vision 2020

Key Moments From the First Trump-Biden Debate

It’s on. Photo: Getty Images

Just about every projection for the first debate of the 2020 general election was shattered by the pandemic, except for the prediction that the event would be somewhere between a contentious affair and an all-out street fight. Considering the run-up to the debate — in which President Trump accused Joe Biden of being on drugs and wearing a wire — that expectation has become reality.

Streaming without commercial interruption here, as well as on every TV news channel, Tuesday night’s debate is the first of three contests between the Democratic and Republican candidates. Below are the highlights, jabs, and most alarming comments from the debate held at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

A very important question, looking ahead to the next debate

It’s over, somehow. One consensus takeaway across the night: How on earth does this help Trump?

Asked if he will instruct his supporters to stand down until election results are confirmed, Trump deputizes them instead

On election integrity, Biden says vote; Trump talks up fraud: “This is not going to end well.”

The president tried to pin the Green New Deal on Biden

Trump goes there

Empathy surely matters more to voters:

Trump, again, refuses to condemn white supremacists — asks them to “stand by”

Hell of a comeback from Biden, after Trump claims he will end the suburbs

Biden makes an important distinction

Trump championed eliminating racial-bias training:

Texts from our folks: WTF

We’re passing along comments from friends and relatives tonight. One notes that Biden isn’t the one who looks like he’s on drugs:

Trump on anything, including Adderall, is very upsetting

However, another notes:

Trump is a dick — surprise surprise. Biden has been as restrained as he can be, but honestly, his inability to talk is pretty evident.


Watching the debates … part Verbal WWE and part bad bar discussion … oh boy …

Wallace loses it, long after losing control

An excellent analogy

Biden: “You’re the worst president America has ever had”

Trump denies his tax returns

An important fact-check

Olivia Nuzzi comments:

It’s tough to debate someone who won’t agree on a shared reality. Biden has been doing a pretty good job of calmly saying Trump’s claims (like experts disagree about the benefits of masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus) aren’t true.

Trump’s approach may backfire, enormously

Trump’s noise vs. Biden’s attempt to stay controlled

Some commentary:

Texts from our folks: Ugh

We’re passing along comments from friends and relatives tonight. Some more:

Since joe doesn’t interrupt, trump is winning


I’m sorry to say that Biden looks less good than usual, and exhausted. I’m very glad that he told Trump to shut up. Chris Wallace is a disgrace, a total pushover. He won’t tell Trump to shut up.


This is impossible to even have a reaction to other than horror, like I genuinely don’t know if I CAN or WANT to make it through this.

COVID-19: Trump blames China

Biden is fed up

Texts from our folks: Confusion

We’re passing along comments from friends and relatives tonight. The first:

It’s the first question at 9:13 and I, along with both Biden and Trump, have completely lost the thread

Trump’s game plan is apparently nonstop interruption

And it’s causing chaos.

And this exchange:

WALLACE: “Mr. president, I’m the moderator of this debate and I would like you to answer my question.”

TRUMP to Wallace: “I guess I’m debating you, not him.”

Health care goes next

First question is on replacing RBG

Biden’s greeting

We’re off, starting with a timely disclaimer

The mask divide


Great expectations at Fox News

Their pre-debate coverage:

Don’t forget, this isn’t exactly a pre-election debate

Trump goes low ahead of time

The president and his campaign continue to attack the former vice-president prior to the debate, baselessly accusing him of being on drugs, wearing an earpiece, and receiving the debate questions in advance.

Such allegations are not new to the 2020 contests: Last cycle, Trump accused Hillary Clinton of being on drugs during their debates.

But according to Intelligencer’s Eric Levitz, it is also possible that Biden will arrive onstage with “super bazookas” for arms.

Biden says hello to the neighbors

Key Moments From the First Trump-Biden Debate