WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden apparently played a duel of television town halls that showed striking differences in temperament, views on racial justice and approaches to a nation-changing pandemic.
Events that took place just two and a half weeks before election day, Thursday night’s events provided crystallizing contrasts and a national, if divided audience. But it is unlikely that this gave the necessary moment for the president to run out of time or opportunity to appeal outside his main base.
He defended the treatment of the coronavirus with its administration, which took more than 217,000 lives in the United States and avoids pushing to see if he passed the required COVID-19 test before the first debate with Biden. Angry and militant, Trump refused to condemn the conspiratorial group QAnon – and only deliberately did so against the white Suprematists.
The Republican president also acknowledged the revelation of a recent New York Times report that he owed and left open the possibility that some of them were indebted to a foreign bank. But he insisted that he did not owe money to Russia or any “sinister people” and suggested that the $ 400 million debt was a “very, very small percentage” of his total assets.
Biden condemned the White House’s handling of the virus, saying he was guilty of closing the pandemic response office set up by the Obama administration, where he worked. Although sometimes vague, he offered to explain his position on expanding the Supreme Court if Trump is put on the bench meets before election day.
After the officially completed 90-minute event of Biden City Hall, the candidate asked questions for another half an hour, which were not given the opportunity during the television program.
Trump and Biden were to spend Thursday night on the same stage of the debate in Miami. But the clash was wiped out by Trump’s coronavirus infection, which shook the race and threatens the health of the American president.
Trump would not say whether he tested negative on the day of his first debate with Biden on Sept. 29, allowing only: “Maybe I did, maybe not.” The rules of the debate required that each candidate, using the honor system, have a negative result before the event in Cleveland, but Trump spoke in circles when asked when he was last negative.
Opponents of the president asked questions in different cities on different networks: Trump on NBC from Miami, Biden on ABC from Philadelphia. Trump abandoned plans for a presidential bout, originally scheduled for the evening, after the debate organizers said it would actually take place after his diagnosis of COVID-19.
City halls have proposed a different format for the two candidates to present themselves to voters after the couple held their first chaotic and combative debates late last month. The difference in the tone of the men was instantaneous and impressive.
Trump was Trump. He was loud and reasonedreprimanding his FBI director, fighting host Savannah Guthrie, complaining about the interrogation – and finally declaring for the first time that he would respect the results of a fair election, but only after he had called into question the credibility of justice.
“And then they say, ‘Will you accept the peaceful tradition?’ “And the answer is, ‘Yes, I will.’ But I want it to be a fair election, like everyone else.”
He again sought to minimize the disclosure of the New York Times investigation into his debts of more than $ 400 million, and suggested that reports were false that he had paid little or no federal income tax. for most of the last two decades.
Biden, meanwhile, took a much different, softer approach to audience issues. The former vice president, who struggled with stuttering growth, stuttered slightly at the beginning of the program, and at one point narrowed his eyes and slowed his reaction to say his words clearly. Sometimes his answers fell.
Holding a white cloth mask in one hand, the Democratic candidate brought a small piece of paper with notes to the stage and referred to it, promising to abolish tax cuts for the richest Americans. He said it would save money because, after reviewing his notes, “let me see … $ 92 billion.”
Biden has promised to say by election day whether he will support an increase in the number of judges in the Supreme Court if Democrats win the presidency and the Senate and retain the chamber after November.
He refused to answer this question for weeks, but went on to Thursday night. He said “I’m still not a fan” of the court’s expansion, but said his final decision depended on how Amy Connie Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court was “processed” and “how hurried they were with it.”
Biden also undermined Trump’s foreign policy by saying that “America first and foremost has made America one” and “This president embraces all the bandits in the world.” He wondered what he would say if he lost.
“It could say I’m a lousy candidate, that I didn’t do a good job,” Biden said. “But I think I hope that doesn’t mean we are so at odds with each other on racial, ethnic and religious grounds, as the president seems to want from us.”
Biden said he plans to take part in the debate next week, but will ask Trump to take the COVID-19 test before he arrives. “It’s just decency” for everyone around him, including those who aren’t candidates as operators, Biden said.
The two men still plan to take the same seat for debate for the second and last time next week in Nashville.
Lemire reported from New York. Additional reports by Associated Press writers Bill Barrow in Wilmington, Delaware, and Zick Miller and Alexandra Jaffe in Washington.