7 takeaways from the final presidential debate



President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during the second and final Presidential Debate on Thursday, October 22, 2020 at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. AP Photo / Patrick Semansky

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden met for the second and final time on a debate stage Thursday after a previously scheduled town hall debate was called off after the Republican incumbent became the ‘one of the millions of Americans to contract the coronavirus.

For Trump, the showdown at Belmont University in Tennessee was perhaps the last opportunity to change the dynamics of a race dominated, much to his dismay, by its response to the pandemic and its economic fallout. For Biden, it took 90 minutes to consolidate an apparent lead less than two weeks before the election.

Here are the main points to remember:


Trump’s difficulty in articulating a defense for his handling of the coronavirus remains a drag on his campaign. The opening topic of the debate was quite predictable – Trump has received variations of the same question in interviews and rarely provided a clear answer.

Asked to describe his plan for the future, Trump instead claimed his past management was flawless and predicted a rosy reversal of the pandemic that has killed more than 220,000 Americans.

“We are coming to the turning point, we are coming to the turning point,” Trump said, even as cases rise again across the country. “It’s going away.”

Biden, who sought to continue Trump’s handling of the virus in his closing address to voters, has prepared. “Whoever is responsible for so many deaths should not remain President of the United States of America,” he said.

Biden added, “He says we, you know, we learn to live with it. People learn to die with it.


Trump and Biden have each sought to position themselves as the advocate for U.S. healthcare, fully aware that they were among the top voter issues even before the coronavirus pandemic hit the country.

But Trump’s efforts to repeal and undermine the Obama-era Affordable Care Act turned out to be a handicap, as Biden hammered his efforts to remove coverage from tens of millions of Americans and his lack of a plan to cover those who suffer from pre-existing conditions.

Biden, on the other hand, fended off Trump’s attack that his plan to bolster Obama-era law with a ‘public option’ amounted to a step towards socialized medicine based on his well-established public figure. – and its defeat of the main Democratic rivals with more liberal health policies.

“He thinks he’s running against someone else,” Biden said. “I beat all these other people.”

Trump attenuates

Three weeks after drawing bipartisan criticism for his frequent interruptions and harassment of his Democratic rival, Trump has adopted a more moderate tone for much of the debate.

Trump asked moderator Kristen Welker whether to follow up on Biden’s responses – “If I can?” – rather than just going for it, and he thanked Welker several times for getting started.

From the first question, this debate seemed different from the first round, when Trump’s relentless interruptions and disregard for deadlines derailed the 90-minute contest from the start.

Of course, there were still excavations.

“We can’t lock ourselves in a basement like Joe does,” Trump said, resuming his spring and summer attacks on Biden staying at his residence rather than campaigning in person amid the pandemic.

Biden smiled, laughed, and shook his head. He mocked Trump for once by suggesting that bleach helps kill the coronavirus.

The two had long conversations about their personal finances and the tangles of family businesses.

But overall, voters at home had something they didn’t have on September 29: a debate.

It marked a recognition by Trump that his bombastic side was a handicap for the elderly and suburban voters who flocked from the GOP to Democrats.


Aiming to change the course of the race, Trump reverted to a tactic that he said propelled him to the Oval Office four years ago – jerky personal attacks on his opponent.

Trump has repeatedly made unsubstantiated allegations against Biden and his son Hunter in an attempt to portray his rival and his family as corrupt.

“I don’t make money with China, you do. I don’t make money with Ukraine, you do, ”Trump said.

Trump has offered no tangible evidence for his claims, and he’s used to making claims that do not stand up to scrutiny.

When the Democrat sought to change the subject of the president’s attacks on his family to more voter-related issues, Trump retaliated by accusing that Biden’s canned line reflected him as “just a typical politician,” adding mockingly, “Come on, Joe, you can do better.”

Both candidates struggled to explain why they weren’t able to accomplish more during their tenure, falling into the familiar tactic of blaming Congress for its inaction.

A more important question may be whether voters are moved at all, especially the undecided voters who both candidates are trying to win, especially since more than 47 million Americans have already voted.


With centuries of institutional racism coming to a head in 2020, it has been a bit out of touch to watch a 74-year-old white Republican and a 77-year-old white Democrat fight for the presidency. Trump and Biden haven’t done much to dispel this disconnect.

Welker offered the two multiple opportunities to speak directly to black Americans. Both men said they understand the challenges black citizens face, but the segment was mostly about blowing each other up.

Trump blamed Biden as an almost singular force behind the mass incarceration, especially of “young black men.” Trump declared himself “the least racist person in this room” and repeated his claim that “no one did what I did” for black Americans “except Abraham Lincoln, possibly exception”.

Biden in disbelief called Trump a “racist” who “spills over into every racist fire.”

Polls suggest many young voters of color do not support Trump but are not particularly enthusiastic about Biden either. Their final debate is unlikely to change this point of view.


Trump and Biden clashed over global climate change in the issue’s first in-depth discussion in a presidential debate in 20 years.

Biden sounded the alarm bells for the world to tackle global warming, as Trump took credit for pulling the United States out of a major international deal to do just that. Trump has claimed he is trying to save jobs in the United States, while taking credit for the purest air and water the country has known for generations – some of which are the result of regulations adopted by its predecessor.

Biden, exploiting an issue of particular importance to his base, called for massive investments to create new environmentally friendly industries. “Our health and our jobs are at stake,” he said.

Biden also spoke of a transition in the oil industry, which Trump has taken over, asking voters in Texas and Pennsylvania if they are listening.


Biden finally got the chance to talk a bit about foreign policy. But only a little. The former vice president loved the topic in the early months of the Democratic presidential primary, but the general election was dominated by the pandemic and other national crises.

He used it to hammer out Trump’s intimate relationship with North Korean authoritarian leader Kim Jong Un. “His pal, who is a thug,” Biden said, claiming that Trump’s summit with Kim “legitimized” an adversary. United States and a potential nuclear threat.

Trump defended his “different kind of relationship … a very good relationship” with Kim, prompting Biden to retort that the nations “had good relations with Hitler before he actually invaded the rest of Europe.”

It was certainly not a deep dive into a pool of complex issues.

Source link

Previous How to watch PBS NewsHour's coverage of the final 2020 presidential debate online
Next Politics, environment and race scholars share takeaways from presidential debate