A Final Opportunity to Sway The Undecided



On October 22, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden appeared in the Curb Event Center of Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee for their second debate and one of their final chances to sway undecided voters. With the first debate being 90 minutes of chaos, anticipation for the night’s face-off was high. 

The event was calmer helped in part by the Debate Commission’s decision to mute the candidates’ microphones when it was not their turn to speak to prevent interrupting and arguments. This did work somewhat, however it did not prevent feelings of tension throughout the hour and a half of conversation. The debate was moderated by NBC News correspondent, Kristin Welker, who was praised for her ability to manage the candidate’s tempers. 

The first topic to be covered was COVID-19, similar to the first debate. President Trump opened the debate, saying, “The excess mortality rate is way down and much lower than almost any other country. And we’re fighting it. And we’re fighting it hard.” Throughout the next two minutes, the President emphasized the great care he received during his COVID-19 diagnosis, at one point stating, “I can tell you from personal experience, I was in the hospital. I had it and got better.”

Welker then turned to Biden, asking him, “How would you lead the country out of this crisis?” The former Vice President answered respectfully while still holding the President responsible for the death rate: “Anyone [who] is responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America. We’re in a situation where there are a thousand deaths a day now.”

President Trump then continued to push the vaccine he believes will be distributed nationally in the coming weeks:  “Johnson and Johnson is doing very well. Moderna is doing very well. Pfizer is doing very well and we have numerous others.”  This has been proven to be unlikely as there are only 6 vaccines approved for limited use with the other trials in stages that include safety and efficacy tests.

Welker followed up on the subject of vaccines, asking Biden what steps he would take to give Americans faith in an approved vaccine. Biden emphasized his belief in transparency: “Have the scientists of the world see it, know it, look at it, go through all the processes.”  and attacked Trump, pointing out that “We’re about to go into a dark winter, a dark winter, and he has no clear plan.” 

The candidates then transitioned to discussing their plans to attack the COVID-19 pandemic in the next presidential term. Biden opened the discussion, declaring, “I’m going to shut down the virus, not the country. It’s his ineptitude that caused the country to have to shut down in large part.” This angered the President, putting him on the defense: “Democrats all, they’re shut down so tight and they’re dying.” The conversation of shutdowns and reopening lead to a debate over the reopening of schools, something the President has pushed for since June.

The President continued to share this opinion, stating, “The transmittal rate to the teachers is very small. But I want to open the schools. We have to open our country. We’re not going to have a country. You can’t do this. We can’t keep this country closed.”

When the response went to Biden, he immediately opposed the President’s plan: “You need to be able to trace. You need to be able to provide all the resources that are needed to do this. And that is not inconsistent with saying that we’re going to make sure that we’re going to open safely.”  A frustrated Trump responded with one of the most talked-about quotes of the night, calling New York City, “a ghost town”.

Biden chose to focus on the effect New York has had in decreasing COVID-19 cases, saying, “Take a look at what New York has done in terms of turning the curve down, in terms of people dying. And I don’t look at these in terms of the ways he does, blue states and red states. They’re all the United States.”  

The two men moved into the subject of national security. This subject was present in the news cycle the previous night as the F.B.I. had called for an emergency briefing regarding the security of the presidential election. The director of the F.B.I., Christopher A. Wray, and the director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, announced on October 21st that Iran and Russia had both collected voter registration data and l attempted to influence the election several times.

The briefing from the directors did not indicate whether or not the future election results would be changed because of foreign inference. Welker opened the subject asking, “What would you do in your next term to put an end to this?”

It was the Vice President’s turn to respond first, and he stated, “I made it clear that any country, no matter who it is, that interferes in American elections will pay a price.” He also chose to comment on the President’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying, “I don’t understand why this President is unwilling to take on Putin when he‘s actually paying bounties to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan.” Biden was referring to the bounties the Russian government paid to Taliban-linked soldiers to kill American troops.

The moderator pointed the same question to President Trump, though he instead attacked Biden about money his family received from Russia: “Your family got $3.5 million. And someday you’re going to have to explain, why did you get three and a half? I never got any money from Russia. I don’t get any money from Russia.” 

The topic of national security brought up questions for both of the candidates about their ties to Russia and Ukraine. The moderator first directed questions to Biden about his son’s business deals, asking, “was anything about those relationships inappropriate or unethical?” The Vice President defended his son, saying, “My son has not made money in terms of this thing about, what you are talking about, China.” President Trump was asked a similar question about a bank account that his company holds in China. “I was thinking about doing a deal in China, like millions of people, I was thinking about it and I decided I’m not going to do it, didn’t like it, I decided not to do it, had an account open and I closed it,” Trump answered.

A discussion on China transitioned into whether or not the Chinese government should be held accountable for their contribution to the spread of COVID-19. Biden highlighted the need for China to follow international accords and laws, recalling a time in his vice presidency when he met with the president of China: “When I met with Xi and when I was still vice-president, he said we’re setting up air identification zones in the China Sea. You can’t fly through them. I said we’re going to fly through them. We just flew B-52, B-1 bombers through there. We’re not going to pay attention. They have to play by the rules.”

Welker turned to the President in an attempt to address the several comments he has made about holding them accountable, asking, “what specifically are you going to do to make China pay? You’ve said you’re going to make them pay.” Trump stated that he gave $28 billion of the billions China has paid to farmers 

The two candidates then entered the rocky waters of North Korea. President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un have met several times over the course of the last four years in hopes of denuclearization. However, North Korea has continued to produce ballistic missiles despite promises made to the Presidential Administration. Trump emphasized a good relationship between himself and Kim, saying, “We don’t have a war and I have a good relationship.”

Biden then slammed their relationship: “He’s legitimized North Korea. He’s talked about his good buddy, who’s a thug, a thug. And he talks about how we’re better off. And they have much more capable missiles, able to reach US territory much more easily than they ever did before.” Trump defended the relationship, arguing that it is a good thing, but Biden continued to disagree and pointed out that “We had a good relationship with Hitler before he, in fact, invaded Europe, the rest of Europe.” 

The next topic was American families and healthcare. This topic has been present recently as Amy Coney Barrett, known for her strong opposition to Obamacare, was confirmed as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on October 26th. Welker asked the candidates, “If the Supreme Court does overturn that law, there’s 20 million Americans [who] could lose their health insurance almost overnight. So what would you do if those people have their healthcare taken away?” President Trump pushed his hatred of Obamacare while highlighting his plan for a new healthcare system, saying, “So I’d like to terminate Obamacare, come up with a brand new, beautiful healthcare.” The moderator then pointed the same question to Biden.

Biden described his intentions for a new healthcare system as well, stating, “Everyone should have the right to affordable healthcare, and I am very proud of my plan.” Biden’s plan includes no one with private insurance losing their coverage and lowering premiums and drug prices. 

Welker then continued onto immigration and border control. President  Trump is known for his consistent stance of “building a wall” on the Mexico-United States border and implementing ICE raids to deport illegal immigrants. However, when ICE puts people in detention centers, parents are separated from their children. Addressing the situation, President Trump defended his actions:“[The bad people] never come back. Only the really…I hate to say this, but those with the lowest IQ, they might come back.” Biden strongly opposed the President’s actions, declaring, “Within 100 days, I’m going to send to the United States Congress a pathway for citizenship for over 11 million undocumented people.” 

The two candidates then entered a conversation about race and social justice, with the question being, “Do you understand why these parents [of Black and Brown Americans] fear for their children?” Joe Biden strongly agreed and added on that, “The matter of fact is, there is institutionalized racism in America.” President Trump also agreed, saying, “Nobody has done more for the black community than Donald Trump. And if you look, with the exception of Abraham Lincoln, possible exception, but the exception of Abraham Lincoln, no one has done what I’ve done.”

He continued to highlight the work he has done on criminal and justice reform during his term and described himself as “the least racist person in the room”, which shocked his opponent. Biden fired back, asserting that, “Abraham Lincoln here is one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history, he pours fuel on every single racist fire, every single one.” 

Kirsten Welker then brought up climate change, a topic also discussed in the first debate. President Trump first brought up the One Trillion Trees Initiative, an executive order that would create a task force to tackle tree planting and conservation. “I do love the environment, but what I want is that cleanest crystal clear water, the cleanest air.” President Trump said. He then touched on how Biden never discusses carbon emissions, saying, “I’m not sure he knows what it represents or means”. Biden went on to address climate change as a whole and affirmed that “Climate change, global warming is an existential threat to humanity.”

He also noted that he has the support of several climate organizations and people involved in the cause and added that his climate change plan would create over 500,000 jobs and retrofit new buildings to save energy. Trump then shot back, stating,“[Wall Street] came out and said very strongly $6,500 will be taken away from families under his plan, that his plan is an economic disaster.” 

The candidates’ closing statement covered the subject of leadership, with Welker’s question asking, “What will you say in your address, to Americans who did not vote for you?” President Trump discussed triumph, saying, “Success is going to bring us together. We are on the road to success.” Biden’s answer focused more on unity as he stated, “I represent all of you, whether you voted for me or against me, and I’m going to make sure that you’re represented. I’m going to give you hope.” 

The highly anticipated Presidential election is on November 3. With many rushing to the polls and mailing in last-minute ballots, both parties can agree that the 2020 election will be one to remember.