A tale of two town halls: Trump and Biden court voters on separate stages

Eldis Sula
October 15, 2020 - 7:18 pm
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President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden had a chance to address the issues on voters’ minds on Thursday night.

But while the evening was originally intended to be a single event — the second presidential debate — Trump and Biden took questions from Americans at two separate town halls that aired on two different networks from two different cities.

Both Trump and Biden had an opportunity to speak directly to people planning to hit the polls on Nov. 3. Fielding concerns from voters who were both undecided and leaning one way or the other, the president and former vice president worked to make their cases before people in the audience and viewers at home.

Below are some of the big moments from Thursday night’s town halls.

All things in moderation

The evening’s moderators played a significant role in setting the tone of the respective events.

“TODAY” anchor Savannah Guthrie kept Trump on his toes at the Miami event. Guthrie put the president on the defensive in a few different moments, like when she asked Trump if he took a test on the day of the first debate (“I probably did,” he replied), or when she pressed him for retweeting a QAnon conspiracy theory on Twitter. “I don’t get that,” she said. “You’re the president. You’re not, like, someone’s crazy uncle who can just retweet whatever.”

In Philadelphia, George Stephanopoulos took a less interventionist approach at the Biden town hall, shepherding the question-and-answer rhythm of the event at the National Constitution Center, which was more subdued in contrast to the open-air setting outside the Pérez Art Museum where Trump spoke to voters.

Trump addresses getting coronavirus

On the heels of testing positive for COVID earlier this month, Trump discussed COVID and addressed the White House garden event that has come to be referred to by some as a “superspreader.”

"Everybody's tested, and they're tested often,” the president told Guthrie. “I can't be in a basement, I can't be in a room.”

Trump also argued that as president, he has to balance the safety measures he takes in facing COVID-19 with the demands of his office.

"As President, I can't be locked in a room someplace for the next year and just say and do nothing," he asserted.

The president ultimately took a steadfast stance. "I say wear the mask, I'm fine with it," he said.

Joe Biden reaches out to Black voters

Biden took a question from a young Black college who asked how he would appeal to Black voters, especially those considering not voting in the 2020 election at all.

“If young Black women and men vote, you can determine the outcome of this election,” Biden said emphatically. “Not a joke. You can do that."

He then stressed the importance of helping the Black community increase their wealth.

“In addition to dealing with a criminal justice system to make it fair, and make it more decent, we have to be able to put Black Americans in a position to gain wealth, to generate wealth,” Biden said.

Trump says he’s ‘ready to sign a big, beautiful stimulus’

Trump signaled to Americans impacted by coronavirus that he is ready to move forward on another major round of COVID-19 relief.

“I’m ready to sign a big, beautiful stimulus,” the president said.

He also pinned the stalemated negotiations on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, claiming the stalled talks were a political move on her part.

“She doesn’t want to do it because she thinks it’s bad for her election,” Trump said of Pelosi during the event. “The fact is, she’s wrong. She’s in our way. She doesn’t appreciate our people or, at all, our workers. We are ready to sign and pass a stimulus. I want it to be big. I want it to be bold.”

Joe Biden address court-packing and Barrett nomination

Joe Biden was more forthright than he has previously been during his campaign about his stance on packing the Supreme Court if elected into office.

“I’m not a fan,” Biden said.

The former vice president clarified that his stance was contingent on the outcome on the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation hearings.

“It depends how this turns out, not how [Trump] wins, but how it’s handled,” referring to how Republicans handle Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination.

Of Barrett herself, Biden suggested he was less than impressed with her turn before the Senate throughout the hearings.

"She didn't answer very many questions at all, and I don't even think she's laid out much of a judicial philosophy."

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