Biden or Trump: Who performed better in the first 2020 presidential debate?


Fact Box

  • The first 2020 presidential debate between President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden was Tuesday, September 29, with moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News. 
  • Topics included: Trump and Biden records, The Supreme Court, coronavirus, the economy, race and violence across the United States, and the integrity of the election.
  • Wallace struggled to maintain the rules of the debate. Although Trump repeatedly “talked over Biden and refused to keep to his speaking limits,” Biden “scowled and snickered” at Trump’s remarks. Both parties were to blame for interruption and disrespectful remarks. 
  • After the outcome of the first debate, the Commission on Presidential Debates mentioned they are “considering cutting off a candidate’s microphone if they violate the rules.”

Andrew (Biden)

Presidential debates are about appearance, and on that count, Joe Biden gave a better performance. Biden remained calm, collected, and appeared presidential during an onslaught of interruptions, insults, and bluster from President Trump. This was important for Biden, who has mostly been out of the spotlight while President Trump held large rallies and campaigned openly from the White House. It was also crucial for Biden, who needed to present a contrast to his opponent in order to steer into his corner moderate voters sick of the president’s behavior. 

Biden made a strong case for removing Trump based on the coronavirus pandemic, casting the president’s handling as disastrous and ineffective. Biden took the opportunity to speak directly to the camera, telling viewers that Trump’s leadership left over 200,000 Americans dead--and with things getting worse. Biden summed up the Trump presidency by saying, “Under this president, we’ve become weaker, sicker, poorer, more divided, and more violent.”

Biden created positive talking points by sticking to his message of healthcare, more effective coronavirus handling, economics, and climate change--despite near-constant attacks and interruptions from the president. He had emotional moments when talking about his sons, creating a powerful combination of reason and empathy that undoubtedly resonated with voters. In contrast, some of the talking points President Trump made dealt with not directly condemning white supremacy. While this might resonate with parts of his base, it surely won’t help attract voters.

Biden gave a stronger performance by staying on topic and appearing calm in the face of constant interruption. He illustrated how poorly Trump’s pandemic response has been and connected with voters outside of his base.

Stephanie (Trump)

Despite some wondering if President Trump would succumb to the 'sitting-president first-debate slump,' as many of his predecessors have, he was a powerful force to be reckoned with. And Biden wasn't up to the task.  

Trump showed confidence and provided concrete examples, whereas Biden came up with empty promises and false encouragement in his attempt to connect with viewers. Biden even resorted to calling Trump a 'clown' and saying that he is 'the worst president America has ever had.'

Regarding COVID-19, President Trump discussed how he saved countless lives by closing the US border when he did, whereas Biden would have waited much longer to take such action. And Trump made clear his objective of opening up America again for the sake of restoring the economy and mental health.

In discussing the Supreme Court, Trump stated that it is his job to appoint justices and that there is plenty of time remaining in his term to do so. However, Biden refused to answer his question about whether or not he would 'pack the court.' Addressing election integrity, Trump was valid in his concern that some states have been wrongfully sending out 'unsolicited ballots.'

When asked about violence and race, Biden, who has already failed to promote peace--especially recently when he called protesting 'right and necessary'--dared to claim that 'Antifa is an idea, not an organization.'

Regarding taxes, Trump assured audiences that he does pay income tax, stating the reason for low amounts was due to legal loopholes. This is not corrupt but rather shows a competent leader and businessman who would never be caught hiding in his basement.

As polls indicate, Trump assuredly won the debate. 

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