US President Donald Trump was evasive on Thursday night when pressed if he took a COVID-19 test before his first debate with Democrat Joe Biden because the two men squared off again, in a way, after their scuttled second showdown was replaced by duelling televised town halls several channels apart.
Biden, appearing nearly 1,930 kilometers (1,200 miles) away, denounced the White House’s handling of the virus that has killed quite 217,000 Americans, declaring that it had been guilty for closing an epidemic response office established by the Obama administration.
Trump, meanwhile, was defensive and insisted that the state was turning the corner on the virus, whilst his own battle with the disease took centre stage.
Trump, but fortnight after being diagnosed with COVID-19, dodged directly answering whether he took a test on the day of the Michaelmas debate, only saying: “Possibly I did, possibly I didn’t”. Debate rules required that every candidate, using the honour system, had tested negative before the Cleveland event, but Trump spoke in a circle when asked when he last tested negative.
It was his positive test two days later that created Thursday’s odd spectacle, which deprived most viewers of a simultaneous check out the candidates just 19 days before polling day . the instant seemed fitting for a race unlike the other , so far another campaign ritual was changed by the pandemic that has rewritten the norms of society.
The presidential rivals took questions in several cities on different broadcast networks: Trump on NBC from Miami, Biden on ABC from Philadelphia. Trump-backed out of plans for the presidential face-off originally scheduled for the evening after debate organisers said it might be held virtually following Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis.
The town halls offered a special format for the 2 candidates to present themselves to voters after the pair held a chaotic and combative first debate late last month.
The difference within the men’s tone was immediate and striking.
Trump was Trump. He was loud and argumentative, fighting with the host, Savannah Guthrie, refusing to outright condemn the QAnon conspiracy group, testily declaring he would denounce racism , but complaining about the questioning – and eventually saying for the primary time that he would honour the results of a good election, but only after casting a unprecedented amount of doubt on the likelihood of it being fair.
“And then they talk: ’Will you accept a peaceful transfer’,” Trump said. “And the solution is, ‘Yes, I will.’ But i would like it to be an honest election, then does everybody else.”
Biden meanwhile, took a far different, softer, approach with audience questions. the previous vice chairman , who struggled with a stutter, stuttered slightly at the beginning of the show and at one point squeezed his eyes shut and bogged down his response to obviously enunciate his words. sometimes his answers droned on.
Dressed in a blue suit and holding a white cloth mask in one hand, the Democratic nominee also brought alittle card of notes on stage and mentioned it while promising to roll back tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.He said doing so would save “let me see … $92 billion”.
The two men are still scheduled to occupy an equivalent space for debate for a second and final time next week in Nashville. But the cancellation of Thursday’s debate still reverberated for both campaigns.
Trump and Biden battled on Michaelmas in Cleveland in an occasion defined both by the president’s constant hectoring of his opponent, which sent his support lower and by its place on the calendar: just two days before Trump announced he had tested positive for coronavirus.
Trump was hospitalised for 3 days and while he later convalesced at the White House the talk commission moved to form their second debate remote — which the president immediately rejected.
Earlier on Thursday, Trump appeared at a rally in North Carolina, underscoring the challenge confronting him within the final weeks as multiple polls show him trailing Biden nationally and in many swing states. Trump has spent much of the week on the defence, campaigning in states he won in 2016, like North Carolina and Iowa, where he campaigned on Wednesday.
But despite the polling, Trump predicted a “big, beautiful red wave” on election night, before referencing another one among his main challenges: a cash disadvantage to the Biden campaign, which just announced raising a record-breaking $383m in September.