Final Presidential Debate: Highlights and Hot Topics

On Oct. 22, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden participated in their second and final debate of the election season.


Credit to Megan Hayes

Former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump battle it out on the debate stage in Nashville, Tenn. at the final presidential debate.

The second and final presidential debate took place in Nashville, Tenn. at Belmont University, and Americans across the country tuned in to get one last look at the two nominees and their stances. 

The first debate featured multiple interruptions, with former Vice President Joe Biden, President Donald Trump, and moderator Chris Wallace talking over each other throughout the debate.

Measures were taken with this debate to decrease the number of interruptions so the American people could have a more fair and civil experience. Both candidates’ microphones were muted for the first two minutes of the debate while their opponent made their opening statements. The moderator for this debate, Kristen Welker of NBC News, helped keep Biden and Trump in line. 

Though this debate started out as a stark contrast to the previous debate, towards the middle, both candidates began to start talking over each other and even Welker at times. Still, the debate was fairly civil and interruptions were limited. 

The lack of interruptions during the debate allowed for more room to talk about each individual’s stances on policy. These topics included climate change, tax returns, foreign relations, COVID-19 response, institutionalized racism, and health care. 

Climate Change

As hurricanes, floods, and wildfires rage across the country, Trump and Biden had differing views on how the country should proceed with regards to climate change. 

Although Trump claimed that the United States has “crystal clear waters” and some of the lowest carbon emissions, USA Today reports that the U.S. has the second most carbon emission preceded by China. Trump discussed his decision to take the United States out of the Paris Climate Accords —  an agreement put in place by the United Nations to help fight climate change that was signed in 2016. Trump backed out of this agreement on Jun. 1, 2017. 

“The Paris Accord. I took us out because we were going to have to spend trillions of dollars and we were treated very unfairly … It would have destroyed our businesses,” Trump said. 

Biden claims that he will handle the issue of climate change and global warming by rejoining the Paris Accords. Biden also claims that he will continue to battle this issue by holding other countries accountable to the accords. 

“Four more years of [President Trump] eliminating all the regulations that were put in by us to clean up the climate … will put us in the position where we’re going to be in real trouble,” Biden said.

Biden also says that he can fight climate change while creating jobs in the renewable energy industry, exploring the idea that America could be ahead and gain footing in the electric car industry to create jobs, boost the economy, and cut down on oil and fossil fuels. 

Systemic Racism 

Although both candidates say that they disavow racism, both were eager to bring up cases where their opponent’s words went against their actions. Trump did this by bringing up a speech Biden gave in 1993, claiming that Biden called the Black community “super predators.” This statement has been proven to be false, and Biden’s words were taken out of context, as reported by Reuters.

Biden, on the other hand, said that he recognized institutionalized racism and went on to call Trump racist and xenophobic because of the way the president handled the coronavirus pandemic with regard to China. 

Trump refuted Biden’s claim that he was racist by saying that he “has done more for the Black community … with the exception of Abraham Lincoln … nobody has done what I’ve done.” Biden responded to this statement that “Abraham Lincoln here is one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history,” taking a jab at how often the 45th president name-drops the 16th.

Health Care

Since Trump came to office, he has pushed to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Biden, on the other hand, would push to expand the ACA, agreeing with his former running mate, President Obama. Trump states that he would like to abolish the ACA entirely, creating a new system. Biden, although approving of Obamacare, stated that he would like to give people a new public option called “Biden Care.” Trump disagrees with “Biden Care,” arguing that Biden would like to give a socialized system where health care is controlled solely by the government.

Trump’s Tax Returns

President Trump’s tax returns also were a point of contention. Biden states the president has not released his tax returns, and that the American people believe or “know” that Trump does not pay his taxes. In response, Trump said that he prepaid his taxes in “tens of millions of dollars,” though it is unclear what meant. He also stated that he does not take any money from China, Ukraine, and Russia and that Biden is the one taking money from them.

Foreign Interference with Elections

It was reported that both Iran and Russia sought to interfere with the election the night before the debate. “[Countries who interfere with the election] will pay a price if I’m elected. They’re interfering with American sovereignty. That’s what’s going on,” Biden said, as reported by CNN. Trump said that he knew about the interference efforts.


One of the most anticipated questions during the debate was Trump’s response to COVID-19, and what Biden would have done differently.  

Trump started off by saying that his administration has done a pretty good job with the circumstances given. He claimed that the pandemic would be over within the year and that vaccinations would soon be available and distributed by the military. 

Biden pointed out that Trump’s timeline is not accurate and that “there’s not another serious scientist in the world who says [COVID-19 is] going to be over soon.”

Biden then criticized the Trump administration for their handling of the pandemic. “Two hundred twenty thousand Americans dead. If you hear nothing else I say tonight, hear this … anyone that’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain president of the United States of America,” Biden said. 

Biden stated that his plan moving forward would urge everyone to wear a mask, create more programs for rapid testing, and establish national standards for reopening schools and businesses. 

Trump continued to insist that the U.S. needs to reopen as soon as possible to save the economy and to help citizens. “This is a massive country with a massive economy,” Trump said. “People are losing their jobs, they’re committing suicide. There’s depression, alcohol, drugs at a level nobody’s ever seen before” he said.