Expert Reveals What Donald Trump's Body Language At The Final Presidential Debate Really Means

President Donald Trump may actually have prepared for his final showdown with presidential candidate Joe Biden ahead of November's 2020 election. The New York Times reports that Trump had two, one-hour prep sessions planned between Wednesday, October 21, and debate night, October 22. And while an anonymous Trump adviser said that his pre had been "loose and unconventional," the president nonetheless managed to rein himself in. 

That's according to what Mark Bowden, human behavior and body language expert, and panelist on The Behavior Panel told The List when we asked him to interpret Donald Trump's debate-day body language. During Thursday's debate, Bowden noticed that Trump made "more classic Trump gestures" (what Bowden describes as squeezebox gestures, OK – L pinches and the L shape with the finger and thumb gestures) than during September's showdown with Biden. "This means he feels comfortable and in control," Bowden explained. 

Not only in control, Trump seemed astoundingly controlled. When Biden started attacking Trump the president's COVID-19 record, Bowden told The List that the president was "able to hold himself back from jumping in." Bowden further noted that Trump had "clearly been drilled to hold back." Trump, per Bowden, even managed to contain his anger after debate moderator, Kristen Welker used a "strong firm voice and large strong and smooth suppressive gestures" to limit the time the president had to speak.  

This is the time Trump thought he had an advantage at the final debate

Per PoliticoJoe Biden currently leads the presidential head-to-head in most national polls and is solidifying his lead in key, battleground states. One of the only 'polls' forecasting a Trump victory is an informal cookie poll run by an Ohio bakery, which predicts election results based on the number of customers snapping up Democratic or Republican-themed baked treats (via Newsweek). It's still too early to tell if whether Trump's performance at Thursday's debate made a significant difference in the minds of voters. But Mark Bowden picked out one key time, that Trump clearly thought he had an advantage.

As promised, Welker used a portion of the debate to ask both candidates about their healthcare plans. Trump surprised no one by affirming his hope that the Supreme Court would strike down Obamacare. He failed to detail a healthcare plan to take its place. And even though it was during the healthcare portion of the debate that someone cut Trump's mic (provoking a spontaneous Twitterverse flash mob), the president nonetheless left that portion of the debate satisfied.

Trump's gratification had nothing to do with his response and everything to do with his opponent's. When Biden suggested turning Obamacare into "Bidencare," Mark Bowden noticed that Trump did a celebratory and "unusual for him lip-grooming lick." This, says Bowden, signals that the president thought that Biden had "hijacked the idea of Obamacare."

This is when President Trump wanted to distract the audience at the final debate

The Los Angeles Times reports that Trump's campaign is so strapped for cash that it's had to pull television ads from battleground states. In light of diminishing resources, Thursday's debate was a golden opportunity for the president to reach a national audience, free of charge — a golden opportunity, only if he came out ahead. Which is why Trump may have been desperate to divert our attention when things got messy.

Did you pick up on his body language? Mark Bowden did. Twice. The first time Trump tried to distract his debate-day audience was when Biden criticized the president for having suggested that "injecting bleach" is a viable way to treat COVID-19. In response, the audience was treated to a "classic succession of Trump pulled faces," engineered "to grab [our] attention and to regulate and moderate our response."

And the second time? Remember when Biden called Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani a "Russian pawn"? Bowden points out that Trump made a "huge" and "performed" gesture of surprise," meant to show his audience "disbelief." Trump's apparent eagerness to discredit the story is hardly surprising, especially given the fact that Giuliani was recently caught 'red-handed' in a compromising hotel bedroom scene in a new Borat Movie (via Slate).