US Election 2020

USA Election 2020: who won the final Trump vs Biden debate?

Who emerged victorious from the last showdown in Nashville? The meeting between incumbent Trump and his challenger Joe Biden was nearly normal tonight.

USA Election 2020: who won the final Trump vs Biden debate?
SPENCER PLATT AFP

Tonight was the last chance for both candidates to prove that they’re up for the top job before the country decides on 3 November. For Trump, it was about clawing back his flagging support nationally, in swing states and on key issues like the pandemic, as well as in key demographics where he’s flailing; for instance with suburban, educated women. For Biden, it was about not making any unforced errors which could dent the support he’s maintained constantly these last months.

Even though record numbers of Americans have already cast their ballots 12 days out from the election, as the second debate was cancelled this year this was still a precious final chance for both candidates to win over any leftover undecided voters watching in the huge national audience tonight.

Compared to the laughable first debate, this one was actually very nearly like a normal political discussion. There remained a high proportion of personal jabs from both sides but the electorate genuinely got a significant insight into policies and priorities this time around, which is a huge win for the audience, at least.

How did Biden perform in the debate?

Biden was well prepared, clear, calmer and more collected without Trumps’ incessant interrupting to distract him tonight. He was seen laughing as Trump made wild claims about renewable energy, saying "Give me a break!" and that he had no idea where Trump comes up with his numbers; solar energy and wind are the "fastest growing sectors", he continued.

Biden said he'd pass Obamacare with a public option called Bidencare and promised that people will be automatically enrolled if they can't afford healthcare. Trump boldly claimed that pre-existing conditons wouldn’t be affected by repeal of Obamacare. Yes they would. Biden made an easy slam dunk on Trump’s tax return, coaxing the incumbent into parotting his tired excuse for his lack of transparency - the nine year long and still unresolved IRS audit.

Biden chose a confident uniting message, committing to represent all Americans "…hope over fear. Science over fiction...move forward because we have enormous opportunities to make things better." Biden says the "character of the country is on the ballot here. Decency, honesty. You haven't had that for the past four years."

How did Trump perform in the debate?

Trump was much better behaved this time, notably more polite and respectful compared to his cringe-worthy, childish act last time. The president had clearly taken some heat within his team for his decorum after the first debate and changed tack accordingly. He even thanked the moderator Kristen Welker at one point for letting him respond to Biden. However, this improvement certainly didn’t mean a major win for Trump, he just managed to abide by the basic rules tonight.

Trump was keen to stay firm on his party line that the pandemic is no longer an issue; suggesting that everybody’s fine and the economy is great now which won’t wash with any of the viewers considering a recent poll found that only 16% of Americans trust Trump to provide accurate pandemic information.

Biden correctly contested Trump’s unfounded positivity on the pandemic and America's standing in the world, by stating that there are actually 1,000 deaths a day right now in the US. We also found that according to Johns Hopkins University, the US has among the highest mortality rates when measured per 100,000 people.

Trump managed to keep a straight face when claiming that he was the “least racist person in this room” shortly after calling all Mexicans “coyotes”, and lest we forget that Trump appeared to endorse the violent far right ground the Proud Boys during the first debate, and refused to denounce them for days afterwards. On that note, Trump’s imaginary victor’s message to Americans who didn't vote for him would be "We have to make the country totally successful, like it was before the plague came in from China."

Trump tried a number of lines of attack that he couldn’t get to stick, he tried to get Biden on the H1N1 swine flu, saying the Democrat’s family are like ”vacuum cleaners” presumably inferring wealth, and that Biden has many luxurious houses. Then fianlly Trump thought he got a win when he cornered Biden into a clear answer on oil. Biden admitted he would transition away from fossil fuel, and Trump smugly responded "That's a big statement…remember that Texas, remember that Pennsylvania.”

On climate change himself, Trump critiqued wind turbines calling them "windmills" and repeating a false claim also made by Russian president Vladimir Putin that they kill “all the birds”. In reality, wind turbines kill fewer birds in the US than cats, buildings or cars, according to a 2015 study published in the Annual Review of Ecology that experts from the National Audubon Society agree is the most up to date research on direct bird mortalities in America.