November 29, 2020

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Donald Trump and Joe Biden clash over COVID as Republican says ‘we are rounding the corner’

President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden started off their final presidential debate on Thursday without interrupting each other but disagreeing on the coronavirus pandemic in a head-to-head match with a dramatically different tone from their first one.

The microphones of each candidate were muted for the first two minutes of their response and that moment of discipline, put in place by the Commission on Presidential Debates after Trump repeatedly interrupted Biden in their first meeting, carried through the first segment of the debate.

But the two men disagreed with one another on the coronavirus – the topic of the first segment – with Biden repeatedly criticizing Trump’s handling of the pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 Americans.

‘Anyone who is responsible for that many deaths should not remain president of the United States of America,’ Biden said.

President Trump cited his own experience with the virus and said the country was turning a corner. ‘It will go away and as I say, we are rounding the turn, we are rounding the corner, it’s going away,’ he said. 

The night started with the topic of COVID-19 and both Trump and Biden took coronavirus tests Thursday and tested negative before meeting onstage

The night started with the topic of COVID-19 and both Trump and Biden took coronavirus tests Thursday and tested negative before meeting onstage

The night started with the topic of COVID-19 and both Trump and Biden took coronavirus tests Thursday and tested negative before meeting onstage

The night started with the topic of COVID-19 and both Trump and Biden took coronavirus tests Thursday and tested negative before meeting onstage

The night started with the topic of COVID-19 and both Trump and Biden took coronavirus tests Thursday and tested negative before meeting onstage

The two men were careful to make their points in a presidential way, letting each other talk and requesting time to respond from moderator Kristen Welker.

The change in tone was remarkable from their first meeting in Cleveland, which resembled a boxing match.

Biden argued the situation with COVID was going to get worse.

‘We are about to go into a dark winter. A dark winter. And he has no clear plan and there is no prospect that there’s going to be a vaccine available for a majority the American people before the middle of next year,’ he said.

 

The president, who has pushed for the country to reopen and return to normal, said the country has learned more about the disease and is ready to move forward.

‘We will not have a dark winter at all,’ the president said. ‘We are opening up the country, we’ve learned and our understanding the disease, which we didn’t at the beginning.’ 

The two men clashed on their visions for reopening the country.

‘He did virtually nothing,’ Biden said of Trump’s response to the pandemic.

Biden took on Trump’s repeated statements not to ‘worry.’

‘There’s not another scientist in the world who thinks it’s going to be over soon,’ Biden said.

‘We can’t lock up in a basement like Joe does,’ Trump responded, turning to a personal attack. 

‘But he has this thing about living in a basement,’ Trump claimed, pointing to Biden’s decision to drastically cut back appearances and travel, although both men have campaigned around the country in recent weeks.

‘It’s his ineptitude that caused the country to have to shut down in large part,’ Biden said.

The president, who has pushed for the country to reopen and return to normal, said the country has learned more about the disease and is ready to move forward.

The president, who has pushed for the country to reopen and return to normal, said the country has learned more about the disease and is ready to move forward.

The president, who has pushed for the country to reopen and return to normal, said the country has learned more about the disease and is ready to move forward. 

This debate is different from the last, as the candidates' microphones are muted and therefore can't interrupt each other

This debate is different from the last, as the candidates' microphones are muted and therefore can't interrupt each other

This debate is different from the last, as the candidates’ microphones are muted and therefore can’t interrupt each other

'Anyone who is responsible for that many deaths should not remain president of the United States of America,' Biden said of Trump's handling of the pandemic

'Anyone who is responsible for that many deaths should not remain president of the United States of America,' Biden said of Trump's handling of the pandemic

‘Anyone who is responsible for that many deaths should not remain president of the United States of America,’ Biden said of Trump’s handling of the pandemic 

Biden shot back with a reference to Trump’s golfing, and brought up a relief bill the House passed in March that hasn’t been enacted.

‘Instead of in a sand trap in his golf course he should have been negotiating,’ Biden said.

‘All he does is talk about shutdowns,’ Trump said, as the most substantive contrast got going.

‘Democrats, they shut down so tight and they’re dying. And he supports all these people,’ Trump said.

‘All he talks about are shutdowns. We’re not going to shut down and we have to open our schools,’ Trump said.

Trump pointed to his former hometown of New York. ‘It’s a ghost town,’ he said, with the two men separated by plexiglass, a precaution that began following his coronavirus infection.

‘You talk about plexiglass? These are restaurant that are dying,’ Trump said. ‘It’s not the answer. You’re going to sit there in a cubicle wrapped around in plastic.’

Biden took on Trump's repeated statements not to 'worry' about the pandemic. 'There's not another scientist in the world who thinks it's going to be over soon,' Biden said

Biden took on Trump's repeated statements not to 'worry' about the pandemic. 'There's not another scientist in the world who thinks it's going to be over soon,' Biden said

Biden took on Trump’s repeated statements not to ‘worry’ about the pandemic. ‘There’s not another scientist in the world who thinks it’s going to be over soon,’ Biden said

Both Trump and Biden took coronavirus tests Thursday and tested negative before meeting onstage. 

On Air Force One he tested negative for the coronavirus, according to Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. ‘We tested him on the way here and he tested negative,’ Meadows told reporters. 

Earlier, the Biden campaign said he, too, tested negative for COVID-19.  

Tonight’s debate is the final debate of the election – the previous one got scratched after Trump refused to take part in a ‘virtual’ format after getting the coronavirus – and represents an opportunity with dwindling time for the president to try to reset the race.