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Fewer fireworks, more substance: 5 takeaways from the final Biden-Trump debate

By Alex Roarty and David Catanese, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

The second presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden was more traditional and civil than their rancorous showdown last month.

With so little time left before Election Day, however, it wasn't immediately clear if it would amount to anything more than a footnote in a tumultuous contest set against the historic backdrop of an ongoing pandemic and economic recession.

The two candidates, in Nashville, Tennessee, argued over a wide set of issues, ranging from immigration and the environment to race and energy production. But as with the first debate, this faceoff started with a wide-ranging examination of the COVID-19 global health crisis.

Here are five takeaways from the debate.

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A STEADIER TRUMP, BUT TIME IS RUNNING SHORT

 

A second and final presidential debate that came less than two weeks before Election Day — and after nearly 50 million people have voted — likely did little to change the fundamentals of the race: Trump is trailing in the polls, and time is running out for a comeback.

For the president and his supporters, that will count as a disappointment — though his improved performance from his last debate might hearten down-ballot Republicans who voiced deep concerns that a poor showing could further weaken an already difficult political climate for the party.

Many Trump supporters will be pleased as well that the president proved capable of defending his record on everything from immigration to criminal justice, while pointedly reminding voters of Biden's long tenure in public office. He also seemed to hit his stride as the debate wore on, particularly in the night's half-hour.

But if Trump was less belligerent Thursday, so too was Biden much crisper and on message than the previous debate, when the Democratic nominee often struggled to make his points. He appeared well prepared for most of the night's topics, ready to respond to the president's arguments with succinct responses.

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