The final 2020 presidential debate — live blog

With commentary from Amber Athey, Caroline McCarthy, Chadwick Moore, Freddy Gray, Kate Andrews, Matt McDonald and Stephen L. Miller

final debate
Donald Trump and Joe Biden debate in Nashville, Tennessee (Getty)
Text Size
Line Spacing

8:30 p.m. ET — Matt McDonald: Hello and welcome to The Spectator’s live blog for the second and final debate between President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden. Tonight’s proceedings kick off in 30 minutes at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. Hopefully we can offer a better quality of debate…

8:31 p.m. ET — Amber Athey: I just took an hour-long boomer nap to really simulate the experience of Biden and Trump preparing for the debate stage. Feeling very refreshed and ready to call anything I disagree with Russian disinformation.

8:32 p.m. ET — Chadwick Moore: I’m wondering if…

8:30 p.m. ET — Matt McDonald: Hello and welcome to The Spectator’s live blog for the second and final debate between President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden. Tonight’s proceedings kick off in 30 minutes at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. Hopefully we can offer a better quality of debate…

8:31 p.m. ET — Amber Athey: I just took an hour-long boomer nap to really simulate the experience of Biden and Trump preparing for the debate stage. Feeling very refreshed and ready to call anything I disagree with Russian disinformation.

8:32 p.m. ET — Chadwick Moore: I’m wondering if Trump goes in attack-dog style again it will be more effective this time, given the scandals. Last debate it just seemed like bullying a doddering old man — which is fine, but not good for the lady voters.

8:33 p.m. ET — Caroline McCarthy: Trump is at his best when he’s funny, avuncular, and self-aware. That doesn’t come across well in a debate context, but considering the extent to which Biden has achieved traction among old people, it could work to his advantage if Trump came across as the funny guy at the bingo hall rather than the aggressive one.

8:33 p.m. ET — Chadwick Moore: You see these meek, lone little gnats popping up occasionally on social media comments desperately claiming the emails are fake, that it’s a non-scandal — which is parroted by the mainstream media (without any evidence)…but that’s really it as the counter narrative. I do wonder how many Americans that aren’t plugged into Twitter all day long actually know about the scandal. I would think everyone has heard by now, despite all the efforts to silence it. Oh, and it’s been eight days and the New York Post still can’t tweet. Reminds me of the time in November 2018 when Fox News stopped tweeting for about a year in protest after it was discovered Twitter allowed its platform to be used to doxx Tucker Carlson and let antifa terrorists attack his home. Jack Dorsey has put the oldest news paper in the country in the naughty chair.

8:35 p.m. ET — Matt McDonald: Kid Rock and Nikki Haley are both supposedly guests of Trump tonight. I hope they’re sat next to each other, they must have a lot to talk about.

8:36 p.m. ET — Caroline McCarthy: Not gonna lie, Kid Rock is still and always has been amazing road trip music. Perhaps this classic Kid Rock lyric is appropriate for debate advice for both candidates: ‘GET IN THE PIT AND TRY TO LOVE SOMEONE.’ (If you were a jock who spent notable time in the weight room in the late Nineties/early Noughties, you are familiar with the entire oeuvre of the artist otherwise known as Bob Ritchie.)

8:38 p.m. ET — Chadwick Moore: Jill Biden is the only thing the entire campaign has going for it. She’s really likable. But then you look at how her stepson came out and makes you wonder.

8:42 p.m. ET — Stephen L. Miller: Excuse me. DOCTOR Biden. Thank you.

8:44 p.m. ET — Chadwick Moore: My boyfriend and I are going as Hunters for Halloween. One in camo, one with meth pipe. I’ll probably get stuck with the meth.

8:47 p.m. ET — Amber Athey: I am watching on CBS News and it is very low energy. They are interviewing Mitt Romney’s former policy director.

8:49 p.m. ET — Chadwick Moore: Suggestion from Twitter: Do a drinking game…..every time our president calls Joe the ‘big guy’……tequila! CNN is discussing how unlikable Hillary was and how extremely likable Joe Biden is (yes, I turned CNN back on, need to get some rage flowing for this blog).

8:50 p.m. ET — Matt McDonald: When do they all get their dicks out?

8:58 p.m. ET — Chadwick Moore: Can we have a full-time reporter covering Melania’s outfits? Or did Breitbart already do that?

8:59 p.m. ET — Matt McDonald: Alright James Woods, chill out.

9:00 p.m. ET — Amber Athey: I was just reminded that we were robbed out of a second debate and am feeling very blackpilled now.

9:04 p.m. ET — Caroline McCarthy: I just watched the entirety of the new Netflix adaptation of Rebecca and I’m really bummed out that now I have to watch two old men yelling at each other rather than Armie Hammer taking his clothes off.

9:06 p.m. ET — Chadwick Moore: Is Trump going to be the only president who leaves office looking more youthful and not aged 40 years?

9:07 p.m. ET — Stephen L. Miller: Tiger blood.

9:07 p.m. ET — Matt McDonald: Trump starting off by answering the question and staying on message — what an upset!

9:07 p.m. ET — Caroline McCarthy: Good on Trump for acknowledging that there have been COVID spikes.

9:09 p.m. ET — Amber Athey: I love watching Trump take notes. This is new and fun.

9:10 p.m. ET — Matt McDonald: Good prop work from Biden with the mask — but where is he meant to be looking?

9:10 p.m. ET — Amber Athey: She was definitely not expecting him to name the companies.

9:11 p.m. ET — Caroline McCarthy: Here’s the thing: I think the US would have had a chaotic response to COVID no matter who was in the Oval Office. Ask anyone who lives in Europe — people there are used to complying with whatever weird stuff their government asks them to do (and most Americans are shocked to learn that European countries have far more police per capital than we do). But Trump really did screw things up in terms of leadership. It’s just not as tangible as Biden wants it to be.

9:13 p.m. ET — Amber Athey: I’m still confused as to Biden’s position on the economy and COVID. He was running ads during the Ravens game on Sunday where an Ohio business owner (who turned out is a wealthy angel investor, but beside the point) was blaming the President for his business being shut down. How can you simultaneously blame Trump for the economy faltering and suggest that you want more stringent societal restrictions to stop COVID? Is the argument that if Trump implemented stricter lockdowns sooner that the virus could have been eradicated and the economy could’ve reopened sooner? I still haven’t heard a clear argument from the Biden campaign on this.

9:16 p.m. ET — Kate Andrews: Some serious promises being made right out of the gate on COVID-19 by both candidates. Donald Trump suggests a vaccine is around the corner, promising a silver bullet to solve the crisis. Joe Biden pledges: ’I will take care of this, I will end this.’ You can imagine Americans sitting at home tonight in serious doubt of both of these claims. Trump dares to call the treatments he received for COVID something like a ‘cure’ — a slap in the face to any American who knows someone who seriously suffered or passed away from the virus. They are well aware a cure does not yet exist. But while Biden’s criticism of the President’s handling of the virus so far has some cut-through, it’s not obvious how his plans would differ that much from the Trump administration. Embracing masks, Investing in national testing: both things Trump embraced…eventually.

9:17 p.m. ET — Amber Athey: ‘Pelosi dancing on the streets of Chinatown in San Francisco’ is hilarious imagery.

9:18 p.m. ET — Chadwick Moore: This is a winning message. The low mortality rate, the survivability, opening back up. A small percentage of everyday petty tyrants have kept everyone in check with their mask fetishism. The mass scale compliance just seems like preference falsification at this point. Where people’s inward opinions do not match their outward actions and statements. Everyone’s over this.

9:19 p.m. ET — Amber Athey: Agreed. Biden’s fear-mongering about families waking up tomorrow morning missing a member of their family is absurd and doesn’t match the data.

9:21 p.m. ET — Caroline McCarthy: I think the weirdest thing about COVID is that the virus itself seems to decide when it’s communicable and when it isn’t. Tricky little bastard. Some huge gatherings transmit it en masse, some don’t. This doesn’t boil down easily to political talking points.

9:22 p.m. ET — Chadwick Moore: Who the hell wants to elect the man with the ‘plexiglass dividers’ platform?

9:23 p.m. ET — Kate Andrews: Trump is engaging with Biden tonight. It’s freaking me out — and it’s working in Trump’s favor. Biden is speaking more tonight, and already he’s revealed quite bluntly the extent to which he’d keep the economy shut. Suggesting not even gyms would stay open under his plan until virus is under control (unclear how that’s defined): even under the UK’s highest tier of restrictions right now, gyms are open. When Trump is civil, he’s powerful: ‘There are businesses that are dying Joe. You can’t do that to people, you just can’t.’

9:23 p.m. ET — Amber Athey: Biden praising New York’s response to COVID is something else. What a huge mistake.

9:23 p.m. ET — Caroline McCarthy: I went to go hang out with a former colleague in Manhattan tonight and there were multiple model shoots on his block and yuppies partying with heavy amounts of weed on a stoop. New York City has a ton of problems thank to Groundhog Killer de Blasio, but it is very much not a ghost town.

9:26 p.m. ET — Freddy Gray: ‘I could blow away your records’. It’s a very strange line — I could be so much more corrupt than you but I’m not.

9:26 p.m. ET — Caroline McCarthy: OK, this ‘I could raise so much money’ thing is taking Trump off track. He was doing well. And now…

9:28 p.m. ET — Matt McDonald: BIDEN brings up Rudy Giuliani???

9:29 p.m. ET — Amber Athey: So Biden is going with the Russian disinformation line? I guess he doesn’t believe the DNI, FBI, or DOJ, who have all said that the Hunter story (sourced from Rudy, apparently) is not Russian disinformation. What happened to trusting our intelligence agencies?

9:30 p.m. ET — Freddy Gray: Why has the Russian bounty hunting story come up again? Obama said it last night. Biden says it again tonight.

9:31 p.m. ET — Chadwick Moore: They’ve invested years and millions in the Russia narrative, they’re not just going to give up on that investment. A surprising number of dumb-dumbs who only watch cable news still believe the Russia hoax. But it is time the eternal boogeyman in American popular lore gets an update. This one is still left over from the Soviet era.

9:35 p.m. ET — Kate Andrews: Chadwick is right about the level of investment Democrats have put into the Russia narrative — explains why Biden has brought it up, despite it making little political sense for him to do so: he’s ahead in the national polls, the swing state polls, and has been on a serious upward trajectory since the last debate. Americans are clearly interested in his vision for the country — not so much in (yet another) attempt to undermine the result of the last election. Such an open goal for Trump, who has now gotten to riff on recent stories about foreign money for close to 10 minutes.

9:36 p.m. ET — Chadwick Moore: There’s no such thing as a positive story about Russia in America. Once in London I remember being shocked seeing a travel documentary on the BBC about Russia. You’d never see that in America. There can be no humanizing of Russia. To be fair, when I was in Moscow, an American expat said it’s the exact same in Russia. America is the boogeyman and you’ll never seen anything positive about the country or its people. Even when the War on Terror was in full swing, weren’t all the bad guys in the spy films still Russians? Or vaguely Eastern?

9:38 p.m. ET — Amber Athey: Someone clearly told Trump that is not a bad look to attack Hunter for being a drug addict — he says ‘I’m not going to get into that.’

9:39 p.m. ET — Chadwick Moore: Trump had a brother who was an addict, maybe he’s even a bit sympathetic? Trump seems to really hate addiction. It seems personal.

9:40 p.m. ET — Freddy Gray: The Hunter story is kind of incredible. We just all have to agree it is extremely fishy but, never mind, we move swiftly on to Trump’s bank account in China.

9:41 p.m. ET — Matt McDonald: Welker is doing a great job as moderator: her questions are good and she’s following up.

9:42 p.m. ET — Amber Athey: Biden has said ‘this morning’ twice during the debate.

9:43 p.m. ET — Freddy Gray: ‘It’s not about his family or my family. It’s about your family,’ says Biden pointing at the camera. ‘That’s a typical political statement…come on Joe you can do better.’ Point to Trump.

9:45 p.m. ET — Chadwick Moore: Is anyone upset that Trump met with Kim Jong-un? Or do they continue to bring this up to somehow align Trump as a dictator by proxy?

9:47 p.m. ET — Kate Andrews: Biden’s team definitely took away from the last debate that it worked when he spoke to the camera, straight to watchers at home. However that public appeal was flatter than those in the first debate. With Trump much calmer now, Biden’s flaws are far more on show.

9:51 p.m. ET — Matt McDonald: Oh wow, Democratic primary reference! That’s a decent call-back for Joe: he is addressing people who’ve had at least a casual interest in American current affairs for the last four years. Accusing me of impropriety in Ukraine? The impeachment trial showed I did nothing wrong. Think i’m a socialist on healthcare? Clearly my fellow Democrats disagree…

9:51 p.m. ET — Kate Andrews: History is repeating itself is such an infuriating way: Biden introduces BIDENcare, and announces no one will lose their insurance. Tough for Biden that Obama’s exact same promise is in recent memory for all the people who did, in fact, lose their insurance.

9:54 p.m. ET — Caroline McCarthy: Kate I agree with you, and he hasn’t produced a plan for a replacement in spite of constantly teasing it. And hardcore Trump fans I know swear that it’s because MITCH MCCONNELL is standing in his way. When will politicians learn that calling anything [NAME]-care is a recipe for disaster?

9:55 p.m. ET — Chadwick Moore: Healthcare is far too complex for an average person to have a serious opinion on. Socialized medicine is the only thing people can understand.

9:58 p.m. ET — Kate Andrews: Biden just illustrated why it is a mistake to try to paint him as a socialist in this race: he ran against self-proclaimed socialists in the primaries, vocally opposed their more interventionist ideas, and won. He can remind the American people of this every time Trump tries to paint him as a bigger radical than he is, making Biden look like the moderate between Trump and politicians like Bernie Sanders (which helps him to gloss over some significant left-wing plans, like tax increases in the midst of recovery from a global pandemic).

9:59 p.m. ET — Chadwick Moore: Anyone else notice Biden’s dropped the ‘man’ and it’s just ‘c’mon’ now? Women’s groups, probably.

10 p.m. ET — Amber Athey: I did notice that Trump got a bit more delicate on this point. He brought up Kamala instead of just straight attacking Joe, which is a much more accurate way of approaching the ticket’s progressivism.

10:01 p.m. ET — Matt McDonald: Data point for you all here:

10:02 p.m. ET — Caroline McCarthy: As we have learned this week: straight men be horny.

10:03 p.m. ET — Kate Andrews: Doubling the federal minimum wage during a period of mass unemployment is economically illiterate. Employers will already be hesitant to make new hires and take on new financial risk. There is no better way to disincentivize small and medium sized business from hiring a new worker (especially a young or low skilled worker) than to hike the minimum wage so dramatically. I struggle to believe Joe Biden doesn’t know this.

10:03 p.m. ET — Freddy Gray: Why is this moderator so much better than Wallace?

10:04 p.m. ET — Chadwick Moore: Biden touched the third rail last week during the town hall and no one on the left said a peep, when he said a ‘child decides to be transgender’. Big lefty faux pas. But ACB said ‘sexual preference’ and the alphabet people lost their minds.

10:05 p.m. ET — Amber Athey: Firstly, Biden has no way to know that all 500 of those children came with their true parents. It is disgustingly common for people to pose as family members and use children to gain access to the US. Secondly, it is a blatant lie for Biden to say they did not separate families during the Obama administration.

10:05 p.m. ET — Freddy Gray: Attitudes to actual money are becoming so warped. A candidate could say: ‘The minimum wage should $1,000 an hour’ and people like Matt Yglesias would say ‘Hmmm that’s actually a really interesting policy that could work.’

10:06 p.m. ET — Caroline McCarthy: Coyotes are very cute. We have them in our backyard on the farm. One of them is kind of dumb and wanders around in daylight and when I saw it doing that I printed out fliers with a picture of it and put it on the neighbors’ front porches so that they could be aware of the danger to their chickens.

10:07 p.m. ET — Chadwick Moore: Isn’t that rabies?

10:07 p.m. ET — Caroline McCarthy: Probably. It’ll still eat chickens.

10:09 p.m. ET — Matt McDonald: I thought Welker was going to ask the candidates to do their own version of ‘The Talk’ then. A missed opportunity for TV gold.

10:11 p.m. ET — Freddy Gray: Biden threatened to make a point there about institutional racism but he lost his thread.

10:16 p.m. ET — Kate Andrews: Why do we need to pay states to get rid of mandatory minimum sentencing? There may be a legitimate reason for this, I’m no expert, but I’d like to think the land of the free doesn’t require paying officials with taxpayer money to stop them from unnecessarily locking people up.

10:16 p.m. ET — Freddy Gray: Trump: ‘I ran because of you’ vs Biden ‘you know who I am. You know who he is.’ That’s this election in one exchange.


10:17 p.m. ET — Freddy Gray: ‘The laptop is RUSSIA RUSSIA RUSSIA…’

10:17 p.m. ET — Chadwick Moore: Here we go…muh hatred and muh white supremacy. Why even agree to these questions?

10:17 p.m. ET — Caroline McCarthy: But Trump’s answers SUCK. ‘I am the least racist person in this room’ is not getting it done.

10:19 p.m. ET — Chadwick Moore: He just called them the Poor Boys.

10:19 p.m. ET — Freddy Gray: ‘I can’t even see the audience because it is so dark.’

10:20 p.m. ET — Amber Athey: Biden has not mounted a single defense for the ’94 crime bill.

10:21 p.m. ET — Matt McDonald: What would your defense of it be? Based on it being what voters wanted at the time?

10:22 p.m. ET — Amber Athey: It would be worth noting skyrocketing crime in America’s cities and perhaps just that the legislation went a bit too far in dealing with what was a very real problem at the time.

10:23 p.m. ET — Caroline McCarthy: Yes. And your average Democratic voter, overwhelmingly including non-white populations, is much more ‘law and order’ than angry Twitter activists would have you believe.

10:23 p.m. ET — Matt McDonald: Can we petition for a third debate? If there’s another one like this it’d be worth watching.

10:24 p.m. ET — Caroline McCarthy: Criminal justice reform was a legitimate, massive victory for Trump that people should applaud, but he wasn’t prepped by his team to talk about it in a meaningful way. And oh my god his climate change response about the ‘trillion trees program’ sounds like Alec Baldwin playing him on SNL.

10:24 p.m. ET — Freddy Gray: Biden ostentatiously looks at his watch. Quite like that as a new debate technique.

10:26 p.m. ET — Chadwick Moore: We’ve had to hear about global warming in both debates now. No one thinks trade and manufacturing should have been a topic somewhere?

10:27 p.m. ET — Amber Athey: Great point. This is so low on the issue list for voters that it is mind blowing we had to spend 20+ minutes on this across the two debates. WHO CARES?

10:30 p.m. ET — Kate Andrews: Once again Biden landed some good punches on Trump in relation to his handling of COVID-19 (there’s a lot of material there to work with), but given the opportunity to finish his sentences this time round, Biden revealed many aspects of his policy plans that won’t sit well with many Americans, including the long-term shutdown of viable businesses, which not even Europe has vetoed in this stage of the pandemic. Meanwhile, Trump managed to control and command many parts of the debate — parts one would expect Biden to lead — like criminal justice reform, exposing the decades in which Biden could have made headway on such an important issue, but instead often made things worse. Less than two weeks away from Election Day, it’s difficult to say how much tonight’s debate will sway hearts and minds — but I suspect if Trump had conducted himself in the first presidential debate like he did in this second one, we’d be looking at a much tighter race.

10:32 p.m. ET — Matt McDonald: Get the milk in the microwave, these boomers are fading fast.

10:36 p.m. ET — Caroline McCarthy: Everyone is tired. Tens of millions of Americans have already voted. Thank goodness this is the last debate, and it was relatively boring, because otherwise everyone would be begging for mercy.

10:38 p.m. ET — Chadwick Moore: I was expecting an hour and a half of Hunter emails, but President Trump really took the high road. Less entertaining, infuriatingly coherent, depressingly robust.

10:41 p.m. ET — Amber Athey: What I will be writing in my snap reaction piece for The Spectator, which everyone should read, is that the new debate commission rules were Trump’s biggest gift. Although the debate was arguably less entertaining, Trump really shines when he allows Biden to hang himself and then responds with his bit of sass. There is no way in the last debate he would’ve let Biden admit to supporting amnesty, wanting to transition away from the oil industry, and believing his son’s corruption is the result of Russian disinformation because he would’ve been too busy interrupting.

10:42 p.m. ET — Freddy Gray: Both candidates did a brilliant job of setting the bar so spectacularly low in the first debate that we now have to regard that quite lukewarm hour and a half as a good, presidential event.

10:50 p.m. ET — Matt McDonald: Frankly I obsess over television much more than politics, and this was the most watchable episode of the Commission for Presidential Debates’s season. Kristen Welker moderated firmly, while not jumping down either candidate’s throat too much. It was surprising to see Biden bring up Rudy Giuliani and the New York Post’s Hunter story before Trump did — his attempt to address it was semi-satisfactory, in that the US security officials who testified during impeachment felt that there was no ‘there’ there, but picking up the ‘Russian plant’ line absolutely stinks. I would love to meet someone whose mind was changed by any of these debates — perhaps in Pennsylvania next week?