Former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump faced off on Oct. 22, at Belmont University in Nashville for one last time before Election Day. NBC’s Kristen Welker moderated the event, challenging the nominees to answer questions regarding their perspectives on specific categories: COVID-19, American families, race, climate change, national security, and leadership.
Both candidates tested negative for COVID-19 on the day of the debate and allowed the Commission on Presidential Debates to mute their mics for the first two minutes of their opponent’s response. Overall, the debate seemed to be more civil than the last; however, the opponents presented starkly different visions of America to their audience.
In general, Biden focused on Trump’s COVID-19 response, fighting climate change, opening up immigration, and maintaining affordable healthcare. Trump promised to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions, defended his foreign business ventures, declared that COVID-19 would end soon, and hit back at Biden regarding immigration. Trump explained his belief that “[America is] on the road to success,” defending his administration’s COVID-19 response.
CNN analysts reported that the nominees’ campaign advisors were happy with their performances. While Trump focused on staying calm and countering Biden’s arguments, Biden emphasized his points and avoided Trump’s personal attacks.
Trump employed tactics from his 2016 campaign against Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, implying that Biden is corrupt, pointing out his political mistakes, and labeling him as a career politician. Memorably, Trump stated, “I take full responsibility [for the virus], but China brought it here. It’s not my fault,” leaving many feeling that he contradicted himself. Trump also continued to focus on the economy in this debate.
Biden’s campaign clarified a statement that he made during the debate, calling for a full transition away from the oil industry to renewable energy. According to his campaign Biden simply attempted to show his support for an end to government subsidies for fossil fuels, but political analysts reported that this comment may have hurt the president elect in states that maintain large oil industries.
Biden emphasized economic and COVID-19 related policies, continuing to attack Trump on his administration’s pandemic response. In response to Trump’s claim that Americans are learning to live with the virus, Biden stated, “Come on. We’re dying with it. Because he has never said it’s dangerous.” Biden also focused on the climate change plan that he promised would benefit Americans. Biden tried to spread a message of American unity and compassion, speaking to the camera on many occasions.
When asked about Black male voters and how they would support them, Trump responded, “I’m the least racist person in this room,” while Biden responded, “Abraham Lincoln here is one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history,” he sarcastically said, referencing Trump’s previous claim.
A CNN Instant Poll of debate watchers reported that Biden did a better job overall, with a majority of 53 percent believing that he won and 39 percent believing that Trump won. Overall, the poll suggested that this debate did not substantially change the trajectory of the presidential race, leaving Biden in the lead about a week and a half away from the election.
(Sources: CNN, NY Times, NBC, CBS, LA Times)
Photo courtesy NBC News