The Final Presidential Debate – Too Little, Too Late?

Sergey Podlesnykh/Staff Writer

The final Presidential debate was undoubtedly the strongest one. The first erratic face-off provided few answers, and the dueling town halls last week lacked a confrontational edge. Thursday night finally delivered a discussion that can be labeled as both “Presidential” and a “debate”. Here’s a few keynotes that might sway the voters in the last few days before the election.

The debate was well-organized with the trick of muting the mics working in the audience’s favor and both candidates delivered a solid performance. Trump was less aggressive and almost polite. Biden was very energetic and unusually concise. The moderator was very efficient: she never lost control, but didn’t overpower the conversation either, swiftly directing it from the shadows. Kristen Welker did a much better job than Chris Wallace, earning unexpected praise from the President. However, her job in such a civilized debate was less challenging.

The first segment expectedly covered COVID-19. I didn’t hope to hear anything groundbreaking from either candidates and both Trump and Biden resorted to their well-known rhetoric. Perhaps, the segment’s highlight came from Biden, when he implied potential mandatory mask order upon his election. It might attract some voters but will surely alienate others.

I didn’t hope to hear anything groundbreaking from either candidates and both Trump and Biden resorted to their well-known rhetoric.

The second segment tried to examine the candidates proposed foreign policies, but it soon evolved into mutual accusations of financial ties abroad. The candidates accused each other of having monetary interests in Russia and China, though both shook them off as unwarranted claims. 

Two highlights worth mentioning are;

First, Trump spilled some of his tax beans, talking about “prepaid taxes” – a very unexpected comment. Normally the President plays his “IRS audit” card, and never assertively shared this detail before. Still, it says very little, but the idea is consistent with the tax evasion story, told by The New York Times.

Another highlight came from Biden when the President went after the contender’s family, but Biden graciously took over the initiative. He countered that the discussion wasn’t about their respective families, but rather about all American families and their future. The Vice President already used this classy and effective move in the first debate and such uniting rhetoric, according to the polls, was popular among the voters.    

In contrast, the conversation about American healthcare sounded like a sketch from the Saturday Night Live show. Skipping the mutual blaming, we heard two distinguished proposals; Trump explained that Obamacare should be used as a base and amended. Biden insisted that we take Obamacare as a base and make the needed amends. Such similarity in rhetoric benefits Biden: his plan might not be perfect, but at least he seems to have one. Unlike the milder Obamacare approach which might become a problem for Trump on November 3rd.

Discussion of immigration issues wasn’t the strongest part for Trump. Writing off kids, separated from their families as “kids brought by coyotes” and labeling asylum seekers who follow the procedure and show up for their interviews as “people with low IQ” might alienate some voters.  

Conversation about raising the federal minimum wage was confusing at best. Biden kept bringing up $15/ hour, an unrealistic jump from the current rate of $7.25/hour. Trump said that federal raise is needed, but “it should be up to the states.” In other words, we need peanut butter, but we cannot use peanuts. 

Segment of racial issues had little new information, except the President slightly corrected his notorious statement, saying that he “did more than any other person in history” not only for black, but also Hispanic voters. Curiously, Trump highlighted many of his underperforming electoral groups throughout the entire debate: African Americans, Hispanics, women, farmers, miners. Some might say this approach is too blunt, but such targeted addresses might bring the crucial points. Biden tried to go high and address all American voters, but such a call ten days before the election might be too broad and fall on deaf ears if not personalized.   

Both candidates provided somewhat misleading information in regards to climate change. The idea of transitioning from oil to alternative energy aligns with earlier Biden’s rhetoric and is a reality we will have to face soon. After visiting Europe last year, I can say that wind and solar power is real, it can be effective, and the U.S. has plenty of catching up to do. Alas, such assertive claim on the big stage from Biden can alienate many voters in battleground states.

On Thursday night, Joe Biden stayed on the chosen track but had a few slips that might take back the points gained in the previous debate. By contrast, Donald Trump changed up his rhetoric, bringing up the successful contesting model from 2016. Instead of defending his presidency, the incumbent spent most of his time going after Biden’s tenure as the Vice President. Trump appealed to the undecided voters more effectively, but with ten days before the Elections, was it too little, too late?  

The final debate could even out the polls, resulting in a tight race on November 3rd. All the cards have been played, and the closing arguments have been made. It’s your turn, America. Whatever direction you’re leaning, don’t shy away from the ballot boxes and make your voice heard.



The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

Featured image by Photo by Tiffany Tertipes on Unsplash

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