U.S. President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden debated for the final time Thursday night at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. Here is a look at some of the highlights of a 90-minute heated back-and-forth in which the two candidates disagreed on practically everything before the November 3rd vote.
Kristen Welker of NBC News moderated a much more civilized discussion though, partly because of a mute button in place to help keep the candidates from interrupting each other, than took place during the first debate on September 29 in Cleveland.
From the start, Trump and Biden differed sharply on the issues — from the coronavirus pandemic to national security to climate change, from fracking to unemployment and immigration to healthcare and drugs and crime.
Trump once again defended his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying: “We are rounding the corner. It’s going away.”
Trump spoke about his own experience fighting Covid-19 and downplayed the current spike.
“There are some spikes and surges in other places. They will soon be gone,” Trump said.
Biden argued Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic should guarantee he is not reelected.
“You hear nothing else I say tonight, hear this: Anyone who’s responsible for not taking control, in fact… saying I take no responsibility initially, anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America,” Biden said.
Trump raised the issue of Biden’s son Hunter’s ties to foreign businessmen, which has been much in the news of late. But the president was not able to harp on it as many had expected him to do.
Biden responded to reports that Russia and Iran obtained voter information as a part of an election disinformation campaign by saying that any country that interferes in American elections will “pay a price.”
On the volatile issue of race in America, Biden talked about his daughter’s work as a social worker and the differences between being a white person and an African American in the United States. He said more must be done to open up economic and educational opportunities for minorities.
Trump claimed no one has done more for the black community than he had.
When Welker called him out on many of the perceived racist statements and actions that have been tied to Trump, he responded: “I am the least racist person. I can’t even see the audience because it’s so dark, but I don’t care who’s in the audience, I’m the least racist person in this room.”
Biden retorted that the president “pours fuel on every single racist fire, every single one.”
Trump questioned Biden on his accomplishments across his 47-year career in public service and said he decided to mount a run for president in 2015 because he believed the Obama administration did “a poor job.”
“I ran because of you, Joe,” the president said. “I ran because of you.”
Welker ended the debate with questions on leadership.
Trump touted the low unemployment numbers before the coronavirus hit and his efforts to cut taxes as signs he should remain in power.
Biden said as president he was going to make sure everyone gets an even chance, which people have not been getting the past four years.
Did the debate change anyone’s mind?
“Assuming this debate is perceived as close or a draw, it’s a win for Biden since he came into the evening with the most to lose and avoided making a disqualifying gaffe,” Aaron Kall, director of debate at the University of Michigan, told USA Today.
Lara Brown, director of the Graduate School of Political Management at the George Washington University, said Trump “again spoke only to his base,” while Biden “appealed to those who may still have been on the fence.”