Two town halls. Two presidential nominees. Two Networks at the same time. That was the scene in the United States overnight when President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden participating in dueling events – one on NBC, the other on ABC – where they took questions directly from voters on a number of subjects. With 18 days to go to Election Day, this was more political theatre rather than a means of changing minds.
It was meant to be a virtual town hall Presidential debate featuring both nominees – instead voters got the President competing events, each in must-win swing states of Florida and Pennsylvania striking different tones on everything from the racial justice to healthcare and the coronavirus pandemic.
Joe Biden said, “The words of a president matter. Whether they’re good, bad or indifferent, they matter. And when a president doesn’t wear a mask or makes fun of folks like me, when I was wearing a mask for a long time, then, you know, people say, well, it mustn’t be that important.”
Trump added, “I’m good with masks. I’m okay with masks. I tell people wear masks. But just the other day they came out with a statement that 85 percent of the people that wear masks catch it. So…”
Trump fobbing the facts on a recent CDC study that found that 85% of a small group of COVID-19 patients reported they’d worn masks often around the time they became infected – the President also pressed on whether he was tested before his first one on one debate with Biden on Tuesday, September 29th.
Trump again, “Well, I test quite a bit. And I can tell you that before the debate, which I thought it was a very good debate and I felt fantastically, I was, I had no problem before.”
Moderator: “Did you test the day of the debate?”
Trump: “I don’t know. I don’t even remember. I test all the time. But I can tell you this — after the debate, like I guess a day or so, I think was Thursday evening, maybe even late Thursday evening, I tested positive.”
Biden was asked about his tax plan, how he would create jobs in rural parts of America, his appeal to young black voters and remaking policing in the country.
“Beyond that you have to teach people how to de-escalate circumstances. De-escalate. So instead of anybody coming at you and the first thing you do is shoot to kill, you shoot them in the leg.”
With Republicans set to confirm conservative justice Amy Coney Barrett to Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s vacancy on the Supreme Court, the former Vice President was asked if he supported enlarging the court if he was to win this November.
“You know, if I had answered the question directly, then all the focus would be on what’s Biden going to do if he wins?”
Moderator: “So you’re still not a fan (of court-packing)?”
Biden: “Well, I’m not a fan. I don’t say –it depends on how this turns out, not how he wins, but how it’s handled.”
Trump struggled to provide details of his much-touted healthcare plan to replace Obamacare if Republican efforts to have it struck down by the Supreme Court succeed; he appeared to confirm reports that he has over 400 million dollars in loans to entities who remain unknown publically and continued to sow doubts about the credibility of the election with misinformation.
Trump said, “They talked about the peaceful transfer. Right? They spied on my campaign and they got caught, and they spied heavily on my campaign, and they tried to take down a duly elected sitting president. And then they talk about, will you accept a peaceful transfer? And the answer is, yes, I will. But I want it to be an honest election. And so does everybody else. When I see thousands of ballots dumped in a garbage can and they happen to have my name on it, I’m not happy about that.”
Biden on what it would say about America where he to lose the election.
“Well, you could say I’m a lousy candidate and I didn’t do a good job, but I think I hope that doesn’t say that we are as racially, ethnically and religiously at odds with one another as it appears the president wants us to be.”
18 days and counting. And in the absence of any groundbreaking moments, events that are unlikely to have any major impact at this late stage in the race.