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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1:34 p.m. ET, November 23, 2020

Key moments from the final presidential debate between Trump and Biden

President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden participate in the final presidential debate at Belmont University on Thursday in Nashville.
President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden participate in the final presidential debate at Belmont University on Thursday in Nashville. Jim Bourg/Pool via AP

President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden faced off tonight during the last 2020 presidential debate, where they discussed the coronavirus pandemic, foreign interference in US elections, immigration and more.

If you are just tuning in, here are some key lines and moments from the night:

Living under the coronavirus pandemic

  • “It will go away and as I say, we’re rounding the turn, we’re rounding the corner. It’s going away,” Trump said.
  • "[Trump] says, we're learning to live with it. People are learning to die with it," Biden said.

Health care

  • “People deserve to have affordable health care, period. Period, period, period,” Biden said. “And the Bidencare proposal will provide for that.”   
  • Trump has long said he would unveil a plan to replace Obamacare that would continue to protect those with pre-existing conditions. However, he has yet to do so.

Foreign interference in US elections

  • “They will pay a price if I’m elected,” Biden said, specifically referring to interference by China, Russia and Iran. “They’re interfering with American sovereignty. That’s what’s going on.”
  • The President said he was informed of the recent election interference efforts, and underscored Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe’s assessment that the efforts by Iran and Russia and were done to undermine Trump’s candidacy. "I knew all about that,” Trump said.

Children separated from their parents at the border

  • "The children are brought here by coyotes and lots of bad people, cartels, and they're brought here and they used to use them to get into our country. We now have a strong a border as we've ever had. We're over 400 miles of brand-new wall. You see the numbers. We let people in but they have to come in legally," Trump said. In terms of reuniting these children with their families, Trump said his administration has a plan and "we're working on it very — we're trying very hard."
  • "Five hundred plus kids came with parents. They separated them at the border to make it a disincentive to come to begin with. We're tough. We're really strong. And guess what. They cannot — it's not coyotes didn't bring them over. Their parents were with them. They got separated from their parents. And it makes us a laughing stock and violates every notion of who we are as a nation," Biden said. "Their kids were ripped from their arms and separated. And now they cannot find over 500 sets of those parents and those kids are alone. Nowhere to go. Nowhere to go. It's criminal. It's criminal."

Relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

  • “I have a very good relationship with him. Different kind of a guy, but he probably thinks the same thing about me. We have a different kind of a relationship. We have a very good relationship. And there's no war,” Trump said.
  • “He's talked about his good buddy who's a thug, a thug, and he talks about how we're better off. And they have much more capable missiles, able to reach US territory much more easily than they ever did before,” Biden said. He said he would only meet with the North Korean leader “on the condition that he would agree that he would be drawing down his nuclear capacity.”

How New York state responded to the pandemic

  • Trump called New York City "a ghost town," where restaurants "are dying" due to shutdowns and its Democratic-led government. "If you go and look at what's happened to New York, it's a ghost town. It's a ghost town. And when you talk about Plexiglas, these are restaurants that are dying. These are businesses with no money," the President said.
  • Biden championed New York state for stemming the number of Covid-19 infections and deaths. "Take a look at what New York has done in terms of turning the curve down in terms of the number of people dying. And I don't look at this in the terms that he does, blue states and red states. They're all the United States," Biden said.

Whether to shut down the US economy again due to Covid-19

  • “We can’t close our nation,” Trump said. “We can’t lock ourselves up in a basement like Joe does.”
  • Biden, meanwhile, used a new line suggesting his goal was not to keep the country locked down. "Shut down the virus, not the country,” he said.
10:50 p.m. ET, October 22, 2020

What did you think of tonight's debate?

From CNN's Melissa Mahtani

President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden just wrapped up their second and final presidential debate of the 2020 election.

We want to know what you thought about it.

Tell us what impact it had on you, using the form below.

12:27 a.m. ET, October 23, 2020

Biden won among debate watchers, CNN's instant poll shows

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

A CNN instant poll of debate watchers finds that 53% of the watchers thought Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden won the final presidential debate. Meanwhile, 39% said Donald Trump emerged a winner.

Keep in mind: The poll represents a sample set of debate watchers and is not representative of the country overall. In this set of debate watchers, about 32% of people were Democratic, 31% were Republicans and the rest were independent.

Arguably, the debate did not do much to change any candidate's preferences. Before the debate, among this group, Biden had a 55% favorable rating. It inched up to 56% after the debate. President Trump had a 42% favorable rating before the debate and it dropped to 41% after the debate.

Watchers were also asked if they thought the candidates' attacks on each other were fair. About 73% said Biden's attacks on Trump were fair. Only 26% said they weren't fair.

In contrast, 50% said Trump's attacks on Biden were fair but 49% of debate watchers said they were not fair.

"To me, that suggests the race leaves this debate as it entered it, which right now, as you know, is advantage Biden," CNN's David Chalian reports.

More on the poll: The CNN post-debate poll was conducted by SSRS by telephone and includes interviews with 585 registered voters who watched the Oct. 22 presidential debate. Results among debate-watchers have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5.7 percentage points. 

Respondents were originally interviewed earlier this month either by telephone or online, and indicated they planned to watch the debate and would be willing to be re-interviewed when it was over. Respondents initially reached online are members of the SSRS Opinion Panel, a nationally representative probability-based panel.

Watch CNN's David Chalian break down the results:

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.’ ”