Trump vs. Biden: The First Presidential Debate


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This episode contains strong language.

Both presidential candidates had clear goals for their first debate on Tuesday.

For Joseph R. Biden Jr., the contest was an opportunity to consolidate his lead in polls before Election Day. Voters appear to be leaning toward the former vice president, and the stage offered him a chance to allay concerns about his age and to communicate what he would try to achieve in office.

President Trump’s task was, politically, a taller order — to change the course of a race that he seems to be losing. His tactics for doing that emerged quickly: interrupt and destabilize.

Mr. Trump failed to condemn white supremacist groups, attacked Mr. Biden’s family and accused his rival of being a captive to the Democratic left. The former vice president worked to resist his opponent’s bare-knuckle style, and at times hit back.

The result was a chaotic 90-minute back-and-forth, an often ugly melee in which the two major party nominees expressed levels of acrid contempt for each other.

For many, that left the debate bereft of any serious exchange of ideas or obvious reasons for voters to change their views of either man.

We speak to our correspondent Alexander Burns about the mood and themes of the debate and whether any of it moved the dial for the election.


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  • Alexander Burns, a national political correspondent for The New York Times.

ImageThe debate, at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, was at times unruly, often devolving into sniping and bickering.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

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Alexander Burns contributed reporting.

“The Daily” is made by Theo Balcomb, Andy Mills, Lisa Tobin, Rachel Quester, Lynsea Garrison, Annie Brown, Clare Toeniskoetter, Paige Cowett, Michael Simon Johnson, Brad Fisher, Larissa Anderson, Wendy Dorr, Chris Wood, Jessica Cheung, Stella Tan, Alexandra Leigh Young, Lisa Chow, Eric Krupke, Marc Georges, Luke Vander Ploeg, Kelly Prime, Julia Longoria, Sindhu Gnanasambandan, M.J. Davis Lin, Austin Mitchell, Neena Pathak, Dan Powell, Dave Shaw, Sydney Harper, Daniel Guillemette, Hans Buetow, Robert Jimison, Mike Benoist, Bianca Giaever, Liz O. Baylen, Asthaa Chaturvedi and Rachelle Bonja. Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk of Wonderly. Special thanks to Sam Dolnick, Mikayla Bouchard, Lauren Jackson, Julia Simon, Mahima Chablani, Nora Keller, Sofia Milan and Desiree Ibekwe.

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