The Second Presidential debate, which was canceled, became both forums with voters at the same time and on rival television channels.
The second presidential debate, which was canceled after Trump refused to participate virtually after contracting coronavirus, became separate forums with voters held at the same time and broadcast on rival television channels.
And each of the programs could not have been more different: the calm in the face of the storm, the parsimony in the face of the momentum, the moderate discussion in the face of the interruptions and the raised tones.
On the one hand, President Donald Trump, in Miami, lived a heated night in which he was pressured by voters and by the moderator Savannah Guthrie about his response to the coronavirus, white supremacism, his taxes, the QAnon conspiracy theory or his plans. for an alternative to the Obamacare health insurance program.
Democrat Joe Biden, from Philadelphia, in a calm and gentle tone, showed his regret for having participated decades ago in a bill against crime for which he has been harshly criticized and promised that before the elections he will make his plan clear on the possibility of expanding the US Supreme Court.
There are 19 days until Election Day, but millions of early votes have already been cast for the November 3 vote.
We tell you some of the highlights of the exceptional night.
1. Trump and QAnon
QAnon’s conspiracy theory holds that Trump is fighting a clandestine “deep state” network made up of political, business, media and entertainment elites, often involving satanic plots and child trafficking.
When Guthrie asked Trump on Thursday night if he would reject the group, the president replied that he knew “nothing about QAnon.”
The moderator said that she had just told him about the group.
“You told me, but what you told me doesn’t necessarily make it a fact . I hate to say that, ”Trump responded.
“I know they are against pedophilia, that they fight it very hard,” he replied after saying that he did not know them.
Then, as he has done on other occasions when asked about supremacism, he tried to change the subject towards his condemnation of Antifa, a movement of mainly far-left activists that combats racial discrimination, sometimes violently.
The back and forth continued when the presenter challenged Trump: ” You then know [about QAnon] .”
“I don’t know,” replied the president.
2. Biden and the Supreme Court
At the Biden Citizen Forum, the Democratic candidate was asked if he supported an increase in the membership of the Supreme Court.
The issue has been up in the air for the past few weeks, after the Republican Party decided to go ahead with the process to confirm Amy Coney Barret as a Supreme Court justice following the death, on September 18, of Justice Ruth. Bader Ginsburg.
Conservative Barrett’s nomination has been divisive by coming just weeks before the election date, especially after Republicans in 2016 refused to consider then-President Obama’s nominee when a court seat became vacant.
Republicans argue that if Barrett’s nomination is confirmed, the Democratic nominee plans to expand the number of justices on the Court , currently numbering nine, to counter the conservative majority. With this, they say, Biden would manipulate the third branch of the United States government, the judiciary.
Moderator George Stephanopoulos pressed Biden to say if he is considering doing something like that.
“I’m open to consider what happens from that point on,” Biden replied, referring to his decision depending on the Senate vote.
Stephanopoulos asked the former vice president if voters have a right to know where he stands on the key issue.
“They have the right to know what my position is and they have the right to know before voting,” he said.
“Depending on how they handle this,” he added, apparently referring to Justice Barrett’s Republican confirmation.
3. The Coronavirus
How could it be otherwise, the coronavirus also starred in much of the two citizen debates.
In fact, both forums began with questions about the strategy to combat the coronavirus, but in each case the tone was very different.
At Trump’s meeting, it was clear from the beginning that the presenter was not going to allow him to evade uncomfortable questions to the Republican president.
Thus, Guthrie insisted on knowing when was the last time Trump tested negative before his positive test for covid-19.
The NBC host wanted to find out if the president had been tested before his debate with Biden on Sept. 29, but Trump was unable to provide a clear answer.
For his part, Biden used the first minutes of his event to criticize the government’s management and to develop his ideas on the best way to deal with the pandemic.
Very different shades
Analysis of Anthony Zurcher, newspaper or distant from the BBC in Washington
There was supposed to be a presidential debate on Thursday night. Instead, the nation was offered what was advertised as two forums of grieving voters.
But although the events, which were broadcast on different networks, had the same format, there the similarities end.
President Trump’s evening was controversial. From the beginning, he was pressured about his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, his position on wearing masks, and his views on white supremacists and QAnon conspiracy theorists.
Moderator Savannah Guthrie peppered him with cross-examinations when he seemed evasive. The president was quicker and more personable than during the first debate, but there is no doubt that he was once again playing defense.
With a channel change to Biden’s forum, the heat died away. Moderator George Stephanopoulos allowed the former vice president to give long, sometimes tortuous answers. It felt like a public interest talk show, with solemn readings of the Constitution of the United States before business breaks.
The Trump forum made television more entertaining, and it will almost certainly have attracted more viewers. But that could be both a blessing and a curse if what American voters want in November is something a little more, well, boring.