Final 2020 Presidential Debate Stage
Final 2020 Presidential Debate Stage

Good evening, and wel­come to NPI’s live cov­er­age of the final pres­i­den­tial debate of 2020. NPI staff will be watch­ing and shar­ing impres­sions of the debate between Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­nee Joe Biden and Repub­li­can nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump as it pro­gress­es. The debate, spon­sored by the Com­mis­sion on Pres­i­den­tial Debates, is being broad­cast on all major net­works as well as online platforms.

We high­ly rec­om­mend C‑SPAN if you’re livestream­ing the debate as opposed to watch­ing it on a cable or broad­cast tele­vi­sion net­work.

Bel­mont Uni­ver­si­ty in Nashville is host­ing the debate, which will be mod­er­at­ed by NBC’s Kris­ten Welk­er, the co-anchor of Week­end Today and the net­work’s White House cor­re­spon­dent. The for­mat is as follows:

The debate will be divid­ed into six seg­ments of approx­i­mate­ly 15 min­utes each on major top­ics to be select­ed by the mod­er­a­tor and announced at least one week before the debate.

The mod­er­a­tor will open each seg­ment with a ques­tion, after which each can­di­date will have two min­utes to respond. Can­di­dates will then have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to respond to each other.

The mod­er­a­tor will use the bal­ance of the time in the seg­ment for a deep­er dis­cus­sion of the topic.

The debate will begin at 6 PM Pacif­ic and run for about nine­ty min­utes. The can­di­dates will stand at podi­ums, while Welk­er will be seat­ed in front of them at the mod­er­a­tor’s table. In keep­ing with tra­di­tion for gen­er­al elec­tion pres­i­den­tial debates, there will be no com­mer­cial breaks or interruptions.

The Com­mis­sion on Pres­i­den­tial Debates has decid­ed to pre­vent this debate from turn­ing into a dis­grace by mut­ing the can­di­date micro­phones dur­ing the time allo­cat­ed for the two minute respons­es to each mod­er­a­tor question.

The sec­ond pres­i­den­tial debate, which was to take the form of a “town hall”, was scrapped after Don­ald Trump con­tract­ed COVID-19 and after Trump and Biden made plans to do sep­a­rate duel­ing “town halls” with ABC and NBC.

Welk­er has announced the selec­tion of the fol­low­ing top­ics for the debate:

Sub­ject to pos­si­ble changes because of news devel­op­ments, the top­ics are as fol­lows, not nec­es­sar­i­ly to be brought up in this order:

  • Fight­ing COVID-19
  • Amer­i­can Families
  • Race in America
  • Cli­mate Change
  • Nation­al Security
  • Lead­er­ship

Cli­mate is on the list this time, as it should be, along with “Race in Amer­i­ca” and “Fight­ing COVID-19”. “Lead­er­ship” is not much of a top­ic, but hope­ful­ly Welk­er will have a ques­tion worth pos­ing to the candidates.

Our live cov­er­age will begin below at the time the debate starts.

5:58 – Welk­er says she is look­ing for­ward to a “robust dis­cus­sion” – we’ll see just how “robust” Trump decides to make it!

6:05 – The can­di­dates walk onto stage. Joe Biden enters with a mask, tak­ing it off before he reach­es the podi­um. Of course, Trump has no mask. The two men bare­ly mum­ble terse hel­los to each other.

6:08 – The first ques­tion chill­ing­ly reminds the audi­ence that 16,000 have died of Covid-19 since the last debate. Trump, of course, blames Chi­na. He lists off “spikes and surges” say­ing that they’re all “now gone,” shrug­ging off the mas­sive suf­fer­ing the virus caus­es. He’s very insis­tent on his belief that he’s immune. Trump fin­ish­es off “We’re going round the cor­ner, it’s going away.”

6:10 – Biden brings the ham­mer to Trump’s Covid record – any­one who takes no respon­si­bil­i­ty for 200,000 dead Amer­i­cans does not deserve to be pres­i­dent. He promis­es, “I will take care of this, I will end this, I have a plan!”

6:11 – Welk­er points out that Trump Admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials expect Covid-19 mea­sures to last into 2022. Trump says he knows bet­ter than them. Biden reminds us “This is the same fel­low who said it would be over by Easter.”

6:13 – Trump’s claim that Biden was “way behind us” on Covid, which does­n’t make sense – Biden was­n’t in charge!

6:15 – Epic word sal­ad from Trump: “nine­ty nine point nine of young people…you can’t shut down a nation or you’ll have no nation.”

6:16 – Biden’s response to Trump is great: “Learn­ing to live with it? Peo­ple are learn­ing to die with it!”

6:19 – Welk­er asks whether shut­downs will cause wide­spread suf­fer­ing. Biden promis­es to “shut down the virus, not the country.”

6:20 – Trump demands that schools open, cit­ing his son’s recov­ery from Covid-19 proves that young peo­ple are invul­ner­a­ble to the disease.

6:22 – Biden bor­rows a line from his old boss: “I don’t look at this the way he does, blue states and red states, we’re all the Unit­ed States.”

6:24 – Welk­er asks why Trump called Dr. Fau­ci “a dis­as­ter.” Trump says that Fau­ci claimed the pan­dem­ic would go away soon, then fol­lows up with “I think he’s a Demo­c­rat!” Biden comes in to remind us all of the Wood­ward tapes, where Trump admit­ted to hid­ing the sever­i­ty of Covid-19.

6:28 – Welk­er asks about Russ­ian and Iran­ian attacks on the U.S. elec­tion sys­tem. Biden sends out a clear mes­sage to for­eign adver­saries – “they will pay a price…they’re inter­fer­ing with Amer­i­can sovereignty.”

6:29 – Biden says that for­eign adver­saries want to take down his cam­paign because “they know I know them and they know me!” He then asks why Trump isn’t tak­ing on elec­tion interference.

6:30 – Trump starts ram­bling about some con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry he found on Twit­ter, and then makes the claim “nobody’s been tougher on Rus­sia.” How­ev­er, he can’t help but fall back down the rab­bit-hole, ref­er­enc­ing a base­less New York Post sto­ry about Biden’s family.

6:32 – Biden uses the oppor­tu­ni­ty to attack Trump on his tax returns: “For­eign coun­tries are pay­ing you a lot…release your tax returns or stop talk­ing about cor­rup­tion.” Trump says he will release the returns “as soon as pos­si­ble,” which he said FOUR YEARS AGO

6:34 – Welk­er keeps ask­ing Trump about his tax returns. He says that he “pre-paid” his tax­es – a ridicu­lous fab­ri­ca­tion. Biden’s response: “Show us, stop play­ing around.”

6:35 – Trump starts rant­i­ng about the Rus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion, a favorite hob­by horse of his.

6:36 – Biden is asked about his son Hunter’s busi­ness deals in for­eign coun­tries, a favorite talk­ing point of con­spir­a­cy theorists.

6:38 – This debate seems to be turn­ing into a punch­ing match over dif­fer­ent cor­rup­tion allegations.

6:40 – The debate turns to the U.S. rela­tion­ship with Chi­na. Biden makes a sub­stan­tial argu­ment about how he would change pol­i­cy. How long before Trump turns back to con­spir­a­cy the­o­rists about Hunter Biden?

6:41 – Under ten sec­onds, as it turns out.

6:42 – Biden tries to bre­alk out of the cycle: “It’s not about his fam­i­ly or my fam­i­ly, it’s about YOUR fam­i­ly,” point­ing to the cam­era. Ordi­nary fam­i­lies are “the last thing he wants to talk about.”

6:45 – Trump is falling back into his old ways, talk­ing over the moderator.

6:47 – The debate turns to health­care, a ter­ri­ble issue for Trump. Trump starts by brag­ging about end­ing the indi­vid­ual man­date. He wants to ter­mi­nate Oba­macare, but nev­er brings up a Repub­li­can plan, beyond “a brand new, beau­ti­ful healthcare.”

6:49 – Trump launch­es into a ridicu­lous assault on Medicare for All – unfor­tu­nate­ly for him, that’s not Biden’s pol­i­cy. Biden, unlike Trump and the Repub­li­cans, can actu­al­ly lay out his plan for health­care. It helps to have a plan!

6:51 – Biden points out that Trump has no plan: “I guess we’ll get the health­care about the same time we get the infra­struc­ture plan?”

6:52 – Biden bor­rows a line from his pri­ma­ry rival, Bernie Sanders: “Health­care is a right!”

6:54 – Biden: “Peo­ple deserve to have afford­able health­care, peri­od. Peri­od, peri­od, period…he keeps talk­ing about, he has­n’t done a thing for anyone!”

6:56 – Biden takes an oppor­tu­ni­ty to break down Trump’s argu­ment about the Stock Mar­ket – “peo­ple don’t live off the Stock Market.”

6:59 – Biden eas­i­ly turns Trump’s attacks on the Democ­rats in the House by point­ing out that the HEROES Act is being held up by the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Sen­ate. Trump turns to a favorite tact, attack­ing the bill for help­ing “bad­ly run Demo­c­rat cities” and immi­grants. Biden uses this an oppor­tu­ni­ty to put him­self on the side of all Amer­i­cans, not his par­ti­san side.

7:01 – Trump uses a com­mon­ly used lie about min­i­mum wages, that they cause lay­offs. Biden calls out the lie. Biden makes a strong defence of the $15 min­i­mum wage.

7:03 – Trump blames his child sep­a­ra­tion pol­i­cy on “car­tels and gangs.” Biden reminds us of the truth – the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion’s pol­i­cy was to dis­in­cen­tivise par­ents. Biden calls the child sep­a­ra­tion pol­i­cy “crim­i­nal.”

7:05 – Biden is hon­est and calls the Oba­ma Admin­is­tra­tion’s depor­ta­tions a mis­take. He lays out his plans for immi­gra­tion reform, and defends the peo­ple in the U.S. on the DACA program.

7:07 – Biden on immi­gra­tion is at his strongest, chan­nel­ing moral out­rage and a clear grasp of the facts to assault Trump’s argu­ment. All Trump can do is return to racist attacks on immigrants.

7:12 – Welk­er asks Joe Biden about Black par­en­t’s fears. Biden is empa­thet­ic and lays out desires to “give peo­ple a shot.” Trump brings up the 1994 Crime Bill that Biden co-authored. “Nobody has done more for the African-Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty, with the pos­si­ble excep­tion of Lincoln.”

7:13 – Trump’s response is inco­her­ent and ram­bling, most­ly con­sist­ing of him recount­ing con­ver­sa­tions in his office…

7:14 – Biden’s come­back to accu­sa­tions about his 1990s record by recall­ing Trump’s racist treat­ment of the Cen­tral Park 5. He points out that Trump has com­mut­ed 20 sen­tences, while Oba­ma com­mut­ed over a thousand.

7:17 – Biden draws dis­tinct lines between his char­ac­ter and Trump’s. Trump can’t help but bring up the “lap­top from hell” con­spir­a­cy theory.

7:18 – Trump says “I am the least racist per­son in this room.” THREE TIMES

7:20 – Biden lists off Trump’s many racist state­ments and actions, fin­ish­ing with “he’s got a dog whis­tle as big as a fog horn.” Trump starts rant­i­ng, elic­it­ing an “aw, God,” from Biden (we all feel you, Joe).

7:21 – Biden admits that the drug poli­cies of the 1980s and 90s were a mis­take. “They should not be going into jail for a drug or alco­hol prob­lem, they should be going into treat­ment.” Trump tries to return to his 2016 pop­ulism: “You’re all talk and no action.” Unfor­tu­nate­ly for Trump, Biden can actu­al­ly refer to the many achieve­ments of the Oba­ma Administration.

7:23 – In response to Trump’s ques­tion about why the Oba­ma Admin­is­tra­tion could­n’t achieve its aims, Biden sim­ply answers: “Because we had a Repub­li­can Con­gress. That’s the answer.”

7:27 – Biden calls action on cli­mate change “a moral oblig­a­tion,” and points to Trump’s elim­i­na­tion of envi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions. He points out that his cli­mate plan would not only reduce emis­sions, but cre­ate mil­lions of new jobs. “Our health and our jobs are at stake!” He points out to analy­sis that shows Biden’s eco­nom­ic plan will cre­ate mil­lions jobs and a tril­lion dol­lars more growth than Trump’s.

7:28 – Trump’s response is pret­ty insane, say­ing that Biden is “hop­ping through hoops for AOC plus three.” He also says “I know more on wind than you do. It’s expen­sive, it kills all the birds!” Biden can’t help but laugh.

7:31 – Biden just ruled out ban­ning frack­ing, bow­ing to right-wing attacks on him.

7:34 – When asked about com­mu­ni­ties liv­ing near pol­lut­ing plants, Trump says that they are mak­ing lots of mon­ey, so what’s the big deal? Biden by con­trast recalls grow­ing up near oil refiner­ies in Delaware, and argues that “we have to grow near­er to net zero emis­sions.” He pledges to tran­si­tion away from the oil industry.

7:36 – When asked what he would say on Inau­gu­ra­tion Day to those who did­n’t vote for him. He does­n’t seem to under­stand the ques­tion, threat­en­ing dis­as­ter if Biden wins. Biden says he will make sure all Amer­i­cans are rep­re­sent­ed. “We have enor­mous oppor­tu­ni­ties to make this coun­try bet­ter.” He promis­es action on racial injus­tice and clean ener­gy industries.

7:37 – And the debate is over! Mela­nia Trump (per­haps chas­tened by recent expe­ri­ences) approach­es the stage wear­ing a mask. Biden dons his mask…Trump remains maskless.

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