The problem with their town halls, which differed drastically in tone and content: Americans could only choose one to see.
Trump’s alternate reality
No hour has illustrated the alternate reality in which Trump exists better than Thursday’s 60-minute City Hall.
Trump claimed that science still doesn’t wear masks, although health experts – even within his own administration – generally believe that it can mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
Refusing to say if he believed Democrats had a satanic pedophile ring, he shrugged when pressed, and just said, “I have no idea.”
He claimed, without evidence, that ballot papers bearing his name had been found in trash cans.
And he wouldn̵
“I don’t understand,” said presenter Savannah Guthrie after this final ambiguity. “You are the president, not someone’s crazy uncle.”
In Trump’s regular Conservative TV and Twitter venues, the upside-down world he exists in sometimes loses its effect. But to everyday voters, his answers seemed completely detached from any accepted version of reality. Voters choosing between Trump and Biden choose less between two candidates than two completely opposite planets.
Trump versus Guthrie
Since leaving the hospital, Trump has been choosing friendly outlets to tell Biden about his ordeal and trash. In the past week he called Fox News or Fox Business five times and spoke to Newsmax and Rush Limbaugh.
In the warmth of a conservative safe space, Trump has thrived for most of his presidency. When he showed up on NBC’s set, things felt a lot colder.
Guthrie, a trained lawyer, persisted after Trump withdrew from questions about his coronavirus diagnosis, whether he was tested on the day of the last debate, his stance on white supremacy, his views on QAnon, or his view on postal voting.
Trump ran a town hall in lieu of an election debate; He pulled out of a second duel with Biden when the Presidential Debate Commission insisted it was virtual. The result, however, was a 20-minute controversial live barbecue with only himself in the limelight – a rarity for a president who mostly clings to friends in conservative media.
With no rival on stage, Trump was alone to answer the questions. And he had no opponent who could pepper with his own attacks. Instead, Trump found himself on the defensive and growing increasingly angry – including mocking a question Guthrie asked by calling her “cute.”
It’s the kind of feat that some of Trump’s advisors hoped to avoid, realizing that it is this kind of behavior that has put off female voters and seniors. During one of the commercial breaks, Trump’s strategic communications director, Alyssa Farah, came out and spoke to Guthrie before joining other aides to speak to the president.
Trump appeared more moderate as he answered questions from town hall attendees. The ease of having friendly interviews for four years, however, became apparent when it came time for his final question: why should the voters give him a second term? Instead of explaining what he would do differently, Trump just listed what he had achieved so far and concluded: “Next year will be better than ever.”
Biden’s policy-oriented contrast
The contrast between the candidates’ approaches and the subjects of their town halls was dramatic – especially when confronted with controversial remarks they had made in the past.
“Aside from the fact that you’re not black,” the man asked, how could Biden convince black voters to “join a system that didn’t protect them”?
Rather than responding to his controversial remark, Biden delved into a several-minute litany of political peculiarities aimed at helping blacks. On his list: tripling Title I funding for low-income schools; Assisting first-time buyers with a $ 15,000 down payment loan to help low-income families start growing wealth; $ 70 billion in new funding for historically black colleges and universities; and government-supported loans for young black entrepreneurs.
When asked if he had heard enough, the young man replied: “Uh, I think so.” Then Biden offered to continue the conversation after the town hall closed.
It was one of many lengthy replies from Biden on Thursday night, underscoring Biden’s style and efforts to use City Hall to focus on how his plans would affect ordinary Americans. It’s the implicit contrast that Biden has long sought to offer voters: sobriety in the face of Trump’s bombast and a connection to the concerns of low- and middle-income Americans, who he says have been ignored by Trump.
Trump campaign senior advisor Mercedes Schlapp tweeted during Biden Town Hall that it “feels like I’m watching an episode of Mister Rodgers Neighborhood”. That was exactly the tone Biden was aiming for.
Biden’s position on court packaging depends on it
Biden didn’t clarify his position on Thursday night when some progressives pushed for seats to be added to the Supreme Court – but he said he would do so before the election.
Biden has been pushed on an issue he has largely withdrawn since Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to occupy the seat of the late Liberal Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg on how this turns out “and” if it is indeed a real live Debate on the floor gives “Senate approval over Barrett’s.”
If that doesn’t happen and Republicans rush to confirm Barrett ahead of the election, he said, “I’m open to speculation about what happens from this point on.”
Biden said he would take a clearer position on the judicial process ahead of the election after seeing how the verification process goes.
But he also said he is reluctant to take any particular position at this point because he wants to focus on what it would mean for abortion rights, health care, LGBTQ rights, and more to endorse Barrett and conservatives a Supreme Court majority of 6 -3 to give.
“If I answer the question directly, the focus is on what Biden will do if he wins, rather than whether what’s going on now is appropriate,” Biden said. “This is one thing the president likes to do that always takes us away from the ball.”
Since Trump entered the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, two of the lingering unanswered questions about his diagnosis have been what his lung imaging showed and whether he tested negative before the initial presidential debate.
His doctor, Dr. Sean Conley, repeatedly refused to say this when squeezed directly, said it was a matter of patient confidentiality. Trump’s other aides shook off the test question, claiming they didn’t want to look back.
Trump was pressed on Thursday on the same issues and was similarly evasive. But his non-responses were significant.
Trump was asked directly if he was diagnosed with pneumonia and said no – but admitted that his lungs were affected.
“They said the lungs were a little different, a little maybe infected,” he said. It was the first confirmation that the president’s lungs were affected, aside from requiring supplemental oxygen.
Trump claimed he “didn’t ask too much” and “didn’t have a major problem with his lungs,” but added that “there was obviously a feeling that something was missing”.
Asked later, when his last negative test was before his Covid diagnosis, Trump tried to avoid the question and said he had been tested very often. But he was pressured when he tested negative on the day of the first presidential debate to which he replied: “I don’t know, I don’t even remember.”
His response confirmed what sources told CNN: The testing scheme long touted by the White House as the main measure to reduce the coronavirus was nowhere near as extensive as it claimed.