Final 2020 presidential debate

By Meg Wagner, Kyle Blaine, Jessica Estepa, Melissa Macaya and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 2:27 p.m. ET, November 23, 2020
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1:17 a.m. ET, October 23, 2020

Here's who spoke the most during tonight's debate

At the end of tonight’s final presidential debate, President Trump kept a similar lead in speaking time he maintained throughout the debate, speaking for approximately three more minutes than former Vice President Joe Biden.

12:16 a.m. ET, October 23, 2020

How the Biden and Trump campaigns are reacting to tonight's debate

From CNN's DJ Judd, Arlette Saenz and Sarah Mucha

The Biden campaign said it feels Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden successfully “flipped the script” on President Trump during tonight's debate as he tried to make issue of Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings. Biden instead turned the focus to the President’s taxes – a moment the campaign feels where he delivered well. 

“Biden put him on the defensive with his answers about Trump’s taxes,” a Biden campaign adviser said. “Completely flipped the script on him.”

Biden also capped off this section of the debate arguing the election isn’t about the two candidates’ families but instead about the American family – a key message the campaign had hoped he would drive home in this debate. 

This was also one of those moments where Biden looked directly to camera, a strategy he leaned into more heavily after his first debate as his advisers have felt it is a way to connect with voters.

As Joe Biden was boarding his flight from Nashville to Wilmington, he briefly took a few questions from the press. Asked how he believes the debate went, Biden said, “Well, that's for the public to judge. I felt good about it and I thought the moderator did a great job of making it run smoothly and so it was much...much more rational debate than the first one,” he said. “Got a chance to speak to the American public more, so thank you all very much.”

On a call with reporters following tonight’s debate, the Trump campaign unsurprisingly claimed victory.

“Joe Biden has been a Washington politician for almost 50 years and now he says he'll get it right. The President nailed it tonight. Joe Biden is all talk and no action. President Trump won this debate in a blowout, and it's little wonder why Joe Biden doesn't want to do anymore," Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told those on the call.


11:09 p.m. ET, October 22, 2020

Jake Tapper: Trump "didn't set himself on fire" but lied "like Pinocchio"

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

CNN's Jake Tapper responded to tonight's presidential debate, saying President Trump had delivered a relatively normal performance, especially compared to the first debate which Tapper described at the time as a "a hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck."

"It was definitely a more normal debate," said Tapper, speaking just moments after the second and final presidential debate had concluded. "President Trump behaved more like a regular person might theoretically."

"It's fair to say that Trump supporters and Republican office holders can relax for the night. They can exhale," continued Tapper. "He didn't set himself on fire tonight like he did at the first debate."

"[But] I mean, he did lie like Pinocchio," added Tapper, referring to the fictional literary character whose nose grew each time he told another falsehood. 

Tapper also said the President had even managed to land few clean hits on former vice president Joe Biden on topics including the 1994 crime bill, and Biden's record as a career politician. 

Watch the moment:

1:15 a.m. ET, October 23, 2020

Biden tried to exploit Trump's red and blue states rhetoric, CNN political correspondent says

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

In a calmer presidential debate, President Trump repeatedly talked about red states and blue states, CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip said.

"I think the President really walked back into that trap, because if you listen to him day-to-day, like we all do, you hear the same content... It happened on the debate stage in a calmer tone, but it still isn't bridging the gap with the voters in the middle," Phillip said.

The President "kept doing something that I think Joe Biden actually tried to exploit, which is dividing the country into red states and blue states," she added.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden gave a message of unity.

"If you watch the ads that are on television for the Biden campaign right now, the message right now is not about, you know, coronavirus. It's not about fracking. It's not about any of those things. It's about unity. It's about bringing the country together," Phillips said.

12:25 a.m. ET, October 23, 2020

Fact check: Biden claims an additional 200,000 Americans will die from Covid-19 by end of the year 

From CNN's Jen Christensen 

Former vice president Joe Biden said in tonight's debate: "The expectation is we'll have another 200,000 Americans dead the time between now and the end of the year."  

Facts First: This needs context. One study published in October in the medical journal JAMA showed that there were more than 225,000 excess deaths in a five-month period at the start of the year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, compared to past years. (Excess deaths are the number of deaths beyond what historic numbers of deaths have been in a similar time period.) The study then predicted that the total number of excess deaths would likely be greater than 400,000. But as of Thursday evening, 223,000 Americans have lost their lives to Covid-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.  

These are merely projections. The latest forecast from an influential coronavirus model projects about 315,000 deaths by December 31. That’s about 92,000 additional American lives lost beyond the current death toll. There is a range of predicted deaths in this model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The worst-case scenario is if US social distancing mandates are eased. The model projects fewer deaths if everyone wears masks.   

12:04 a.m. ET, October 23, 2020

Fact check: Trump falsely claims Biden called Black community "super predators"

From CNN's Andrew Kaczynski

While attacking the 1994 crime bill that Joe Biden supported, President Trump claimed that Biden called the Black community “super predators.” 

In 1994, Trump said, the Black community was “called, and he called them ‘super predators’ and he said that. He said it.” 

Facts First: This is false. Biden never called Blacks "super predators."

Then-first lady Hillary Clinton used the term “super predators” in a 1996 speech in New Hampshire in support of the 1994 crime bill. Biden did warn in a 1993 speech of "predators on our streets" who were "beyond the pale" in support of the crime bill. The bill itself has come under heavy criticism in recent years for being among the policies that led to mass incarceration, disproportionately affecting Black men.

But Biden himself rejected the theory of super predators. 

In a 1997 hearing arguing that most youths in the justice system weren’t violent, Biden said most youth weren’t “super predators.” 

“In 1994, there were about 1.5 million juvenile delinquency cases,” Biden said then. “Less than 10% of those cases involved violent crimes. So when we talk about the juvenile justice system, we have to remember that most of the youth involved in the system are not the so-called ‘super predators.’ ”

11:20 p.m. ET, October 22, 2020

Fact check: Trump's claim on Biden’s handling of swine flu

From CNN's Andrew Kaczynski 

In attacking Joe Biden over his handling of the H1N1 epidemic, President Trump said Biden had handled the epidemic poorly for the Obama administration and it was “a total disaster.”  

“And frankly, he ran the H1N1 swine flu and it was a total disaster. Far less lethal, but it was a total disaster,” Trump said. “Had that had this kind of numbers, 700,000 people would be dead right now, but it was a far less lethal disease.”  

Facts First: This claim is misleading and needs context. The swine flu killed an estimated 12,500 Americans and Trump praised the Obama administration’s early handling of it. 

Trump said the Obama administration’s handling of the swine flu was “a total disaster,” claiming 700,000 would have died if the swine flu had been more deadly. Trump’s claim appears to be citing an article from the Wall Street Journal opinion page and not an academic study. 

In 2009, Trump actually praised the Obama administration’s early handling of the swine flu outbreak. 

"It's going to be handled,” Trump said on Fox News. “It's going to come. It's going to be bad. And maybe it will be worse than the normal flu seasons. And it's going to go away. I think it is being handled fine. I think the words are right." 

Later in the interview, Trump downplayed the swine flu and referenced the false assertion that vaccines might cause autism (there is no evidence that vaccines cause autism). 

"It's called the flu,” Trump said. “Have you had the flu many times, Neil (Cavuto)? Probably. You know, we all have."

12:07 a.m. ET, October 23, 2020

Fact check: Biden's claim that Trump's coronavirus mismanagement left millions without health insurance

From CNN's Alyssa Choi and Tami Luhby 

Joe Biden claimed President Trump’s failure to contain the coronavirus or prevent the resulting economic downturn has left millions of people without jobs and health insurance. 

“The fact is that he’s already cost the American people because of his terrible handling of the Covid virus and economic spillover. Ten million people have lost their private insurance,” Biden said. 

Facts first: Biden’s claim needs context.  

The source of the statistic, Biden’s campaign said, is a July Urban Institute study that estimated 10.1 million people would lose coverage as a result of a Covid-related job loss in the last three quarters of 2020. However, Biden failed to mention that most would regain insurance elsewhere.   

The study predicted that about 32% of the 10.1 million would switch to the employer-sponsored insurance of another family member. Another 28% would enroll in Medicaid, and 6% would sign up for other coverage, primarily on the Affordable Care Act exchanges, where many would receive federal premium subsidies. 

Only about a third, or 3.5 million people, would be left uninsured, the study estimates.   

However, the actual number of people who have lost their job-based coverage isn’t known. There are various estimates out there, and some early data indicate that some employers that furloughed workers continued to provide them with health insurance — at least in the first few months of the pandemic.

12:30 a.m. ET, October 23, 2020

Fact check: Trump's claim that he’s done more for Black people except for, possibly, Abraham Lincoln

From CNN's Tara Subramaniam

Echoing comments he made during last week's town hall, President Trump claimed nobody has done more for the Black community than him, with the "possible exception" of Abraham Lincoln.  

Facts First: This is false. It's absurd to say Lincoln is a "possible" exception; emancipating enslaved people was obviously more important for Black Americans than anything Trump has done. 

President Lyndon B. Johnson also signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, monumental bills whose impact dwarfed the impact of any legislation Trump has signed.