The 2020 presidential election is inching closer after the conclusion of the presidential debates.
The second debate was held in Nashville, Tennessee, on Oct. 22 between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. The debate was in person with a limited, socially-distanced crowd, and was moderated by Kristen Welker, NBC News White House Correspondent.
The second and final debate came after Trump would not agree to a virtual debate after he tested positive and was later hospitalized for COVID-19 earlier in the month. That forced the Commission on Presidential Debates to cancel the originally scheduled second debate, making the Oct. 22 debate — with Trump fully recovered from the virus — the second and final debate.
Nandini Deo, associate professor of political science, said “the debate seemed to be much more about policy differences and party platforms than personalities.”
Anna Nicosia, ‘21, treasurer of the Lehigh University College Democrats, said this debate was much more tame than the first debate. There were fewer interruptions and the debate was more focused on policy, she said.
“Biden was stable and he had time to think and speak without getting interrupted,” Nicosia said.
Ethan Moscot, ‘22, president of the Lehigh University College Republicans, said Trump was more restrained and the debate was more productive than the first debate.
After the first debate was roundly criticized for having too many interruptions, specifically on the part of Trump, the rules were changed in the second debate to mute the candidate’s microphones for their respective opening statements in each category.
“Just knowing what the rules are can have a good effect on behaviors,” Deo said. “This was a much more disciplined performance from President Trump.”
Moscot said Trump’s demeanor was different and the new rule allowed Trump to step back and let Biden speak.
Nicosia said both candidates “sounded more coherent than they typically do.” She said the threat of muting the microphones allowed Trump and Biden to collect their thoughts and focus on their messages.
Moscot and Nicosia said both candidates seemed to have practiced and were much better speakers in this debate.
Deo said Welker did a good job asking tough follow-up questions and pushing for more details from each candidate.
Moscot added that Welker was fair to each candidate and that she did a better job than previous debate moderators.
Deo, though, doesn’t believe the debate will change any voter’s mind and said those who are truly undecided most likely did not watch the debate.
Nicosia said it was peculiar that Trump attacked Biden for being an established politician. She said that while the strategy was effective in 2016, Trump is no longer considered a political outsider.
Nicosia believes that Biden was the winner between the two.
“He was really the only person on stage that detailed any sort of coherent policy regarding key issues facing the U.S., including COVID-19 response and our health care crisis,” Nicosia said.
Moscot explained that the debate was an opportunity for each candidate to sell themselves more effectively on issues like the economy, immigration and the environment.
“We are so polarized,” Moscot said. “I think if anything, it validated already decided voters.”