CLEVELAND (Reuters) – President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden fought fiercely over Trump’s record on the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare and in a chaotic and bad-tempered initial debate marked by personal insults and Trump’s repeated interruptions the economy.
Trump made his way through the 90-minute debate, trying to poke Biden on almost every time he spoke. He claimed the Democrats were trying to steal the November presidential election by postal voting and declined to condemn white supremacist groups when asked to do so.
Fox News host Chris Wallace never took control of the debate. Trump repeatedly ignored his calls to let Biden speak. The two White House contenders talked about each other and threw insults into a mind-boggling political brawl that made it difficult for either of them to make a point.
At one point, after Trump̵
Wallace tried in vain to reel in Trump, who ignored his deadlines and talked about Biden.
“I think the country would be better served if we allowed both people to speak with fewer interruptions. I appeal to you, sir, to do so, ”Wallace said.
By Tuesday evening, more than 1.3 million Americans had cast early ballots. With time running out to change their minds or influence that small segment of the undecided voters, much was at stake when the two candidates took the stage five weeks before election day on November 3rd.
For 74-year-old Trump, Tuesday’s debate was one of the few remaining opportunities to change the trajectory of a race that most opinion polls show he lost as the majority of Americans opposed his handling of the pandemic and protests Racial injustice deprecated.
77-year-old Biden has a constant lead over Trump in national opinion polls, although polls in the battlefield states that will determine the election show much tighter competition. It was difficult to determine if the debate was going to move the needle.
Trump tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to annoy Biden and force him to gaffe, but largely neglected to affirm why he is the best candidate for addressing fundamental electoral issues.
The hyperaggressive performance would almost certainly attract raves from its key supporters, but it was unlikely to win back critical swing voters, particularly suburban women who have turned their backs on the president over his divisive and combative rhetoric, political strategists say.
Trump has more debates planned with Biden for October while Vice President Mike Pence and Biden’s Vice President Kamala Harris have a debate next week.
Tuesday’s debate followed months of racial justice protests against police brutality against black Americans, largely peaceful but sometimes resulting in violent clashes between liberal and right-wing protesters.
Trump, who has used the unrest to spread a “law and order” message, was asked if he was ready to condemn and tell white supremacists to resign as well. He first said he was ready to do anything for peace, but then said that most of the violence was from the left.
“This is not a real problem. That’s left wing, ”he said.
Trump also reiterated his baseless complaints that postal ballot papers would lead to widespread electoral fraud and refused to commit to accepting the election results or to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election.
“When I see tens of thousands of ballot papers manipulated, I cannot agree,” he said. “This is going to be a scam like you’ve never seen before.”
Biden urged Americans to come up with a voting plan and assured voters that if Biden won, Trump would be gone. He said he will not declare the victory until the result is confirmed.
“If we get the votes, it’s all over. He will go, ”he said.
Biden sharply criticized Trump’s report on the coronavirus pandemic, which killed more than 200,000 Americans, and accused him of failing to protect Americans because he was more concerned about the economy.
“He panicked or looked at the stock market,” Biden said of Trump, who has pushed for states to reopen their economies and downplayed the pandemic threat.
“You should get out of your bunker and out of the sand trap and … the golf course and into the Oval Office and Democrats and Republicans (put together) and fund what needs to be done now to save lives.” Said Biden.
Trump extolled his decision to restrict travel from China, where the virus is believed to have originated, earlier this year, defending his approach to the pandemic. “We did a great job.”
Hours before the debate, Biden released his 2019 tax returns and his campaign urged Trump, who has come under fire for failing to publish his tax returns, to do the same.
Biden took the move two days after the New York Times reported that Trump paid just $ 750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017 – and none in 10 of the last 15 years – after years of heavy corporate losses had reported. Trump had long tried to keep his personal financial records secret.
In the debate, Biden said Trump managed to play the tax law so that “he pays less tax than a school teacher”.
Trump insisted he paid millions in taxes but said he could not prove it by not releasing his returns until an audit was completed. He said that as a businessman, he took advantage of tax laws to pay less.
“Like any other private individual, unless they’re stupid, they go through the law and that’s it,” he said.
PRESS THE COURT OF JUSTICE
The two also argued over Trump’s efforts to quickly occupy a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court following the death of Liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg earlier this month. He defended his appointment of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the seat, which would cement a Conservative majority of 6-3. Trump, the nation’s highest court, said “elections have ramifications” and that he has the right despite democratic objections.
“I’ll tell you very simply that we won the election. We have the Senate and the White House and we have a phenomenal candidate who is respected by everyone, ”he said.
Biden said Ginsburg’s seat should be occupied after the election when it was clear who the president would be. He said a more conservative Supreme Court would jeopardize the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare.
The Supreme Court will orally negotiate a challenge from the Trump administration shortly after the election to seek to crush the law on affordable care, including popular insurance coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions.
Democrats have argued that Republicans are hypocritical for acting quickly to occupy the seat after blocking then-President Barack Obama’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 2016, arguing that they will continue until after the November election should wait.
Reporting by John Whitesides; Additional coverage from Steve Holland, Doina Chiacu, and Trevor Hunnicutt; Letter from John Whitesides; Adaptation by Soyoung Kim and Howard Goller