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Key takeaways from the second and final Trump-Biden debate

By Mark Z. Barabak and Melanie Mason, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

If you're one of more than 48 million Americans who have already cast your presidential ballot, not to worry.

Although they managed to behave better than their last raucous debate — a mute button helped — nothing that President Donald Trump or Democratic challenger Joe Biden said or did onstage Thursday night seems likely to change a great many minds.

Coming just 12 days before Election Day — or what might be more accurately described as the voting cutoff — the 90-minute session presented Trump his last best chance before a national audience to change the trajectory of a race he seems to be losing.

It will take at least a few days for the effect, if any, of Thursday night's socially distanced scrap in Nashville to become clear. Meantime, here are some key takeaways:

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TRUMP TONES DOWN

 

The president's strategy in the first debate was to never let Biden, or moderator Chris Wallace, squeeze a word in edgewise. He thought it was a terrific success; many others, including some of his staunchest supporters, did not.

This time, it was the tale of two Trumps.

At the start, the president largely tamped down his combative impulses. He interrupted less, spoke softly and even sprinkled in a few niceties toward Kristen Welker, the debate moderator, whom he had been attacking in recent days. But the president's more familiar instincts ultimately shone through.

He ran through the greatest hits of his Twitter feed — falsely claiming he was subject to a years-long "phony witch-hunt," accusing the Obama administration of spying on his campaign.

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