WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden squared in a way in dueling TV townhouses that showed marked differences in temperament, views on racial justice and approach to a pandemic that has transformed the nation.
Coming just two and a half weeks before election day, the events on Thursday night offered crystal constructions and a national, if divided, audience. But it seemed unlikely that it had created a necessary moment for a president running out of time or opportunities to appeal beyond his core base.
He was defensive over his administration̵
The Republican president also appeared to recognize revelations from a recent New York Times report that he was in debt, leaving the possibility that some of it was due to a foreign bank. But he insisted he owed no money to Russia or any “creepy people” and suggested that $ 400 million in debt was a “very, very small percentage” compared to his total assets.
Biden condemned the White House’s handling of the virus, declaring it was to blame for closing a pandemic response office set up by the Obama administration where he served. Although he was vague at times, he suggested that he would clarify his position on extending the Supreme Court. if Trump’s candidate for the bench sitting before election day.
After Biden’s 90-minute town hall event was formally concluded, the candidate spent another half hour taking questions from those in the audience who were not given an opportunity during the television program.
Trump and Biden were to spend Thursday night on the same debate stage in Miami. But this face was cut off after Trump’s coronavirus infection, who shot the race and threatened the health of the US president.
Trump would not say whether he had tested negative on the day of his first debate with Biden on Sept. 29, which only allowed “Possibly I did, possibly not.” Debate rules required that each candidate using the fee system had tested negative before the Cleveland event, but Trump spoke in circles when asked when he last tested negative.
The president’s rivals asked questions in different cities on different networks: Trump on NBC from Miami, Biden on ABC from Philadelphia. Trump backed out of the plans for the president’s face, originally scheduled for tonight, after debate organizers said it would be held almost after his COVID-19 diagnosis.
City Halls offered a different format for the two candidates to present themselves to voters after the couple had a chaotic and belligerent first debate late last month. The difference in the tone of the men was instantaneous and striking.
Trump was Trump. He was loud and argumentative, reprimands his FBI director, fights with the host, Savannah Guthrie, complains about the interrogation – and finally for the first time he said justice.
“And then they talk, ‘Will you accept a peaceful transfer?'” Trump said. “And the answer is, ‘Yes, I will.’ But I want it to be an honest choice, and so does everyone else. ”
He again tried to minimize revelations from a New York Times investigation that he has more than $ 400 million in debt, and suggested that the reports are incorrect, that he paid little or no federal income tax for most of the years during the last two decades.
Meanwhile, Biden took a far different, softer approach with audience questions. The former vice president, who struggled to grow up with a tribe, stammered a bit at the start of the program and at one point squeezed his eyes closed, slowing his response to clearly preach his words. At times, his response droned on.
With a white dress mask in one hand, the Democratic candidate brought a small card with notes to the stage and referred to it while promising to reverse tax cuts for the richest Americans. He said this would save when he consulted his notes, “let me see … $ 92 billion.”
Biden promised to say before election day whether he would support the expansion of the number of judges at the Supreme Court if Democrats win the presidency and Senate and hold the House after November.
He has for weeks refused to answer the question, but went on Thursday night. He said, “I’m still not a fan” of expanding the court, but said his ultimate decision depended on how Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court is “handled” and “how much they rush.”
Biden also blew up Trump’s foreign policy, declaring “‘America first’ has made ‘America alone'” and “This president embraces all thugs in the world.” He became introspective when asked what it would mean if he lost.
“It could mean that I’m a lousy candidate, that I did not do a good job,” Biden said. “But I think I hope it does not say we are as racist, ethnic and religious in conflict as it seems the president wants us to be.”
Biden said he plans to attend next week’s debate, but he will ask Trump to take a COVID-19 test before he arrives. “It’s just decency” for everyone around him, including non-candidates like camera operators, Biden said.
The two men are still scheduled to occupy the same seat for a debate for the second and final time next week in Nashville.
Lemire reported from New York. Additional reporting from Associated Press authors Bill Barrow in Wilmington, Delaware and Zeke Miller and Alexandra Jaffe in Washington.