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Politics Debate takeaways: What we learned from the 2020 general election debates

13:51  24 october  2020
13:51  24 october  2020 Source:   cnn.com

It’s time to end presidential debates — forever

  It’s time to end presidential debates — forever At least in the general election, they’re a vector for misinformation and don’t seem to meaningfully inform voters.“In seven decades of televised presidential debates, this is the first debate to be canceled,” he told the New York Times. “The loser is the American voter.

After a pugnacious first debate , during which Donald Trump's constant interruptions may have cost him support in subsequent opinion polls, the president has very visibly dialled down the volume - and it made him a much more effective debater . This time, the content of what the candidates are saying

When are the general election presidential debates ? There was also one vice presidential debate , which took place a month out from the 2020 presidential election . Instead of the second debate , both presidential candidates participated in town halls that same evening.

One debate devolved into chaos. Another one offered American voters a clearer contrast between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

a man standing in a room: NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - OCTOBER 22: U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in the final presidential debate at Belmont University on October 22, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee. This is the last debate between the two candidates before the November 3 election. (Photo by Jim Bourg-Pool/Getty Images) © Jim Bourg/Pool/Getty Images NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - OCTOBER 22: U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in the final presidential debate at Belmont University on October 22, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee. This is the last debate between the two candidates before the November 3 election. (Photo by Jim Bourg-Pool/Getty Images) Joe Biden wearing a suit and tie: Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 22, 2020. © Morry Gash/Pool/AFP/Getty Images Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 22, 2020.

And in between, Trump's bout with coronavirus -- including a hospital trip and a refusal to participate in a virtual debate -- cost the President one of his last opportunities to change the trajectory of the 2020 race while tens of millions of votes were already being cast. Instead, there were dueling nationally televised town halls, in which Trump's bombast drew a slightly smaller audience than Biden's more measured performance.

Ahead of 3rd debate, Trump again goes after moderator. This time it's NBC's Kristen Welker he calls 'unfair.'

  Ahead of 3rd debate, Trump again goes after moderator. This time it's NBC's Kristen Welker he calls 'unfair.' Trump praised Welker in the past, complementing her in January for landing a gig on NBC's "Today" show. "They made a very wise decision," Trump said."She’s always been terrible & unfair, just like most of the Fake News reporters, but I’ll still play the game," Trump tweeted Saturday.

The 2020 United States presidential debates between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, the major candidates in the 2020 United States presidential election

What are the debate rules? Following public criticism over the handling of the first debate , the commission has adopted a new rule to mute microphones The second debate was called off after Mr Trump refused to take part. The commission had ruled it would have to take place with the candidates

Visit CNN's Election Center for full coverage of the 2020 race

Here are nine takeaways from this year's two presidential debates, with town halls in between, and one vice presidential debate:

Coronavirus dominated

The extent to which the pandemic that has killed more than 223,000 Americans is the dominant factor in politics and in voters' lives was clear not just in the debates' content -- but their logistics, as well.

After the first debate, Trump faced backlash over his entourage ignoring the Cleveland Clinic's request to wear masks, which only escalated after he tested positive for the virus himself two days later. A week later, at the vice presidential debate, plexiglass separated Vice President Mike Pence and California Sen. Kamala Harris. The week after that, Trump pulled out of what the Commission on Presidential Debates had tried -- largely because of the President's health -- to turn into a virtual debate.

10 steps toward better presidential debating

  10 steps toward better presidential debating We need to create a truly bipartisan advisory group for presidential debates. Former presidential candidate Bob Dole rightly observed that all of the Republicans currently serving on the CPD oppose President Trump. Republicans have rightly complained for more than a decade that the process disfavors their candidates. The public deserves a credible process.Ben Voth is an associate professor and director of debate and speech in the Dedman College of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

What: Final 2020 debate between President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. The final debate will take place less than two weeks before Election Day, November 3. According to the Commission on Presidential Debates , "all required testing, masking, social distancing and other

2020 Election : 5 things we learned from the Democratic debate in Ohio. Aamer Madhani. Here are some of the other big takeaways from Tuesday night's debate in suburban Columbus. "Look, this is why people here in the Midwest are so frustrated with Washington in general and Capitol Hill in

Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: US President Donald Trump speaks during the first presidential debate at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, on September 29, 2020. © Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images US President Donald Trump speaks during the first presidential debate at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, on September 29, 2020.

On Thursday night, Trump offered overly optimistic projections about the availability of a vaccine. Biden said he would push Americans to wear masks, develop guidelines for schools and businesses to reopen and ask Congress for more money to help them do so. But their most fundamental difference is over how Americans should adapt to the presence of the virus.

"We're learning to live with it," Trump said.

"Learning to live with it?" Biden shot back. "Come on. We're dying with it."

A tale of two Trumps

Trump was a wrecking ball in the first debate, constantly interrupting Biden and moderator Chris Wallace while ignoring the questions he'd been asked. But he remained much calmer in their final showdown -- letting NBC's Kristen Welker ask and Biden answer questions while delivering the kind of night that had Republicans worried about a down-ballot disaster on November 3 breathing sighs of relief.

Kristen Welker: 5 things to know about the moderator of Thursday's presidential debate

  Kristen Welker: 5 things to know about the moderator of Thursday's presidential debate Kristen Welker has been criticized by President Trump as "terrible & unfair." Get to know the White House correspondent ahead of the last debate.The NBC News White House correspondent and "Weekend Today" co-anchor will moderate the debate at Belmont University in Nashville (9 EDT/6 PDT). The second presidential debate was axed after Trump declined to participate virtually, following his COVID-19 diagnosis. Instead, he and Biden held dueling town halls , and the former vice president beat Trump in the Nielsen ratings.

At the first debate in Miami, Biden was called out by rivals for comments at a fundraiser about segregationist lawmakers and Sen. The proposal will almost certainly face scrutiny from the Federal Election Commission from rival campaigns or citizens questioning of whether the scheme amounts to

US election 2020 . image copyrightGetty Images. If social media is to be believed, there was only one winner of the final presidential debate - the person in charge. Kristen Welker has been lauded online for her performance as moderator, in particular being praised for keeping candidates to time and not

"I'm jealous," Wallace said on Fox News after Thursday night's debate. "I would've liked to have been able to moderate that debate and get a real exchange of views instead of hundreds of interruptions."

The problem for Trump: With 50 million votes already cast, it might have been too late for a stronger performance to make much difference.

Biden went three-for-two

CNN's instant post-debate polls -- scientific surveys of Americans who watched the debates -- showed that a majority believed Biden won the first (60% Biden, 28% Trump) and the second (53% to Trump's 39%) matchup.

But he also was the clear political winner of the one that didn't happen -- a town hall-style debate scheduled for last week in Miami but scrapped after Trump refused to go along with the debate commission's decision to switch to a virtual format.

In dropping out of the debate, Trump sacrificed one of his only opportunities to change the trajectory of a race that polls show he is losing.

View Trump and Biden head-to-head polling

Instead, the candidates agreed to what became dueling nationally televised town halls. Trump struggled through a combative session with NBC's Savannah Guthrie, while Biden's display of a calm demeanor and grasp of policy specifics in his session with ABC's George Stephanopoulos led top Trump campaign adviser Mercedes Schlapp to compare him to Mr. Rogers. The biggest shocker: Nielsen ratings showed that Biden's town hall drew a larger live television audience than Trump's.

Kristen Welker praised for ‘masterclass’ debate moderation, Chris Wallace is ‘jealous’

  Kristen Welker praised for ‘masterclass’ debate moderation, Chris Wallace is ‘jealous’ After Fox News' Chris Wallace failed to maintain order during the first presidential debate, NBC News' Kristen Welker earned solid marks Thursday.After Fox News' Chris Wallace failed to maintain order during the first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, Welker was applauded for Thursday's controlled exchange.

The candidates on the debate stages were largely in agreement about bringing down prescription drug costs. They favored letting the federal government negotiate drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries. Many also called for allowing the importation of medications from Canada (as President Trump just

The 2020 presidential race is in full swing, but after an onslaught of crowded debates , the candidate pool has winnowed down to two strong contenders But with the current pandemic, it's unclear if we 'll get to see these two on the debate stage again. Ahead, here's everything you need to know about the

Trump's 2016 playbook fizzled

The President tried to bring into the mainstream the unproven conspiracies about Biden's son Hunter Biden's overseas business dealings that have dominated right-wing outlets and social media in recent weeks.

But he failed. Trump got bogged down by vague references to emails, pillows and blankets and "the big man" that only the most ardent devotees of places like Breitbart and Sean Hannity's Fox News program would understand. And then, as the debate ended, the Wall Street Journal posted a story that Trump had anticipated being a game-changer -- but that ultimately wiped out the underpinnings of his claims of Biden family corruption.

The episode demonstrated how different Trump is finding the challenge of facing Biden, who polls show is relatively popular, from running four years ago against Hillary Clinton, who was already unpopular and couldn't escape the cloud of her private email server.

Trump's 'why didn't you do it' punch landed

The President on Thursday night skewered Biden for failing to solve problems like systemic racism over 47 years in elected office.

"You keep talking about all these things you're going to do. Why didn't you get it done?" Trump said.

It wasn't a clean hit, because it allowed Biden to recount some Obama administration achievements. But if Trump's aim was to diminish Biden's promises on their core policy disagreements, it was his best-executed strategy.

Majority of voters say Biden won second debate, poll finds

  Majority of voters say Biden won second debate, poll finds Sixty-five percent of voters said the candidates were mostly respectful of each other's time, as opposed to 10% who said that after the first debate.Fifty-four percent of voters who watched the Thursday debate said Biden performed the best, while 39% said that Trump did. Eight percent of voters who watched weren’t sure or had no opinion on who did best.

But he never came up with a second-term agenda

The contrast was glaring: Biden offered a $15-an-hour minimum wage, stimulus spending to help struggling local governments and schools and jump-start the nation's transition to clean energy, a health care plan that would protect those with pre-existing conditions more.

Trump offered very little in the way of forward-looking policy. He spent both debates defending his handling of the pandemic, defending himself against Biden's characterization of him as racist and casting doubt on Biden's ability to achieve his agenda -- but he never outlined what a second Trump term might look like.

Health care was a problem of Trump's own creation

Trump spent portions of both debates denying the reality of his own actions. His administration has argued to the Supreme Court that it should undo Obamacare, including its protections for those with pre-existing conditions. Trump repeated his hope that the Affordable Care Act would be wiped out in an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" that he posted on Twitter hours before Thursday night's debate.

Trump has long promised -- but never actually delivered -- a plan that would replace Obamacare, including its protections for those with pre-existing conditions. That failure put him on defense on an issue that cost his party the 2018 midterm elections and could prove damaging this year as well.

Biden slipped on oil late

It might have been one of the former vice president's only significant errors of either debate: He said Thursday night he would "transition from the oil industry."

Candidate Trump decried the national debt in 2016 and promised to eliminate it. It's only gotten bigger.

  Candidate Trump decried the national debt in 2016 and promised to eliminate it. It's only gotten bigger. Analysts point to several reasons for the jump, including his tax cuts in 2017 and the federal response to the economic fallout from the pandemic."We can't send another politician to the White House," Trump tweeted on July 24, 2015, a few weeks after he announced his candidacy for the presidency.

Trump immediately pounced, calling it a "big statement" and asking if ears had perked up in energy- and manufacturing-heavy states. "Will you remember that, Texas?" he said. "Will you remember that, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Ohio?"

Biden's campaign sought to limit the damage afterward, saying he was referring just to federal subsidies for the oil industry and that he meant it in the context of slowly transitioning away from fossil fuels as the nation combats climate change. Still, some Democrats in oil-producing states distanced themselves from Biden. New Mexico Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, a first-term House member in a competitive race, tweeted that she disagreed with Biden and will "stand up to my party when they're out of touch with the reality on the ground."

Another Biden error: He said Trump was lying when the President said Biden had previously opposed fracking. Biden has, in fact, said he opposed fracking -- though he has since reversed himself and said he would not stop fracking for natural gas, which is important to the economy of some swing states like Pennsylvania. By asserting that he hadn't said something that he is clearly on video saying, Biden handed Trump's campaign easy advertising fodder.

The VP debate was a draw

Pence's tendency to filibuster by answering questions he'd like to have been asked, rather than the ones USA Today's Susan Page actually asked, was on full display in his one meeting with Harris. But Harris chose to play it safe, aware of the dynamics of being the first woman of color on a major party ticket and that a do-no-harm strategy made sense for a ticket that polls show is leading nationally and in key battleground states.

Ultimately, voters typically cast their ballots based on who's on top of the ticket. The vice presidential debate did nothing to change that this year.

Fact check: Mail-in ballots arriving after Election Day will count in some states .
A viral post on Facebook claims any ballot received after Election Day will not be counted. That's partly false, many states have extensions in place.A recent viral post on Facebook claims that any mail-in ballots arriving after Election Day won’t be counted.

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