In the last TV game before the presidential election, Donald Trump and Joe Biden made serious allegations. The new rules are good for format – clear differences become apparent.

Less than two weeks before the US presidential election, Donald Trump and Joe Biden used the last TV duel to carry out heavy attacks on the character and positions of their opponents. The debate in Nashville, Tennessee, offered Trump, who was questioned in the past, one of the last possibilities to change the mood in the election campaign for an audience of millions.

The 90 minutes covered the coronavirus, families, racism, climate change, national security and their respective ideas about leadership. You can see clips in the video or above here.

The main findings in lightning analysis:

This is how the debate went

The second debate was the first that deserved the name. They argued, also over the issue. It was much more civilized than in the screaming duel three weeks ago. The new rule, according to which the microphone of the candidate who was not in line at the beginning of each subject block was muted, also helped.

Trump and Biden covered each other with serious accusations, later it was more about concrete politics. Differences became apparent time and again, for example in environmental and energy policy, when it came to corona and racism. NBC television moderator Kristen Welker, who was heavily criticized by Trump beforehand, had the conversation well under control.

This is how Trump did it

The president took a very different approach than in the first debate. He kept to the rules for a long time and didn’t stop constantly, even though he had trouble keeping the line low. His answers to corona and health policy were shaped by known falsehoods. The CNN fact-checker concluded: “Trump was better, but he lied more.”

Trump’s strategy was clear: he wanted to label his opponent as corrupt, and so he kept coming back to a completely unproven email affair with his son Hunter. He also repeatedly attacked Biden as a “politician” – the head of state wants to continue posing as an “anti-politician” even after four years in power. He could not put forward any concrete plans for a second term.

This is how Biden acted

The man with the plan – unlike Donald Trump. This is how Joe Biden wanted to present himself, and he succeeded for a long time. “He still has no plan,” he accused Trump of several issues. The much more civilized debate helped him clarify the political differences from Trump.

Biden showed that he can be tough – and not just ‘Sleepy Joe’, as Trump jokingly calls him. Any country that interferes with the election “will pay a price if I become president,” Biden threatened. At the same time, he presented himself as president and conciliatory – as a president who, unlike Trump, wanted the country to be one. Biden promised to represent all Americans.

Exchanging blows

The strategies were expressed in a confrontation. When Trump again accused his opponent of corruption, Biden tried to clarify it with a clear statement: “I have never taken a penny from a foreign source in my life.”

And he portrayed the attacks on his family like a smoking candle. ‘It’s not about his family and my family. It’s your family, ”he told the camera and the audience. “We need to talk about your family.” Biden then spoke of financial hardship in the current economic crisis. Trump again portrayed this as a diversion: “This is a typical political statement. I’m not a typical politician, that’s why I was elected,” Trump scoffed. “Come on Joe, you can do better.”

Are you interested in the US election? Washington correspondent Fabian Reinbold writes a newsletter about the election campaign, his work in the White House and his impressions from the US under Donald Trump. Here you can subscribe for free to the “Post from Washington”, which then ends up in your mailbox once a week.


Both performed better than in the first round. Some of Trump’s attacks on Biden, for example in economic policy, are likely to resonate with voters skeptical of Democrats. Biden, in turn, focused on character contrast – a strategy that took him far in the election campaign.

Because Biden is at the forefront of the polls, he had to survive the 90 minutes without a major mistake. He graduated. So it’s unlikely that the debate will shake the momentum of the presidential campaign – good for Biden.

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