US President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden have argued over how to tame the raging coronavirus during Thursday’s final debate in 2020, largely sidelining the grudge that overshadowed their previous standoff in favour of a more substantial exchange which highlighted their very different approaches to challenges facing the nation.
With less than two weeks of the election, Trump sought to present himself as the same foreigner he first introduced to voters four years ago, repeatedly claiming he was not a politician. Biden, meanwhile, argued that Trump was an incompetent leader of a country facing multiple crises and attempted to connect what he saw as the president’s failures to the daily lives of Americans.
The night in Nashville was centered on a battle for the president’s handling of the pandemic, which has killed more than 225,000 Americans and cost millions of jobs. Trump said the virus would go away as Biden warned the nation was headed for “a dark winter.” Polls suggest this is the campaign’s defining problem for voters, and Biden said, “Whoever is responsible for these many deaths should not remain President of the United States of America. ”
Trump has defended his handling of the country’s deadliest health crisis in a century, dismissing Biden’s warning that the country was far ahead due to spikes in infections. And he promised that a vaccine would be ready in a few weeks.
“It will go away,” Trump said, staying with his optimistic assessment of the pandemic. “We are turning the corner. We turn the corner. He is leaving. ”
The president said the worst problems are in states with Democratic governors, a claim that is no longer largely true as it once was.
Biden has vowed his administration will defer to scientists to fight the pandemic and said Trump’s divisive approach on suffering states is hampering the nation’s response.
“I don’t look at it the way it does – blue states and red states,” Biden said. “It’s all the United States. And look at all the states that have a coronavirus spike – these are the red states. ”
With Trump lagging behind and having to change the course of the campaign, the debate could prove to be crucial although more than 47 million votes have already been cast and there are fewer undecided voters than at this point in time. previous election years. Their first debate was defined by anger interruptions, but on Thursday night a generally softer tone until the end, when Trump resumed his tactic of loudly stopping.
In a campaign defined by gruesome personal attacks, the night was marked by a surprising amount of substantive political debate as the two abruptly broke over the environment, foreign policy, immigration and racial justice.
On foreign policy, Biden accused Trump of dealing with a “thug” while holding summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. And closer to home, the former vice president adhered to the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents who attempted to illegally cross the southern border.
The debate, moderated by NBC’s Kristen Welker, was a last chance for every man to make his point before a TV audience of tens of millions of voters. And questions swirled in advance about how Trump, whose hector performance in the first debate was viewed by assistants as a mistake that discouraged viewers, would behave in the middle of a campaign game during from which he got angry with the news media and deeply unleashed personal attacks on Biden and his adult son.
When he feels cornered, Trump has often lashed out, getting as negative as he can get. At an astonishing point in the 2016 campaign, in an effort to steer away from the Access Hollywood strip release in which he is heard bragging about groped women, Trump held a press conference just before a debate with Hillary Clinton during which he appeared with women. who had accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault. He then invited them to watch as members of the audience.
On a related note, Trump’s campaign staged another surprise press conference ahead of the debate, this time featuring Tony Bobulinski, a man who said he was Hunter Biden’s former business partner and made unproven claims that the vice president’s son had consulted his father on China. related business relationships.
Trump made similar, albeit vague, accusations early in the debate phase and the exchanges over Hunter Biden did not dominate overnight, as aides in both campaigns believed it could happen. Biden called the discussion of family entanglements “malarkey” and accused Trump of not wanting to talk about the substantive issues.
Turning to the camera and the millions of people watching at home, he said, “It’s not about his family and my family. It’s about your family, and your family is in great pain. ”