President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, met for their second and final presidential debate on Thursday night in Nashville, Tennessee. The debate was moderated by Kristen Welker, the White House correspondent of NBC News, and featured a mute button to help maintain order after the chaos of the first presidential debate.
This debate featured a calmer, more substantive discussion on policy. Both candidates made their final appeals to the electorate and issued their final attacks on the opposing candidate. Biden sharpened his message on Trump’s failed leadership on managing the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of a healthcare reform plan while Trump fired back, arguing that Biden represents an inactive, corrupt politician who has done nothing during his decades in public service.
Biden’s most important message of the night was unity and empathy, which seems to be winning over undecided voters. They support the idea of bringing the country together amid intense division and partisanship. According to a CNN instant poll of debate watchers, Biden did a better job in the debate. Fifty-three percent of voters who watched the debate said Biden won the debate, while 39 percent said that Trump did.
More polling will surface in the coming days about the debate and its impact on undecided voters, but early impressions indicate that it did not fundamentally change the dynamics of the race. Even Fox News contributor Doug Schoen argued that “it is safe to say the 96-minute exchange between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will likely not fundamentally alter the presidential race. Over 48 million Americans have already voted, and few people remain undecided.”
While many agree that Trump’s performance was better this time around, it was not enough to shift the momentum of the race. But it is important to remember the CNN debate poll after the third presidential debate in 2016 showed Clinton winning by only one point less than Biden (52 percent for Clinton, and 39 percent for Trump).