The first Presidential debate between President Donald Trump and the Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, was labelled “the worst presidential debate in history” as chaos reigned during the 90-minute debate. The general consensus is either that Biden won or that there was no winner (and indeed, that America and/or the world lost).
The debate became quickly mired in ugliness as Trump consistently interrupted Biden and the moderator Chris Wallace and thereby failing to adhere to the rules of the debate that his campaign had agreed to. This bullying behaviour rattled Biden during the first couple of 15-minute segments before he grew in confidence and started doing a better job of handling Trump’s attempts to steamroll him. While Biden interrupted Trump on a handful of occasions to over the 90 minutes, the majority of interruptions came from Trump, and he has been blamed for turning a debate into a mud-slinging contest. Trump repeatedly attempted to attack Biden’s family, while Biden showed his disdain for his rival by calling him a “racist”, “liar” and “clown” and telling him to shut up when it wasn’t his allotted time to speak.
The first topic that came up was focused on the Amy Coney Barret’s nomination to the supreme court and Trump argued that he was well within his rights to have her nominated to the supreme court and highlighted that Obama tried to do the same in 2016. Biden countered this by arguing that the circumstances were different as Obama did it more than half a year away from the election, while people are already mailing in their ballots now.
Biden spoke Barret’s decision could lead to Obamacare being repealed without a replacement healthcare plan – Trump falsely claimed that he has reduced the price of Insulin to that of water.
On the topic of packing the courts, Biden didn’t come up with a clear response as Trump repeatedly spoke over him.
This segment saw Biden criticize Trump’s handling of the pandemic and say that he wanted to implement mask laws as Trump’s top scientists have said they would help save up to 100k lives by the end of the year. For his part, Trump blamed China for the virus and made false claims that contradicted his scientists, that Biden will shut down the whole country and that Biden could have done more to combat COVID. He also falsely claimed that his large rallies haven’t helped to spread COVID.
Trump reiterated his false statement that Biden plans to shut down the whole country and said that he paid “millions” in taxes, despite evidence seeming to show the opposite. Biden said that he plans to raise corporate tax rates from 21% to 28% and (correctly) said that his plans for the economy will create 7m more jobs than Trump’s plans will.
This section saw Biden call for peace and unity, while condemning all violence while praising the majority (fact checked as 93%) of protests which were peaceful. He slammed Trump for his handling of the protests where he turned peaceful protests into violence and correctly said that Trump’s own former staffers say that Trump benefits from chaos and division. Trump falsely claimed that Democratic states are experiencing more violence than Republican states, and refused to condemn white supremacy and militia groups, while condemning the left and the Antifa organisation. He scoffed at Biden when Biden (correctly) mentioned that the director of the FBI confirmed earlier this month that Antifa is an ideology or movement rather than an organisation.
Biden pointed towards his time as vice-president where he gave a cherry-picked version of his record and attacked Trump for doing very little during his time as president. Trump continued false statements that Biden and his son Hunter received bribes from a Ukrainian politician. He countered Biden’s disgust at Trump’s reported stance on military veterans by continuing to attack Hunter Biden (with a false claim that he was dishonorably discharge from the military) – in a poignant moment, Joe admitted Hunter’s previous drug issues but said he was proud of his recovery.
Biden committed to accepting the result if the result went against him. For his own part, Trump continued to make false allegations that the mail-in balloting process would result in huge fraud (despite a lack of evidence showing that) and seeming to encourage his supporters in voter intimidation.
In separate polls, voters said that Biden won the election 60%-28% and 48%-41% respectively while even pro-Trump political journalists said that Trump was unprepared and seemed arrogant. Trump was widely criticised for refusing to condemn white supremacist groups and his direct mention to white supremacy group Proud Boys to “stand back and standby” was seen by the group as a direct endorsement. The morning after, Trump claimed to not have heard of the group which has been covered extensively in the media. He was also criticised for his apparent encouragement of voter intimidation.
The independent Commission on Presidential Debates has called for ‘additional structure’ on future debates, with suggestions that the moderator will have a ‘kill-switch’ for microphones if a candidate interrupts their rival or candidate.
Post-debate polls said that Biden was the more trusted candidate on to handle racial inequality, health care, the coronavirus outbreak, Supreme court and the economy. 63% said that Biden had the better plan for solving America’s problems, 65% said Biden was more truthful and 69% said Biden’s attacks on Trump were fair, while 32% said that Trump’s attacks on Biden were fair.
Favourable views of Biden rose 2% to 62% while Trump’s approval rating fell 2% to 35% and while 59% of undecided voters said the debate wouldn’t change their opinion, 32% of the remaining group said they became more likely to vote for Biden.
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