help Biden in a debate.

But while members of the audience are on their best behavior, they're still human, and that can still break through in ways that could help Biden in a debate.

The first is applause, which does not come when it would at a typical rally. Instead, it tends to break out spontaneously at things on which people of all political persuasions would heartily agree.

The best example of this came in 2012, when Barack Obama was debating Mitt Romney. The two got into a back-and-forth over whether Obama had called an attack in Libya "an act of terror," which ended when moderator Candy Crowley intervened to say that he had. While Crowley received a lot of criticism for getting involved, the audience actually applauded her intervention, likely because it ended the kind of tedious exchange over minor issues that pretty much everyone hates.

The second is laughter, which even the most well-meaning audience member can't suppress.

The best example of this came in 1984, when Ronald Reagan rebutted questions raised about his age from the moderator and Walter Mondale, saying that he would "not make age an issue of this campaign," and joking that "I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience." The audience broke into laughter. The line was so good that even Mondale laughed.

Moments like those could help Biden. The audience at a debate is a proxy for the Americans watching at home, not unlike the "live studio audience" for an old sitcom, as former debate coach Jennifer Mercieca told me recently. "We look to them to understand how to respond," she said. If Biden were to manage to get a moment of spontaneous bipartisan applause (not likely, but possible) or laughter with a well-delivered zinger (more likely), that would be a potentially devastating signal to the viewers that Trump had lost the moment.

As many as 70 million Americans may tune in for the first debate. Surely, we can let a few dozen of them watch it in person.