Who won the final presidential debate?

By Alaina Perdon

Elm Staff Writer

On the evening of Oct. 22, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden went head-to-head in the final presidential debate. Unlike in the previous debate, participants’ microphones were muted when the other was speaking. This allowed those watching to actually hear each candidate’s responses to the moderator’s questions without the interruptions that created such confusion for viewers of the last debate.

In this more civil setting, Biden emerged as a clear winner. According to CNN’s instant post-debate polls, 53% of viewers share this opinion, while 39% believe Trump won.

Biden came prepared with clear statements detailing his stances on issues like climate change, immigration, and the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as appropriate responses to thwart attacks from his opponent.

As in the first debate, Trump questioned Biden on the unsubstantiated claims of his son, Hunter Biden, conducting illegitimate business dealings in China. Rather than entertain his opponent’s antagonizing, Biden instead used the opportunity to mention Trump’s tax evasion, alluding to a recent New York Timesarticle that exposed a Chinese bank account belonging to the president.

“Biden had a shrewd strategy on Hunter allegations to get [attention] on Trump’s taxes and bank account, and it worked,” National Revieweditor Rich Lowry said. “Even some conservatives conceded that Mr. Biden had played his hand well when Mr. Trump had to spend time explaining why he had not released his tax returns.”

When not sparring with Trump, Biden offered articulate responses to the moderator’s questions, showing his preparedness and commitment to bettering our nation. 

Perhaps most noteworthy was Biden’s stance on the COVID-19 pandemic, urging viewers to wear masks while stressing the importance of reopening businesses safely by providing funding for safety and sanitation equipment. 

Moreover, Biden was able to call attention to Trump’s shortcomings throughout the pandemic, including his inability to produce an organized plan to stop the spread of COVID-19 while reopening the economy.

“We’re about to go into a dark winter,” Biden said. “And [Trump] has no clear plan and there’s no prospect that there’s going to be a vaccine available for a majority of the people until the middle of next year.”

While the ability to speak for two uninterrupted minutes allowed Biden to prove his abilities, it had the opposite impact on Trump.

“As Biden grew in confidence throughout the hour and a half, Trump fell apart,” Independent U.S. Voices editor Holly Baxtersaid. “He can only sustain a presidential show for about 10 minutes before he feels the need to convert into rally mode, and rally mode is badly suited for a debate with a silent, invisible audience and a list of hard-hitting questions.”

The president’s responses to questions were avoidant and garbled. Rather than answer questions directly, he peppered his statements with buzzwords and attempted to deflect attention from his clear lack of knowledge by attacking the Democratic party.

“We are on the road to success. But I’m cutting taxes and [Biden] wants to raise everybody’s taxes. And he wants to put new regulations on everything. He will kill it. If he gets in, you will have a depression, the likes of which you’ve never seen. Your 401K’s will go to hell and it’ll be a very, very sad day for this country,” Trump said in his closing remarks.

Instead of taking the opportunity to spread a message of hope to a divided nation, Trump made baseless claims to inflate his own image and defame Biden. This sort of behavior was on display throughout the entire debate as he dodged questions and made false accusations.

Despite criticizing Obamacare and demanding its termination, Trump failed to provide a clear alternative option. When asked about climate change, he offered only what Independentcorrespondent Louise Boyle describes as “word salad” regarding “a trillion trees” and “tiny windows.” 

In sum, Trump exposed his own lack of plans for the next term. His disorganized, unsupported claims made him appear unintelligent and unfit to serve our country. 

“Ultimately, this election comes down to two rich and extraordinary people trying their hardest to position themselves as the American everyman,” Baxter said. “It’s disingenuous from them both, but it’s especially disingenuous from Trump — and that’s why he lost tonight.”

Featured Photo caption: On Oct. 22, former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump went against each other in the final presidential debate before the 2020 election. Photo Courtesy of C-SPAN.

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