US election: four of the best lines from the second presidential debate

Biden landed blow on Trump’s pandemic performance while the president questioned his rival’s achievements

The final debate between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden plays on a restaurant television in Manhattan
The debate plays on a restaurant television in Manhattan, New York
(Image credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Donald Trump and Joe Biden have clashed over coronavirus, racism and sleaze allegations during their second and final live TV debate before next month’s White House election.

The head-to-head yesterday in the Tennessee city of Nashville was a “less acrimonious and more substantive affair than the pair’s previous showdown”, says the BBC. Trump gave a “much more restrained performance”, adds CNN, and the organisers minimised the disruption that marred the first debate by muting microphones during both candidates’ opening statements.

Snap polls show that viewers favoured Biden’s performance, with the Democrat ahead by ten to 15 percentage points, The Guardian reports. But The Telegraph’s Tim Stanley argues that Trump’s performance shows that “he can also win this election”.

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Covid response criticism

Reminding viewers of how many lives have been lost to the coronavirus pandemic in the US - a tally that stands at more than 223,000, according to latest figures - Biden said that “anyone who is responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States”.

“This is the same fellow who told you that, don’t worry, we’re going to end this by the summer. We’re about to go into a dark winter, a dark winter, and he has no clear plan,” the Democrat added.

The former vice-president “came across as genuinely caring for the well-being of American families, not someone obsessed with personal grievances”, says USA Today.

Railing against racism

Biden went on the attack again after Trump claimed to be “the least racist person in this room”.

Describing the incumbent as “one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history”, Biden argued: “He pours fuel on every single racist fire. This guy is a dog whistle about as big as a fog horn.”

Caged migrants blame game

The two candidates also locked horns on Trump’s policy of separating undocumented immigrant children and their parents at the southern US border. The president pointed out that migrant children were also detained under the Barack Obama administration, adding: “Who built the cages, Joe? Talk about who built the cages.”

Fox News’ Dan Gainor says the president mounted an effective attack on Biden, with Trump managing “to drive the debate” despite moderator Kristen Welker’s interruptions.

Blast at the past

The president struck another blow by accusing Biden of failing to follow through on his promises during his reign in the White House alongside Obama. Trump told Biden that “I ran because of you. I ran because of Barack Obama, because you did a poor job.”

“You keep talking about all these things you’re going to do... but you were there just a short time ago and you guys did nothing,” Trump continued.

“His attacks on Biden's long tenure in politics were effective, as were his repeated reminder that Biden has been vice-president for eight years and hadn’t done, in Trump’s estimation, all that much,” concludes CNN’s Chris Cillizza.

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