Trump answers a question as Biden listens during the second and final presidential debate. Morry Gash/Reuters
President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden met for the second and last time on a debate stage after a previously scheduled town hall debate was scrapped after the Republican incumbent became one of the millions of Americans to contract coronavirus.
For Trump, the matchup at Tennessee’s Belmont University Thursday was perhaps the final opportunity to change the dynamics of a race dominated, much to his chagrin, by his response to the pandemic and its economic fallout. For Biden, it was 90 minutes to solidify an apparent lead less than two weeks before the election.
Here are key takeaways:
COVID-19 still a drag for Trump
Trump's difficulty articulating a defense of his handling of the coronavirus remains a drag on his campaign. The opening topic of the debate was entirely predictable - Trump has received variations of the same question in interviews and has rarely delivered a clear answer.
Asked to outline his plan for the future, Trump instead asserted his prior handling was without fault and predicted a rosy reversal to the pandemic that has killed more than 220,000 Americans.
"We’re rounding the turn, we’re rounding the corner,” Trump claimed, even as cases spike again across the country. "It’s going away.”
Biden, who has sought to prosecute Trump’s handling of the virus in his closing pitch to voters, came prepared. "Anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America,” he said.
Biden added: "He says we’re, you know, we’re learning to live with it. People are learning to die with it.”
Trump tones it down
Three weeks after drawing bipartisan criticism for his frequent interruptions and badgering of his Democratic rival, Trump adopted a more subdued tone for much of the debate.
Trump took to asking moderator Kristen Welker for the opportunity to follow up on Biden’s answers - "If I may?” - rather than just jumping in, and he thanked Welker repeatedly to boot.
This combo shows Donald Trump (left) and Joe Biden during the first presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio. File/AP
From the first question, this debate seemed different from round one, when Trump’s incessant interruptions and flouting of time limits derailed the 90-minute contest from the outset.
Sure, there still were digs.
"We can’t lock ourselves up in a basement like Joe does,” Trump said, reprising his spring and summer attacks on Biden staying at his residence rather than campaigning in-person amid the pandemic.
Biden smirked, laughed and shook his head. He mocked Trump for once suggesting bleach helped kill coronavirus.
The two men had a lengthy back-and-forth about their personal finances and family business entanglements.
But on the whole, voters at home got something they didn’t get on Sept. 29: a debate.
It marked a recognition by Trump that his bombastic side was a liability with the seniors and suburban women voters who have flocked from the GOP to Democrats.
Trump and Biden faced off on global climate change in the first extensive discussion of the issue in a presidential debate in 20 years.
Biden sounded the alarm for the world to address a warming climate, as Trump took credit for pulling the US out of a major international accord to do just that. Trump asserted he was trying to save American jobs, while taking credit for some of the cleanest air and water the nation has seen in generations — some of it a holdover of regulations passed by his predecessor.
Biden, tapping into an issue of particular importance to his base, called for massive investment to create new environmentally friendly industries. "Our health and our jobs are at stake,” he said.
Biden also spoke of a transition from the oil industry, which Trump seized upon, asking voters in Texas and Pennsylvania if they were listening.
Foreign policy makes a cameo
Biden finally got a chance to talk a little 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 has been dominated by the pandemic and other national crises.
He used it to hammer Trump’s cozy relationship with North Korea’s authoritarian leader Kim Jong Un. "His buddy, who’s a thug,” Biden said, arguing that Trump’s summit with Kim "legitimized” a US adversary and potential nuclear threat.
Trump defended his "different kind of relationship ... a very good relationship” with Kim, prompting Biden to retort that nations "had a good relationship with Hitler before he, in fact, invaded the rest of Europe.”
It certainly wasn’t a deep dive into a pool of complex issues.
As the coronavirus pandemic loosens its grip on America’s cities, America’s president is losing his grip on reality. As Monday dragged on for seemingly a year’s worth of instability and extra-legality emanating from Donald Trump and his allies, culminating in his bizarre march from the White House to the Episcopal Church across the street, with soldiers tear-gassing and rubber-bulleting him a path so that he could pose for pictures, two things became obvious.
It’s too early to have anything close to a clear vision of the effect the COVID-19 pandemic will have on the 2020 presidential election, but rest assured, it will make a difference. But to whose advantage?
Biden said business and labor leaders had signalled willingness to work together to bolster the pandemic-battered US economy but stressed COVID-19 first must be brought under control.
"OK, here we are again in the unusual position of not only interrupting the president of the United States but correcting the president of the United States,” said MSNBC anchor Brian Williams, as the network quickly ended its live coverage.
Trump could still change his mind on the planned pardon, which is among a number of pardons under consideration by the Republican president, the source said. The news was first reported by Axios.
More than month after testing positive for a Covid-19 infection, Patel was under treatment at a Gurugram-based hospital. He was being monitored by a team of doctors.
Biden said that after he is inaugurated on Jan.20 and Donald Trump leaves the White House, the United States will “once again sit at the head of the table, ready to confront our adversaries and not reject our allies.”