The second and final showdown between President Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden looked much more like a normal debate than their first meeting.
But it probably didn’t do anything to change the race’s trajectory.
Amid a plethora of lies, Trump hammered Biden for failing to solve problems like institutional racism during his time in the Senate and as vice president, casting him as a typical politician.
Biden lambasted Trump in policy terms, criticizing his handling of the pandemic and his approach to health care, the economy and immigration. But at times, the former vice president got personal — at one point calling Trump “one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history.”
Here are some takeaways from the last 2020 presidential debate:
Trump lowers the temperature: Trump entered Thursday’s debate with near unanimous consent among his advisers: cool down. None could say with any confidence whether he would take the advice.
He did, mostly — aided, in part, by a new muting rule he lambasted ahead of the face-off.
Yes, he still issued falsehoods. Yes, he still lobbed personal attacks. Yes, he downplayed the coronavirus — the single biggest crisis facing the country — while taking no responsibility for it. Yes, he insisted that hundreds of migrant children separated from their parents are being well taken care of.
But for most of the face-off, he seemed more subdued and more intent on sticking to a plan. He was even courteous to moderator Kristen Welker of NBC, telling her at one point he approved of her performance.
Trump’s wishful thinking: Trump’s very first answer — which was meant to state how he would lead during the next stage of the coronavirus — relied instead on looking backward and wishful thinking about a vaccine.
And like many of his answers over the rest of the evening, Trump’s central argument seemed to be that things could be a lot worse. Thought it was delivered in a new, less aggressive style, Trump’s answer amounted to the same dismissal of the pandemic he’s been offering for months — one that voters have largely rejected.
Biden forecasts a “dark winter”: Biden offered a much bleaker view of the virus, predicting that a “dark winter” is coming as he accused Trump of denying responsibility for its spread in the United States and squandering months that he said should have been used to accelerate production of protective medical equipment and prepare schools and businesses for reopening.
“Anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain as President of the United States of America,” Biden said.
Biden was much more measured than Trump in discussing how he’d handle the virus. He said he would establish national standards for opening schools and businesses and would seek stimulus money to prepare them.
Read more takeaways here.