What Happened at the Third Presidential Debate?

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Last night, with the 2020 presidential election 11 days away, millions of viewers tuned in to the final presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden. NBC’s Kristen Welker moderated the debate, which took place in Nashville, Tennessee. Read on to learn what happened at the debate and what people are saying.

What was different from the previous debate?

On Monday, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced a new rule: Muting the candidates’ microphones while the other candidate gives an opening statement at the beginning of each debate topic. Welker was tasked with returning any time consumed by the non-speaking candidate to the speaking candidate. Additionally, Welker could not cut the microphones during this period if one candidate spoke over the other.

What are pundits saying about Biden’s debate performance?

Many pundits agreed that Biden won the debate. Presidential fact-checker Daniel Dale tweeted that, although Biden is imperfect, he was more honest than Trump, whom he described as a “serial liar.” Jennifer Rubin, a prominent journalist, said that Biden has the most substantive policy that Americans have seen from any candidate. Sean McElwee, a prominent leftist data analyst, tweeted that the debate mirrored Biden’s current presidential election performance. McElwee added that no evidence has shown that the debate helped Trump.

What are pundits saying about Trump’s debate performance?

President Trump interrupted Biden fewer times during last night’s debate compared to the first presidential debate. In the first debate, Trump interrupted Biden and moderator Chris Wallace 128 times. Although Trump interrupted 34 times during the final debate compared to Biden’s 17 interruptions, his reduced interruptions and stronger rebuttals led some people to say he won the debate. 

Former Fox News anchor Megan Kelly said Trump won by being on-point and well-tempered. Fox News’ Laura Ingraham also tweeted that she believed Trump won based on Democratic pundits’ disturbed facial reactions. Republican podcasters including Buck Sexton and Dana Loesch tweeted that Trump won.

Some people are crediting Kristen Welker for the debate

Welker was praised for making the last presidential debate less chaotic than the first presidential debate. News anchor Andrea Mitchell said Welker was in command and poised. Journalist Jamelle Bouie said that although the debate was solid for Biden, Welker won the debate. Chris Wallace (who moderated the first debate) said he was jealous of Welker’s moderation and praised the Commission on Presidential Debates’ new mic muting rule.

What are everyday people saying?

Several early polls have shown that Biden won the debate. One poll conducted among 585 registered voters found that 53 percent believed Biden won the debate, compared to 39 percent surveyed who thought Trump won. In another poll of 491 registered voters, 54 percent of respondents declared Biden the winner, compared to 35 percent of voters saying the same for Trump and 9 percent believing the candidates tied. 

President Trump’s polled higher post-debate in online polls, but experts have said these polls are far less reliable because they allow candidates’ supporters to skew the results. Some online polls also allow a single person to vote more than once, further skewing their results.

According to leading political polling website FiveThirtyEight, these post-debate polls might be less meaningful than they seem. Both Biden and Trump’s supporters, says FiveThirtyEight, were likely “absolutely certain” about their choice of candidate before going into the debate, and the debate didn’t change their vote.

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