President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden clashed over Covid-19 and race while trading corruption charges, in their final live TV debate which took place on Thursday night in Nashville, Tennessee.
The first debate was a chaotic, insult-filled exchange between the two candidates. But on October 22, the personal attacks were (mostly) out – instead audiences got the chance to hear some of what Biden and Trump had to offer to Americans.
The muted mics probably helped to cool temperatures and the moderator, Kristen Welker, has been celebrated for encouraging a higher standard of debate.
With arguments on coronavirus, race, climate change and corruption, both candidates made it clear how different their visions for the US were.
On the pandemic, Joe Biden would not rule out more lockdowns, while President Trump insisted it was time to reopen the US.
Donald Trump cited unsubstantiated claims Joe Biden personally profited from his son’s business dealings. The Democrat brought up President Trump’s opaque taxes.
Joe Biden has a solid lead with 11 days to go until the presidential election.
However, winning the most votes does not always win the election, and the margin is narrower in a handful of states that could decide the race either way.
More than 47 million people have already cast their ballots in a voting surge driven by the pandemic.
This is already more than voted before polling day in the 2016 election. There are about 230 million eligible voters in total.
In snap polls – from CNN, Data Progress and US Politics – most respondents said Joe Biden had won the debate by a margin of more than 50% to about 40%.
The final debate was a less acrimonious and more substantive affair than the pair’s previous showdown on September 29, which devolved into insults and name-calling.
Following that political brawl, debate organizers this time muted microphones during the candidates’ opening statements on each topic to minimize disruption.
However, the 90-minute debate, moderated by NBC’s Kristen Welker, was the scene of plenty of personal attacks between the opponents, whose mutual dislike was palpable.
In individual closing argument to voters, they offered starkly different visions for the nation on everything from shutting down the US to tackle coronavirus, to shutting down the fossil fuel industry to confront climate change.
Nowhere was the distinction between the two candidates more apparent than in their approach to the pandemic.
Asked about his support for more lockdowns if the scientists recommended it, Joe Biden, a Democrat, did not rule it out.
Donald Trump, a Republican, said it was wrong to inflict further damage on the economy because of an infection from which most people recover.
“This is a massive country with a massive economy,” said the president.
“People are losing their jobs, they’re committing suicide. There’s depression, alcohol, drugs at a level nobody’s ever seen before.”
Donald Trump, 74, declared that the virus was “going away” and that a vaccine would be ready by the end of the year, while Joe Biden, 77, warned the nation was heading towards “a dark winter”.
President Trump said: “We’re learning to live with it.”
Joe Biden countered: “Come on. We’re dying with it.”
He laid blame for the 220,000-plus American deaths as a consequence of the pandemic at President Trump’s door.
“Anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain president of the United States of America,” he said.
During a back-and-forth on race relations, President Trump said: “I am the least racist person in this room.”
He brought up the 1994 crime bill that Joe Biden helped draft and which Black Lives Matter blames for the mass incarceration of African Americans.
However, Joe Biden said Donald Trump was “one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history. He pours fuel on every single racist fire”.
He added: “This guy is a [racial] dog whistle about as big as a fog horn.”
President Trump brought up purported leaked emails from Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, about his business dealings in China.
However, Joe Biden denied the president’s unfounded insinuation that the former US vice-president somehow had a stake in the ventures.
“I think you owe an explanation to the American people,” said President Trump.
Joe Biden said: “I have not taken a single penny from any country whatsoever. Ever.”
He referred to the New York Times recently reporting that President Trump had a bank account in China and paid $188,561 in taxes from 2013-15 to the country, compared with $750 in US federal taxes that the newspaper said he had paid in 2016-2017 when he became president.
President Trump said: “I have many bank accounts and they’re all listed and they’re all over the place.
“I mean, I was a businessman doing business.”