United States voters had to juggle two simultaneous town halls featuring Donald Trump and Joe Biden last night. Here’s what you need to know about both.
Due to Trump’s COVID-19 infection and concerns for his own well-being, Biden was not willing to debate the President in person. However, Trump also refused a virtual debate due to the potential for moderators to cut his mic, should he be combative and constantly interrupt Biden in the same way he did in the first debate.
As a result, Biden appeared on ABC for a Town Hall, while NBC inexplicably held a town hall for Trump at the exact same time on Thursday evening.
Trump commented on the far-right, extremist, conspiracy theory spreading group by saying that they are at least “strongly against pedophilia,” buying into the one of organisation’s debunked claims that a deep-state, satanic group, including Democrat leaders, are running a pedophile ring.
“I know nothing about QAnon. I know very little. You told me, but what you tell me doesn’t necessarily make it a fact,” Trump said, according to The Hill. “I just don’t know about QAnon.”
Following Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death in September, the Supreme Court has become a central topic in the presidential race. Should Amy Coney Barrett be confirmed as Ginsburg’s replacement, the court will have a 6-3 split in favour of conservative justices. The court could retain this conservative composition for decades and, as a result, there have been suggestions that Democrats will simply expand the size of the Supreme Court from nine justices to, perhaps, 13. Biden, however, has refused to comment on the possibility of this occurring under his presidency.
Biden said that he’s not a fan of “court packing” but also said that his stance will be determined by whether Republicans confirm Barret before he takes office.
“[Voters] do have a right to know where I stand and they have a right to know before they vote,” Biden said.
“So you’ll come out with a clear answer before Election Day?” ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked.
“Yes,” Biden said. “Depending on how they handle this.”
Biden’s criminal justice record
Biden dodged a question from a young black man that quizzed him on his earlier comments that if you don’t vote for him, “you ain’t black”. Biden previously apologised for that statement and, on this occasion, he pivoted to discussing some policies that he promoted in the past including increased funding for Historically Black Colleges and making it easier for Black people to get loans for homes and businesses.
However on his role in the passing of the 1994 Crime Bill, which disproportionately incarcerated people of colour, Biden had no substantive answer. He deflected blame and appeared to say that it was a mistake to support the bill.
“The mistake came in terms of what the states did locally. What we did federally — you remember George, it was all about the same time for the same crime,” Biden said before saying that the bill was supported by black leaders at the time and that circumstances “changed drastically”.
Trump’s COVID-19 disaster
On his handling of COVID-19 and his position on mask wearing, Trump did himself no favours with his answer to an audience member’s question, making false claims that 85 percent of people who wear masks end up getting COVID-19. Yet, he also contended he was “good with masks.”
His position on masks remains unclear and the President was also vague in his responses to questions about his own experience with COVID-19 and his health. He says that he no longer has symptoms but also said that his lungs “may have been infected” at the time of the first presidential debate, refusing to answer a question about whether he had been tested on that day.
When NBC’s Savannah Guthrie pressed him on the infection, he said “I don’t know.”
Overall the town halls, in lieu of a second debate, appear to have favoured Biden, who managed to dodge and pivot from potentially harmful questions. Trump, on the other hand, was up against a combative Savannah Guthrie, who impressed with her line of questioning. Whether Trump will have lost any of the supporters he still has is a different story, but Biden merely needs to maintain his double digit lead in the polls instead of searching for game changing moments.
The final debate will take place in Nashville on October 22.