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Candidates Hold a Final Debate

Munveer watches the second presidential debate at his home in California. 

On October 23, President Donald Trump, the Republican incumbent, and former Vice President Joe Biden, his Democratic challenger, went head-to-head in the final presidential debate of the 2020 election season. An estimated 63 million people tuned in to watch the candidates discuss COVID-19, climate change, and immigration, among other topics. The debate was held at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, and moderated by Kristen Welker, a political correspondent for NBC News.

In a typical election year, there are three presidential debates. This year, however, President Trump tested positive for COVID-19, the contagious disease caused by the coronavirus. When asked to participate in the second debate virtually for safety reasons, he refused. That debate was canceled, and the candidates held individual Town Hall events instead, with voters asking the questions.



The third debate began with questions about COVID-19 and each candidate’s plan to handle the deadly pandemic. Biden argued that President Trump has mismanaged the virus. “Anyone who has caused that many deaths shouldn’t be allowed to remain as president,” Biden said.

As of October 26, there were more than 225,000 confirmed deaths in the United States due to COVID-19. Public health experts are warning that deaths could rise dramatically in the months ahead if more safety measures aren’t taken. 

The president emphasized the negative effects that social isolation and an economic downturn have had. “We can’t keep this country closed,” he said. “There’s depression, alcohol, drugs at a level nobody’s ever seen before. The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself.”

Scientists say that additional measures can be taken to slow the spread of COVID-19, while still allowing people the ability to go to work and school. This includes the widespread wearing of masks and social distancing, which the president has downplayed in his messages and behavior. 

The candidates also discussed climate change, which is top-of-mind for many Americans, especially because of the devastating wildfire season in the West and recent damaging storms in the Gulf Coast and other parts of the country.

“Climate change is the biggest issue in this election because it’s going to have the most consequences later on,” Triana D., 17, of San Francisco, California, said after the debate. “If we don’t do something, Earth will be forever lost." 

Biden said that he would cut back on energy sources that pollute, including oil and coal. Trump argued that such changes would significantly harm the economy.         



After the chaotic first debate, both candidates focused more on respecting one another’s speaking time. “The first debate was really messy,” said David L., 13, of Palo Alto, California. “I found it hard to understand the two candidates. But in this one, I could actually understand what they were saying.”  

The debate offered a final opportunity for Americans to hear from the presidential candidates directly. With the election just days away, now it’s time for the voters to be heard.

Photo courtesy of the author